Interview with Author of The Stonekeepers, Sally Chambers

I am thrilled to introduce you to my friend and fellow crew member at Hartline, Sally Chambers, and her novel, The Stonekeepers.

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For the past eighteen years, Lexi Christensen has been sheltered from the truth

by a soft-cushioned life of normalcy, until the contents of an envelope link her to an

ancient vow. All Lexi wants is to get out from between the vise grips of her suddenly

protective parents, rescue an historic mansion before she leaves for college, and stop

herself from falling in love with the man her best friend claims to love. But finding the

envelope thrusts her into difficult and dangerous choices. Someone knows more about

Lexi’s heritage than she does, wants what she’s found, and threatens her life to get it.

As her future twists into an incredible mission that propels her from her sand-ringed

island home to a foreign mountaintop, Lexi is in a race against both time and

 danger. Her faith may be strong, but is God asking too much?

Sally and I are giving away a copy of The Stonekeepers to one blessed person. For a chance to win: (1) Subscribe to my website anncoopermccauley.com if you haven’t already. (2) Leave a comment on this interview and leave your email addy so I can find you. (3) Enter by midnight (CST) August 27, 2015.  After a fair and random drawing, I will announce a winner August 28, 2015. Participation is limited to U. S. residents, eighteen and older.

After a fair and random drawing our winner is Deborah Bost. Congratulations, Deborah!

Ann: Sally, tell us about your writing journey?

Sally : I discovered my love of writing in grade school when a favorite teacher gave the class an assignment to write a short story. The story had to include some of the main products of any country in Central America we chose to write about. I was lost the moment I put pencil to paper—dropped into a vision of two girls visiting a pineapple plantation in Honduras. And I’m not joking when I say “lost.” After school that night and in every spare moment, I researched, wrote, and “saw” my story roll out before me. So immersed and involved, I ran out of time to finish what I’d begun, and not finishing my assignment on time did not please the powers that be! But me? I was thrilled with the thought that I could tell stories like the authors I loved!

Later, journaling became part of life. I still journal, but not as frequently. Many things written in my journals have become material for writing blog posts, articles, devotions and more. Memories might fade, but not when they’re committed to paper. Following a Florida Writers Conference, I wrote several devotionals for The Upper Room and stories for Sunday school take-home papers, then my novel. Rejections came and thoughts that I should give up—but how could I stop with the encouragement I had from writer friends and the call I felt? From there, those years of never giving up brought me to the release of The Stonekeepers.

Ann: What is your advice to writers as they embark on getting published?

Sally: Writing can be a lonely journey. I believe it’s important for new writers to find other Christian writers with hearts to write for the Lord online and/or local, and do for them what you’d like them do for you—encourage, support, love, pray, and listen. Join a local critique group and an online writers group . . . like the one I should have joined years earlier than I did. American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) did more to help me improve my writing faster than the many years I spent reading, studying, and trying on my own. Also, read and research the paths-to-publishing other writers have recently taken before they were finally published.

Ann: What can aspiring writers expect from publishing once they have arrived?

Sally:

  • To learn a new measure of patience. In this transformational publishing atmosphere, you need a great deal of patience—more like a mixture of joy and hard work, patience and prayer.
  • Expect to be your own main advocate for your book. Yes, you might have some advice, counsel, and support from your publisher and agent, and fellow-writers, but be prepared for a do-it-yourself marketing adventure.
  • Expect to repurpose the rhino-hide you developed to handle criticism and rejection, into a new toughness against the frustrations of self-marketing. Nevertheless, leave yourself open to the joy of reaching your goal and fulfilling what you’ve felt called to do for the Lord. Praise and thankfulness are even more effective than your tough ole hide! ☺

It’s a bit like setting the stage for a play, except instead of someone else promoting me, I had to let go and let the Lord help me advertise the coming attraction. Not a soul (well, very few) would know I’d written a novel unless I stepped up and got noisy and opened myself to let the world get to know me and what I was up to. (Not my favorite thing to do!) Would anyone even care? It was scary stuff, learning the art of WordPress and blogging, being more open on Facebook, creating friendships in Goodreads, flying into Twitter with shaky wings, and so much more.

I’m blessed with a very savvy literary agent, Diana Flegal of Hartlne Literary Agency. She gave me myriad ideas:  good blogs to review, books to read, social media to become part of. Excellent guidance for me to follow. And if I hadn’t, I’d be way behind the curve of getting the word out about The Stonekeepers.

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Ann: What would be your best advice for keeping balance?

Sally: Well, if you were a mouse in my house and watching, you’d often see me leaning toward my monitor, palms toward the screen, fingers spread, head bowed in prayer as I work there—☺ But, best advice? Stay grounded in your close relationship with the Lord. Before anything else, pray in faith, believing, for the work of your mind, heart, and hands—and for rest and peace. The “More of You, Lord, less of me” breath prayers are a constant. Seek Him and lift Him up in all you do as you write and promote and live.

Ann: In the whirlwind of writing and publishing, where do you find rest and enjoyment most?

Sally: You’re right about the whirlwind, Ann. I find rest and enjoyment several ways. First, being with my family anywhere, anytime doing any activity. Then Sundays. Being at church and in my Sunday school class on Sunday mornings is where I see Jesus in the eyes of my Christian friends and soak in the beautiful atmosphere of worshiping and learning of the Lord. Then, taking a faux mini vacation simply enjoying photos my granddaughter sends of my two little great granddaughters hiking with her in places close to where they live in Colorado, last, I enjoy walking . . . on the beach, on trails, in parks, or just in my yard.

Ann: When a reader leaves your novel, what do you hope they will take away?

Sally: I hope they’ll take away the satisfaction of having read a work that left them not just inspired, but thinking. Thinking about their walk with the Lord—their relationship with Him—the future we all face as a human family on a finite planet and the importance of family and friends. Thinking about living out and sharing their faith with others.

Ann:  What inspired you to create your characters? Are there pieces of you in each of their personalities and behaviors? Or, do you know people in real life who are like them?

Sally: A single word, a name I saw in a magazine inspired me to create the main character in The Stonekeepers. I don’t deliberately model my characters after anyone. They’re straight out of my imagination, but, yes, there are pieces of both my personality and behavior in some of them. At least similar, like the desire to be on time (MC, Lexi, stays on time—but me—I try real hard ☺). And we both love animals, especially horses and dogs. Like all characters, mine grow, stretch and evolve as I write their story, and occasionally I’ll change their names or add a quirk or two that I might see in someone who fascinates me.  Like Ridge’s wavy, semi-curly, slightly unruly, hair. I saw that happy mass of hair on someone and blessed Ridge’s handsome head with it. It just fits him perfectly!

Ann:  Did you do research of any kind for this novel?

Sally: Yes. Lots of research. As there were cultural things throughout the story, I had to be certain they were accurate. And places. For example, I wanted to be careful of how I described Nantucket’s wonderful library. So looking up everything from photos to building layouts was in order. Researching everything from what scent is in the air after a gun is fired to what type of flooring covers Boston’s Logan International Airport terminal, and what a Saudi man wears for special occasions. Good thing I love to research!

Ann: Do you find it difficult to sprinkle research into a novel without it becoming burdensome?

Sally: Time consuming? Yes. Burdensome? Not at all. Weaving it in, using the story to do it, is part of the challenge and fun of research.

Ann: Which do you enjoy most: your love story, your historical twist, or the development of your characters?

Sally: Though an historical twist in a contemporary novel like The Stonekeepers is a bit unusual, I enjoyed the challenge of working through it. Since I write by the seat of my pants without plotting, the historical twist in that novel received a lot more attention than the character development, which seemed to evolve naturally as the story progressed.

That said, and I’m smiling here, thinking “love story.” The Stonekeepers isn’t, but there’s a thread of light romance throughout, and it holds my first try for a kissing scene. I discovered I loved writing that scene. At the same time I was co-leading a Bible study at church last year, I was tying up loose ends in the story. That’s when I decided to write and add the kiss. Every week at Bible study, we broke into small groups to talk and to pray for each other’s needs. Well, I had a need, and two special friends prayed for me as the scene took shape. God is good, and wondrous in the answers to our prayers. That scene still gives me chill bumps!

Ann: Do you know when you’re writing how your characters will develop, or do they surprise you?

Sally: Hmm. No, not exactly, and yes, they certainly do. I begin with an idea of what they look like—their smiles, quirks, eyes, expressions, then after a while of animating them as I write, I begin to see their personalities. Then I fill in some blanks and think through questions about their background, like their home life including family, pets, vignettes from their childhood, etc. As I do that, a flood of envisioning thoughts about them come and I try to get it all down to sift through later. As they develop, their stories do too. They do surprise me. One surprise leads to another and I love it!

Ann: Do you know the end of your book from the beginning?

Sally: Never. Well—except that the ending will be happy and satisfying—never.

Ann: Give us your best advice when it comes to social media and marketing.

Sally:

  • Start early and build gradually, a year, even earlier before the book’s release, even it’s only Facebook and Goodreads.
  • Establish a presence that has nothing to do with sales, but simply developing friends, sharing “your voice” often.
  • Pray as you go and be sincere as you interact. Branch out if you have time. Blog if you have the determination to be faithful in doing it, and choose a theme that’s “you.”

Two big benefits I’ve found with blogging are that it keeps me creative even when I feel I have nothing more to share. I really do. And it keeps me dependent on the Lord when I feel empty—He is faithful to answer when I ask.

And, tell us where to find you and your books.

You can find The Stonekeepers on Amazon, both in print and for Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and Books A Million.

Also, what current projects are you working on?

☺There are two book projects I’m slowly getting back to. Both are things I’ve worked on during the time I was writing The Stonekeepers and needed a change of pace. Their titles are Amazon Agenda and Sub Rosa Reef. They’re both quite different from The Stonekeepers. AA is complete, but I’m revising it. SRR is still half-finished and languishes right now until I have the time to continue working on it.

I have learned so much today. Thank you, Sally, for taking time to give us some great information!

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