Miracle in a Dry Season    Dangerous Passage


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Nancy Rue Interview

by C.J. Darlington

"I still wonder every time I start a new book if this is going to be the one about which the publisher is going to say, “This is really bad. I think you’re done as a writer.” Which means I’ve thought that 109 times."
--Nancy Rue

Nancy Rue is the author of over 100 books for adults and teens, including Healing Waters, which was a 2009 Women of Faith Novel of the Year, and has recently been named an ECPA 2010 Christian Book Award Finalist. Nancy travels extensively-at times on the back of a Harley Davidson-speaking and teaching to groups of `tween girls and their moms and mentoring aspiring Christian authors. She lives on a lake in Tennessee with her Harley-ridin' husband Jim and their two yellow labs (without whom writing would be difficult.)

I hear it was partly your affinity for Nancy Drew that inspired you to write as a kid. Could you share with us when you knew you wanted to be a writer? What was it about the Nancy Drew series that made you want to write stories?

When I was ten years old and closed a Nancy Drew book I’d read for the thousandth time (only a slight exaggeration), I thought, “I don’t want to BE Nancy Drew any more. I want to WRITE about girls like Nancy Drew, for girls like me.” I started in immediately. It didn’t matter that I never finished The Mystery of Eleanor Village. I knew I was a writer.
What was it about Nancy Drew? The same reason she endures today: she shows every girl reader that it’s okay to be smart, spunky, independent, and yet kind and gracious. While entirely unrealistic in terms of her situation (she didn’t go to college or have a job; she just rode around in her little blue roadster and solved crimes her lawyer father was too lame to figure out), she showed us what was possible in ourselves. Seriously, I looked, but I couldn’t find a nice guy whose last name was “Drew”, but I came real close. The bearer of that surname (my Jimmy Rue) has always accepted and encouraged the Nancy Drew in me.

You were actually an English teacher before you were a fiction writer. You’ve been known to say that you wanted to be a teacher to make up for the damage caused to you by some of your teachers. What sort of damage happened that you wanted to rectify?

Don’t get me wrong – I had some wonderful teachers in high school who encouraged my creativity and style. It was in middle school that my writing spirit suffered. Those teachers were all about grammar drills and correct punctuation and essays on the exports of Peru (which no one cares about, not even your average Peruvian). My desire to write withered under my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade English teachers and had to be nurtured and revived. I didn’t want my students to ever doubt their writing ability.

When did you decide to start submitting your work to publishers, and what was the first book you published?

I was writing a lot for my students – examples for their assignments, that kind of thing – and after about five years, I remembered that my original dream was to be a writer, not a teacher. So when my daughter was a baby and I was on maternity leave, I saw the opportunity and went for it. The first book I wrote on my own was a teen novel entitled Row This Boat Ashore, published in 1984. I actually still like that book . . .

The Reluctant ProphetAfter successfully publishing many titles for the youth market, what inspired you to write novels for adult readers?

The man who edited most of my Christian Heritage Series, Keith Wall, kept telling me that I could and should write for adults. When he moved from Focus On the Family to Multnomah, he told Bill Jensen about me. Bill asked me to think about writing a novel about Pascal’s famous wager. I did, and I was hooked. I discovered that women readers are merely taller versions of the girls I was writing for, and that they had many of the same issues which just manifested themselves in deeper ways. It all fit under my ministry umbrella of helping females be the true selves God created them to be.

Where did the idea for The Reluctant Prophet come from?

I was inspired by two things. One was the Magdalene program, started in Nashville 12 years ago by the Rev. Becca Stevens. Magdalene is a two-year residential community for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. However, the program was formed not only to aid those women but to help change the culture that shaped them. As the women themselves say in their mission statement: “We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, and life on the streets.”

At no cost to them, Magdalene offers women a safe, disciplined, and compassionate community, paid for by gifts from individuals and private grants. The ministry is also supported by Thistle Farms, a non-profit business operated by the women, who create handmade natural bath and body products. The success of Magdalene is living proof that “love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the streets.” While the fictitious Sacrament House in The Reluctant Prophet is not precisely patterned after this living, breathing ministry, I hope that it sends the same message. The message of Christ Jesus.

The second inspiration came from editor Mary McNeil. After a messy divorce, Mary read a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, in which she said that a woman should do one thing a day that she’s afraid of. Mary decided to start with one thing a quarter; her first was to buy a Harley. It changed her life. There was no way I wasn’t using that for Allison.

In this novel you have managed to immerse the reader in the seedy side of life that Allison encounters in answering God’s call, yet I never felt like I’d been dragged through the gutter. Was that a tricky balance for you to perfect? Did you have any guidelines you kept in mind as you wrote to keep it real yet not too edgy?

I just felt that the novel was about recovery, not about sensationalism. I wanted the reader to have a clear picture of the life the women lived before they came into Sacrament House, but I didn’t want that to overshadow the healing. I’m glad you saw that balance, because I was very aware of the need to strike it.

Nancy Rue MotorcycleEven though your husband is a Harley owner, I noticed a picture of you taking motorcycle riding lessons on your Facebook page in researching this book. Can we now expect to see you on your own Harley?

Uh, no. I THOUGHT that was going to happen. I took the Rider’s Edge course – and you can read about my exact experience in Chapter 3. I’m perfectly content to ride behind my husband. He would tell you that I’ll try again. He must know something I don’t.

How much did you know about Allison and her journey before you began writing?

As with all my books, I did a detailed (as in 50-page) outline of the story before I started writing. I would truly have a nervous breakdown if I didn’t do that. I really enjoy that preparation, which in this case included having Allison write in a journal, completing Donald Mass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, and going to St. Augustine and imagining Allison everywhere. Once I did all that, the story wrote itself.

What has been your most unusual or embarrassing moment while doing research?

Unarguably it was taking the Rider’s Edge course and falling twice in the first hour. I had bruises in places I didn’t even know were places – and that was just the physical battery. My pride took a definite hit as well. Some of us were not meant to be HOGs.

I’m very excited to hear this novel is the first in a trilogy! We’d love to know a little bit more about the other books, if you’re sharing.

Allison, Chief, Desmond, and the women of Sacrament House have so much more growing to do. The House itself expands, with no thanks to Troy Irwin whose treachery apparently knows no bounds. Then there’s the church to contend with – and a different class of prostitutes. Not to mention – what’s going to happen between Allison and Chief? The only definite hint I’ll give is that Allison’s plan to adopt Desmond is thwarted in some unexpected ways. Hence, the title of the second book is Unexpected Dismounts.New Girl in Town

Where is your favorite place to write?

I love writing right here at my desk in my office which overlooks Old Hickory Lake in Lebanon, TN. I couldn’t ask for a more exquisite place to create, and I require only that there is plenty of tea, my dogs are nearby, and a latte awaits me every afternoon.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?

That the best writing is done when you forget what “they” want (editors), what “they” are buying (trends), and what “they” (Christians baptized in vinegar) think is “nice” – and you write what God gives you, what is tugging at your spirit, what you hear crying out to you from the people God puts in your life.

We’d love to hear a little bit more about your two four-legged children, and what about Labs do you love best?

Unfortunately our dogs Sully and Captain were shot by some tragic soul who needs God more than any of us. We were a year without dogs, thinking perhaps we’d never heal enough to bring them into our lives again. But this past January, Guinness and Geneveve, two yellow labs, joined us, and we are sure Captain and Sully are wagging their tails in doggie heaven, delighted that our hearts are whole again. Now 10 months old, Guinness and Geneveve bring us no end of joy with their slobbery kisses, their insistence that they bring us something every time they remember we’re there, and their endless mischief. There is no trashcan that doesn’t need to be turned over and gone through, no roll of toilet paper that doesn’t need to be unrolled to get to that cool cardboard thing at the center, and no pair of Dad’s socks that doesn’t need to be loved like a treasured teddy bear. Who else is going to be that happy to see me every time I enter a room?

Who is Nancy Rue?

Oh, my. I’ve spent my whole life uncovering her, actually, and I’m still making discoveries. So far, I know that she is a creative being with a slightly sarcastic sense of humor and a deep passion for allowing people to be who they were made to be.

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

I’m pretty much an open book, so this one’s hard. They might be surprised to know that the only television show I really watch is N.C.I.S. (I LOVE the characters and learn something every time I tune in; ya gotta love those U.S.A. marathons – like 8 episodes in a row!) Number two? I still wonder every time I start a new book if this is going to be the one about which the publisher is going to say, “This is really bad. I think you’re done as a writer.” Which means I’ve thought that 109 times.

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

I love to read, journal, go boating, entertain friends, hang out with my family, decorate my home, watch movies, eat chocolate (though I limit myself to one exquisite piece of dark chocolate daily), visit the homes of famous authors, and deepen my spiritual life. Currently I’m enrolled in the Academy for Spiritual Foundation, which is an intensive two year program. It sounds like work, and yet it brings such joy.

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

Two pieces of rye toast with almond butter and sliced banana. Yum.

Three things always found in your refrigerator:

Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and goat milk.

You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?Motorcycles, Sushi

A grande decaf latte with one Splenda. Every time.

What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?

1. Be the spokesperson, go-to-gal for children’s literature in the CBA so that we can make it a place where books and materials for kids abound.

2. Be the completely authentic person I was created to be.

3. Age with dignity.

When was the last time you cried?

Yesterday in church when I was serving communion and realized the huge significance of what I was doing and saying: “The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.”.

Three words that best describe you:

1. Sensitive

2. Positive

3. Unfinished.

What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?

1. home CD player – “Chant” by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos
2. car CD player – “The Dance” by Fleetwood Mac

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

Have I mentioned that I’m going to be a grandmother in January? A mini-woman named Maeryn Julienne (Mae) will be joining us, and I can’t wait. I’m passing the time by writing in a journal for her, telling her how much I love her already. She will never go a day without knowing that her Nanny treasures her for her authentic self.

Watch the trailer for The Reluctant Prophet:

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.