Miracle in a Dry Season    Dangerous Passage


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Vickie McDonough Interview

by C.J. Darlington

"I want my stories to take people away from the troubles of their lives and let them see that no matter what they’ve done or may be going through, God loves them and wants to help them." -- Vickie McDonough

Award-winning author Vickie McDonough believes God is the ultimate designer of romance. She loves writing stories where the characters find their true love and grow in their faith. Vickie has had 18 books published. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and is currently serving as ACFW treasurer. Vickie has also been a book reviewer for nine years. She is a wife of thirty-five years, mother of four sons, and grandmother to a feisty four-year-old girl. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching movies, and traveling. Visit Vickie’s website at www.vickiemcdonough.com.

Were books a big part of your life growing up?

Yes. I was an avid reader.

What books would you say influenced you most as a child?

I read every book with a horse on the front. :) I also enjoyed Nancy Drew books. I don’t know that any one book had a huge influence on me, but they did spur on my love of reading which carried into adulthood. Also, all those horse books fueled my desire to own my own horse. I’m a little ashamed to say I nagged my parents until they gave in and bought me one. I was a city gal, but we lived right on the edge of town, so I was able to board my horse just two blocks from home. I’m so grateful now for those experiences with horses. I believe they make my books more authentic.

If I had to pick a book that influenced me the most, it would be one I read as an adult. I had just discovered Christian fiction and was reading Janette Oke’s A Gown of Spanish Lace. I got to a place in the book where something vital is revealed, and even though I read it years ago, I can still remember my reaction. I was shouting “NO!” in my head and wanted to throw the book against the wall. I didn’t even want to finish it at that point, but I’m so glad I did. A strong emotional reaction is what I hope my readers will experience as they read my books.

I’m intrigued to learn that you were a math lover in school, hated English, but became a writer anyway. How did God lead you down that path?

I devoured Christian fiction once I discovered it. As the mom of four young boys, reading was my “me” time. It’s true that I never once thought about being a writer before I started writing. I had prayed for years for a home business that I could do and still be home with my boys. I never dreamed that “business” could be writing. I didn’t like writing way back in school, but I’ve always been creative. I’ve always daydreamed and let my mind take me off on tangents. I guess I was making up stories back then and not even realizing it.

One day a story started running through my mind and wouldn’t leave me alone. It got to where I was only getting about five hours of sleep a night, and that just doesn’t work when you have a bunch of boys to outsmart each day. I finally decided to write down the story in hopes it would go away and leave me alone. Well, I finished that book, and right on its heals came another idea. I wrote that one down too, and then I got to wondering if God was trying to get my attention. I talked about it and prayed with my husband, and he encouraged me to “go for it.” I just jumped in with both feet and started learning the craft of writing any way I could—online classes, writing courses at my local community college, attending writers’ conferences, and reading books on writing. It’s been an amazing journey!

The Anonymous Bride by Vickie McDonoughDo you think your heart changed or did you always harbor a love of the written word?

I have always loved a good story, but I’ve come to appreciate words and the power they have. I haven’t really thought about it before, but yes, I think God changed my heart where writing is concerned.

What do you love most about writing and reading historical novels?

I’ve always loved horses, and cowboys were a close second. I grew up in the ‘60s, watching Bonanza, The Big Valley, My Friend Flicka—all those westerns of that period. I guess that love transitioned into reading. Historicals take you back to a time when life was slower, less complicated, and values more important. I love seeing America during the days the frontier was developed. Life was difficult and the people were tougher than us. And you have to admit, there’s just something yummy about a tall, tanned cowboy on a horse.

Some authors feel they have to obtain a degree in English to be a “real” writer. But you don’t have a degree (I don’t either) and seem to be doing just fine! If someone were to ask you how to prepare themselves for being a writer, what would you say?

You’re right, I don’t have a degree. I became a mom instead of finishing college.

The cool thing about writing is that it’s a craft that can be learned. There are tons of books on writing. I own a bunch of them, but I learn better in a classroom setting, which is why I like taking writing courses and attending conferences. All of these things can help a person learn writing techniques, but you have to sit down and write to really grasp it and to put what you’ve learned into action. The best way to become a writer is to study the craft, read as much as you can, especially in the genre you plan to write, and then write! Write! Write!!!

You have written 20+ books but only recently had your first long novel, The Anonymous Bride, published. Did you find it more challenging or easier to write a longer book?

Definitely more challenging. Why or why not? Because it was lots longer! I started out writing 20,000 word novellas, then moved into the Heartsong Presents book club line, which are 45-50,000 words long. The Anonymous Bride was 102,000 words.

A writer has to carry the conflict much longer than in a trade fiction novel than in a short book. I admire those authors who can write a long book and just use the hero’s and heroine’s point of view. I couldn’t do that. I had to have several other characters’ pov. With a longer book, you often have a subplot that is somehow tied in with your main plotline. Think of a shorter book as a simple 3-strand braid and a longer book as a fancy French-braid hair-do. I hope that analogy works. Since I raised boys, I really don’t know all that much about fixing hair.

Let’s talk more about The Anonymous Bride. What was the first spark of inspiration for this story and how did it develop over time?

I was trying to think up a new book idea and this question came to me: “What if a mail-order bride arrived in town expecting to marry the marshal, but he hadn’t ordered a bride?” Then I took it a step further: “What if 3 mail-order brides arrived expecting to marry the same poor, unsuspecting man?”

I wondered how something like that could happen, and if it did, how would he deal with the situation? Then I was brainstorming with my local critique group, and one gal said, “What if they have a contest to see which gal would make the best wife?”

And voila! That’s how The Anonymous Bride was birthed.Oklahoma Brides by Vickie McDonough

Most writers perform a lot of research before ever writing their novels. Was that true for this book?

Actually, I didn’t have to research this book too much. I’ve been to Texas many times and know a lot about the state. I made up my town, so the main research I did for it was to decide where to locate my fictional town. I did research Texas lawmen. Originally, my hero was a sheriff, but then I discovered that during my book’s time period, he would have been a town marshal. I also did some research on mail-order brides, but the bulk of my research for this book had to do with the setting.

Of all your characters, who’s your favorite, and why?

Oh, that’s hard. It’s like asking which of your children is your favorite. But I have to say I love Luke. He was such a hurting hero and yet he couldn’t help being noble and taking Jack under his wing. But, I do think Jack is my favorite. She’s a little fireball, but inside was hurting and didn’t know how to deal with it. Her antics continue in Second Chance Brides, which is the sequel. In the last book in the series, Finally A Bride, readers will get to see her as a young woman. Have no fear, she hasn’t changed a whole lot and still gets into predicaments.

What is the most unusual experience you’ve ever had as a writer?

I’ve had sooo many wonderful experiences as a writer. It’s weird that people think you’re something special when you’re a published writer. For a time, my husband would introduce me to people as “My wife, Vickie. She’s an author.” I told him to stop that. I said, “I don’t introduce you as Robert, the software developer.” :)

But that is true. I remember meeting Tracie Peterson for the first time at an ACFW conference. I couldn't stop shaking. In fact, I saw her at four different conferences before I could be near her and not quiver. I don’t know why—except that I’d read most of her books and to me she was a celebrity. Tracie later became my editor at Heartsong for a time.

Oh, and here’s an odd thing that happened. On my way home from a writer’s conference, I met Famous Amos—the guy who makes those good cookies. He was dressed up in clothes that had watermelons all over them. He had watermelon shoes, hat, even his travel bag had watermelons. He was a really nice guy. Friendly and talkative, but I kept wondering why watermelons and not cookies.

Second Chance Brides by Vickie McDonoughIt’s exciting to hear you’re coming out with a new series soon set in historical South Carolina. What inspired you to move away from the West and into the East?

My editor asked me to submit a proposal on a South Carolina series. I really didn’t want to at first. I’d never been there, plus it was about as far not west as you could go in America, but I didn’t want to say no to her. Then as I was researching, I discovered some things that tickled my fancy and snagged my interest. My husband and I took a research trip to Charleston last fall, and I loved it. That town is so rich in history. We saw buildings and houses that had been built in the 1700s and still looked fabulous. It was rather mind-boggling to an Oklahoman whose state just celebrated its centennial in 2007.

As a lover of historical westerns, I wonder if you’re a fan of Louis L’Amour. True? If so, what was your favorite book he wrote?

Would you believe I’ve never read one of his books? I’ve meant to—I even own a couple—but there are so many great Christian historicals now that I stay busy reading them.

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

I have ideas for two new series. One is about Civil War widows who leave the south and travel west. The other is about a partially handicapped young woman who wants to prove to herself and her family that she can be independent.

Your faith is the reason why you write. Do you usually have the faith element of a story determined ahead of time or is it something that more often comes out of the setting or characters?

Sometimes I know it ahead of time. I knew in The Anonymous Bride that forgiveness would play a major part in the story, but what I didn’t know was why Rachel up and married James when she was in love with Luke and engaged to him. That came as quite a surprise. I also didn’t know that Jack was going to be such a toot. She just didn’t want to conform herself into a proper young lady.

As I stated previously, reading Christian fiction was an escape for me when I was raising my kids. Now it’s an enjoyment and entertainment. I want my stories to take people away from the troubles of their lives and let them see that no matter what they’ve done or may be going through, God loves them and wants to help them. Some of my stories have a deep faith message, while others are lighter and more entertaining. My goal is to give a reader an exciting story that entertains and encourages them in their faith walk.Spinning out of Control by Vickie McDonough

As one of our faithful, prolific book reviewers here at TitleTrakk.com, I’m curious---how has writing reviews helped you in your own writing?

I started writing book reviews 9 years ago to get writing credits for my resume when I was a newbie. I look back now and believe it was a God thing. I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of books over the last decade and reviewed many of them. I learned how to write succinctly and summarize the story in a few paragraphs, which has helped immensely in writing synopses. I’ve learned how to write from reading other writers and seeing how they wrote their stories. I’ve also gotten to know quite a few writers from reviewing their books.

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

I so appreciate TitleTrakk.com and your dedication to promoting Christian books, music, and movies. The quality of your site is number one in my book.

I’d like to encourage your readers to keep an eye out for a new blog called “Ask A Christian Fiction Author.” It will be a site for readers and authors to connect. I’m hoping to get questions from readers about their favorite authors or about one of their books or maybe even something as personal as what they usually eat for breakfast. My goal is to have it up and running by July 1st. I do have an August deadline, so that may get pushed back. If you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask your favorite author, please email me at fictionfan1@cox.net and I’ll see if I can get it answered. There’s no guarantee, though, and please no super personal questions.

Who is Vickie McDonough?

I was born and lived all of my life (except for one year) in Oklahoma. I’ve been married thirty-four years to a wonderful man, we have four grown sons, a daughter-in-law, and a four-year-old granddaughter—yes! We got a girl finally. Besides reading and writing, I love traveling. I also enjoy board games, gardening, watching movies and my favorite TV shows.

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

I bought a motorcycle when I was 14, and I lived on a kibbutz in Israel for a year. (Someone will probably ask, so I’ll tell you know that a kibbutz is a community-owned farm)

What’s your favorite movie and tv show?

There are so many movies: While You Were Sleeping, Everafter, Zorro (with Antonio Banderas), August Rush, The Man From Snowy River.

TV shows – Chuck, NCIS, Castle, Fringe, oh, and I’ll admit it, I’m an American Idol fan. I even won a trip to last year’s finale!

Three things always found in your refrigerator:

It used to be Coke, but in my drastic effort to lose weight I quit drinking pop at the end of last year. How about butter, Miracle Whip lite, and bottles of water.

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

Ah, I got you on this one. I don’t drink coffee. I’m not even sure I’ve ever been in a Starbucks. I just drink water now and an occasional Crystal lite.

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

I want to travel to all 50 states. I’ve been to 35 so far. I need to go up east and further west. I would also love to see one of my books made into a movie.

When was the last time you cried?

Oh, phooey. I almost never cry, but I actually had a good one yesterday. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that one of my boys and I had a doozey of a “discussion.”

Three words that best describe you:

Organized, tenacious, funny

What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?

I don’t listen to music when I write. I need total quiet to think. I enjoy listening to movie soundtracks in the car though. The Last of the Mohicans is one of my favorites, as is The Man From Snowy River. I have an assortment of Christian musicians, also. At Christmastime, one of my favorites is Mannheim Steamroller. On my Ipod, I have a few American Idol songs, but mostly I have the past few years of ACFW conferences on it.

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.