Thursday, August 18, 2016

Heather Blanton {Writer Wednesday}

Yes...I realize it's no longer Wednesday. I figure by now you, dear readers, have come to expect the unexpected with my posts! Well, the good news is that I'm moved into my new apartment (introduction and story post coming soon!) and the even better news is that I now have Internet! Woohoo! Thus, my Writer Wednesday post was moved gently over to Thursday for this week.

Enjoy getting to know Heather...


A little bit about Heather...

Heather Blanton is the independent bestselling author of several Christian Westerns, including the Romance in the Rockies series, which has sold over 40,000 copies. Intrigued by the concept of three good sisters stranded in a lawless Colorado mining town, a few notable Hollywood producers have requested the script for her first book in that series, A Lady in Defiance. Heather’s writing is gritty and realistic. In fact, her books have been compared to AMC’s Hell on Wheels series, as well as the legendary Francine Rivers book, Redeeming Love.

A former journalist, Heather is an avid researcher and skillfully weaves truth in among the fictional story lines. She loves exploring the American West, especially ghost towns and museums. She has walked parts of the Oregon Trail, ridden horses through the Rockies, climbed to the top of Independence Rock, and even held an outlaw's note in her hand.

Connect with Heather...

Website & Blog:
Purchase:  A Promise in Defiance

Get to know Heather...

You and Writing

Why do you write? 
I started writing when I was five, back in the dark ages when television consisted of three channels. To combat boredom after my favorite cartoon went off for the day, I continued the story in my head. My mom typed it up for me. I’m still mad about a few of her totally unnecessary editorial changes, but I have forgiven her.

Professionally, I went into marketing, communications, and journalism, and put writing on hold until 1999. My sister Susan passed away then from breast cancer and I started my first story, A Lady in Defiance, as a way to cope. She inspired the character of Hannah. However, my computer crashed six months into the manuscript and I lost everything. Talk about a sign from God saying “Wait.”

I started the story again in ’07 and it nearly was published by a major Christian publisher. When they rejected the project at that final, fabled “contract meeting,” I self-published it. A Lady in Defiance went on to sell over 40,000 copies to date. I guess that was what God had me waiting on: His plan.

Your Writing

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why? 
Naomi is my favorite character because she’s a lot like me: a project under construction. Taming the mouth and the emotions doesn’t come easy for me, but God is patient. Naomi is farther along toward her perfection than I am.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with? 
There is a theme in all three of the Defiance books. In A Lady in Defiance, the theme is let go and let God. In Book 2, Hearts in Defiance, I want readers to know no matter where you go, no matter what you’ve done, no matter where you try to hide, you are not beyond God’s love. And Book 3, A Promise in Defiance, is a reminder that choices have consequences, even for the redeemed, but God gives us the strength to survive them.

We're your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book? 
The characters usually come to me in one scene and then I have to figure out what the story is that they’re trying to tell me. Literally, I have written every story starting from one scene. In A Lady, the whole thing started with the scene of my hero and heroine chopping wood together. With Hearts, I saw the Indian attack first. With A Promise, well, I saw one of my characters dying at the end and I had to write the entire book around that climactic, emotional scene.

What was one thing (or character) that surprised you while writing this book? 
Delilah. She is based on a wretched historical madam by the name of Mary Hastings, a woman fit for the Roman Empire she was so decadent. I wanted to really dislike Delilah, but as I wrote and told about her love for Logan, her abandonment and perceived betrayal, I found all kinds of sympathy for her. She is the one character in the book whose choices have consequences far beyond her own circle…and she’ll have to live with them. But if she allows Christ’s love to heal her wounds, she may be the person with the most awesome testimony.

What’s your favorite snack while writing? 
There’s this magical bean called coffee—elixir of the gods. A brain food. It makes me feel like a truly great writer … then the caffeine wears off.


How long did you write before you got published?
For. Ev. Er. At least it felt like forever. I acquired an agent for A Lady in Defiance in 2011. He got the book all the way to the “contract meeting” at a major Christian publisher. In the meantime, I had self-published the book with a goal of selling 200 copies for my Relay for Life team. The publisher wound up turning me down, while my book was taking off on Amazon! To date, this first book has sold over 40,000 copies.

My agent urged me to write a stand-alone sequel, but I just couldn’t do it. Readers were very specific with their reviews—they wanted more of Charles and Naomi. I prayerfully and carefully considered going Indy. It was a tough call, but I don’t have any regrets. I can say with great sincerity I write for the reader, not an editorial committee at a publisher. Personally, I think that’s why my books are so highly rated.

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”? 
We hear this a lot, but dig deeper. Is there something else that helped you? Read, read, read books in your genre and craft books. Then take what you learn in the craft books and become a mad scientist—use your knowledge to dissect, or reverse engineer, the books you read. You’ll start recognizing nifty little things like beats, character arcs, and POVs, to name a few.

Are you a Panster or Plotter? 
I am a bit of both after initially writing only by the seat of my pants. The more I outline, the more I like it. Who knew? Writing down at least your major beats is like drawing a roadmap, to quote screenwriter Zena Dell Lowe. You definitely get to your destination quicker with a little planning.

What did you learn along the path to publishing that you’d care to share as encouragement? 

I say that a person should chase his dreams but be open to a little redirection from God. He knows the plans He has for you and He doesn’t make mistakes. If you’re called to write, if the stories haunt your dreams, then write. Don’t give up until God shuts the door in your face. And remember, this may only be a pause. I took several years off from writing fiction before I came back around to writing my first novel.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share? 

Silence. I must have complete silence (whacks the whip on desk). No noise. No interruptions. The stories play like movies in my head and sometimes I feel like the signal is pretty fuzzy (especially when my boys are riding dirt bikes outside my window). If I can’t get quiet, I try again later or answer emails.

How do you grow in your writing craft? 
I’m a very humble writer and I feel strongly that I haven’t “arrived” yet, as far as being at the top of the craft. I read, study, and dissect every story that comes across my path. This can mean spotting the formula in a romcom, recognizing the hero’s journey in a book, or guessing at a character’s arc.

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share? 

There is no balance. At least for me. We’re always out of groceries, the laundry is always stacked up, and my house is always dirty. Yes, I said it. My house is dirty. No wonder I write fiction. It’s my escape.

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Have you ever attended a writer’s conference? If so, which one(s) and what were most helpful about it? 
I am a huge flag-waving, autograph-seeking fan of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. This is a fabulous event with some of the finest writers, agents, and editors in the country in attendance. It has repeatedly impacted my career and writing in very positive ways.

Apparently, August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day (who knew?). What is your favorite dessert? 
Popcorn. Think about it, popcorn is the perfect snack for those who crave food that satisfies the need for carbs and salt, and which will keep you busy longer than a bowl of cereal … and not put so many calories on your hips.

What are you currently reading? 
I just finished Francine Rivers’ The Last Sin-Eater and now have some historical non-fiction I will be tackling for a mail order bride story coming this fall!

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