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Ann Tatlock

The Advocate

Ann Tatlock Interview

by C.J. Darlington

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"Books have always been a huge part of my life."
-- Ann Tatlock

Ann Tatlock is the author of the Christy Award-winning novel All the Way Home. She has also won the Midwest Independent Publishers Association "Book of the Year" in fiction for both All the Way Home and I'll Watch the Moon. Her novel Things We Once Held Dear received a starred review from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly calls her "one of Christian fiction's better wordsmiths, and her lovely prose reminds readers why it is a joy to savor her stories." Ann lives with her husband and daughter in Asheville, North Carolina. Visit www.anntatlock.com

When did you first realize writing fiction was your calling?

I was strictly a non-fiction writer until my mid-20s, when I went through a series of losses, including the death of my mother. At that time I realized I needed a new way to deal with my grief, and I started writing fiction. Novels have been my primary focus ever since. The Lord used those difficult years to steer me into my life’s work for him.

Were books a big part of your life growing up? If so, what books would you say influenced you most as a child?

Books have always been a huge part of my life. When I first learned to read, my mother started buying books for me from The Bobbsey Twins and the Nancy Drew series. I can still remember the joy of running to my room with her latest gift in my hands and settling on my bed, ready to read. I loved the crisp clean pages and the new-book smell, and I was thrilled to dive head-long into the stories of other places and times. I was awakened to the wonder of stories and that wonder has never left me.

It took 13 years before you were published. During the waiting time, how did you keep from becoming discouraged?

My husband typed up a quote by Calvin Coolidge which I had on my writing desk. It reminded me that my willingness to persevere had to be greater than any discouragement I might feel. And though Coolidge doesn’t say this, I knew too that God himself, in his perfect timing, would help me complete the tasks he had called me to do.
"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” ~ Calvin Coolidge (30th President of the US, 1923-1929)

Travelers RestWhere did the idea for your latest novel Travelers Rest come from? Is there any part of it that comes from your own life?

I was once traveling with a couple of friends from the airport in Greenville, SC to our hometown of Asheville, NC. It was the middle of the night and we were all tired. On the way, I saw the road signs for the town of Travelers Rest and I thought of how inviting that sounded. I decided I had to somehow use the name and the place in a story. After all, what wonderful symbolism, since we’re all travelers of a sort, with hearts on a journey of longing--hearts that are restless, as St. Augustine said, until they find their rest in God.

When you began the book, did you know the message and themes or did you discover them more during the writing process?

I knew before I started writing that the message would be this: When you put your heart in God’s hands, it will never be broken by unrequited love. His throne is the one sure place we can lay our heart and never have to take it up again. It’s the end of the journey. His is the love we long for and the only love that ultimately satisfies.

What would you say was the hardest part about writing Travelers Rest?

The difficulty lay not in the story itself but in my own life! At this stage of the game, my life is a constant series of interruptions. The ideal would be to have at least three solid hours a day of quiet and solitude in which to write, but that simply isn’t possible right now. It’s difficult to go back and forth between the world of my imagination and the world of my responsibilities, but God gives grace and somehow things get done.

Do you outline your books before you begin or write seat of the pants?

I’m so annoyingly organized that I don’t do anything by the seat of my pants! I definitely outline, but since my characters have minds of their own I’m always flexible and open to making any changes they insist on making.

You've said that your goal with your writing is to tell the truth. Why do you believe fiction is the best way to do that?

Jesus set the example by teaching so often in parables. He knew, of course, that God created us to be receptive to stories. As very young children we begin to learn life’s lessons through stories, and that continues throughout our lives. For instance, we may begin to understand intellectually when we’re told that God loves us each individually, but we gain a deeper understanding and feel a greater emotional connection when we hear of the Shepherd leaving the 99 to go out and seek the one lost lamb. When he finds it, he puts it on his shoulders and, with great rejoicing, carries it home. With this parable, instead of simply handing us a propositional truth, Jesus gives us an Writing to a Post Christian Worldunforgettable picture of love.

In your nonfiction e-book Writing to a Post-Christian World you explore in depth the subject of Christians writing for this world, but could you talk just a little bit here about your thoughts on Christians writing from a biblical worldview. How do you personally approach writing as a Christian to a world that in many ways has set God on the back burner?

I’m not sure the problem is one of setting God on the back burner so much as attempting to turn him into whatever we want him to be. People today are very spiritual, but they are seeking false paths to a God or to gods of their own making. But God is who he is (as revealed through Jesus and the Bible) and all the re-imagining, twisting and deconstructing of Scripture people do isn’t going to change that. We live in a world and in a reality that was created by God and we are subject not only to the physical laws but to the spiritual laws that he laid out for us. We need to view ourselves as he views us, seeing ourselves as sinners. We need to accept his remedy for our brokenness, and that is to place our faith in the one who died and rose for us, Jesus Christ. No other scenario is true, no matter how sincerely people may believe otherwise. Holding a biblical worldview is simply believing that what God says in his Word is true. This is the worldview from which I tell all my stories.

Writing is often a sedentary profession. Is there anything you do to beat stress and stay on top of your writing game?

Most mornings I take a prayer walk. We live halfway up a mountain and our neighborhood is filled with lots of steep and winding streets. Good exercise and a good time with the Lord as I take in the views of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

What would you love to write someday but haven't yet?

I think I might enjoy working with someone to write his or her biography, or maybe some other non-fiction book.

Where is your favorite place to write?

My writing study is a room that’s filled with all my favorite things: lots of books, family photos that span generations, my antique drop-front desk, my mother’s desk from the house I grew up in, and a steamer trunk once owned by my great-aunt and now filled with old family letters, photos and keepsakes. I like a room that’s crowded with history!

Promises to KeepWhat do you know now that you wish you'd known when you first started writing?

I wish I’d known I could write just as well on the computer as I could by hand. Oh, the volumes of hand-written manuscripts I have in boxes in my garage!

What was the lowest point in your writing career, and how did you get out of it?

My writing career has been pretty steady-on; no huge best-sellers but no prolonged dry spells or overwhelming disasters either. I’ve been able to move quietly from one book to the next with my faithful publisher for the past 14 years. I like it that way!

What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?

* My husband and I adopted our daughter from China when she was 7 months old. Now that was quite a little souvenir to bring back from a foreign land! (And the best thing I ever did.)
* I used to work for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Minneapolis. One day, Ruth Graham came to speak to the employees. A friend of mine from the art department had just found an old photograph of a young Billy Graham dressed in an outlandish and unfashionable suit and tie. My friend dared me, and I took the dare. After Mrs. Graham finished speaking, we made our way to her and showed her the photograph. “Mrs. Graham,” I asked, “is it true that you pick out your husband’s clothes for him?” She laughed heartily at that.

When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

Reading, browsing antique shops, watching old movies, walking my dog. And of course, spending time with friends and family.

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

The same thing I always eat – a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice. It never varies!

Three things always found in your refrigerator:

Yogurt for morning snacks, lemon-lime Gatorade (we call it Green Juice) and green peppers that we use as a bedtime snack for our three Chihuahuas…..they love it!

You're next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?

A fruit Smoothie. Love ‘em!

What's left unchecked in your "goals for life" list?

Though I’m not in the medical profession, I’d like to someday, somehow, take part in medical missions.

What's currently in your CD player/iPod?

I don’t have an iPod, though I occasionally pop a CD of classical music into my computer, which I listen to while I write.

Three words that best describe you:

I’m just a regular Joe who’s redeemed and rejoicing.

Anything else you'd like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?

The author Reynolds Price said, “Most productive writers live calmer lives than winkles.” Whenever I’m asked about my life, I have a dreadful fear of boring people to death! But while my outer life is ordinary and routine (which works for me!), I live a rich inner life and I trust it’s from that inner life that my stories spring.

C.J. DarlingtonC.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.