Beth is the best-selling author of the Daughters of the Promise series — Plain Perfect, Plain Pursuit, Plain Promise, and Plain Paradise. Her new series–Land of Canaan–recently debuted with Seek Me With All Your Heart which has been selected as the 2011 Women of Faith Novel of the Year. She is contracted with Thomas Nelson Publishing for ten Amish novels and five novellas – releasing into 2013. All of her books have held spots on both the CBA (Christian Book Association) bestseller list and the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) bestseller list.
As she puts it, her writing has been “all over the place.” As a former newspaper reporter, she was honored by her peers with eleven journalism awards, including first place news writing for The Texas Press Association. She has been a humor columnist for The 1960 Sun in Houston and published articles in various publications. Those articles included a wide array of topics – an article on premature birth, an article about performance boating, and an article about her mother–a whitewater canoeing enthusiast who still paddles the rivers at the age of 77. However, writing novels is where her heart is. For more info, visit her website.
What initially drew you to writing?
I honestly have no idea. I’ve been writing in some capacity for my entire life. I wrote my first story to my grandparents when I was about five or six-years-old. I’ve been a newspaper reporter, columnist, and a freelance writer. But writing novels is where my heart is, and the voices screaming in my house demanded to be heard. Somewhere along the line (many years ago and many rejections ago), I knew I had a story to tell. I wanted to publish just one book that might make a difference in someone’s life. From the moment that I started writing Plain Perfect, I knew God was holding my hand and that it would be the start of something. And He continues to bless me with stories to tell.
What was your favorite book to write?
I think that whatever book I’m working on at the time is my favorite. I feel fully vested in the story and the characters while I’m writing, but if I had to choose…I suppose it would be my first one, Plain Perfect. For most of my life, I’d had this feeling that there was something I was supposed to do. Writing these books was it, and I never had that feeling again.
Who is your favorite author?
Oh my…way too many to list!
Where do you get your ideas?
The voices just find me. Seriously. In my car, while I’m sleeping, out at restaurants…everywhere. And once a few characters show up in my head, they pound out the story until I listen and begin to write. That is happening to me right now since I’m about to start another book.
Tell us about the book you’re working on.
I’m super excited—if not a bit nervous—about the book I am working on now. It is tentatively titled Let Me Love You, and it will be my first non-Amish Women’s Fiction book. It’s a love story that calls to my heart. Not a romance, but a love story, and I can’t wait to see how readers respond to it.
What advice would you give young writers?
Having a great story is not enough. Study the craft. I think I wrote some really good stories in the early days, but I hadn’t devoted enough time to the craft of writing. I believe that anyone can get a book published if you don’t give up.
When are you the most productive?
It used to be in the morning, and for some unknown reason, that changed. I seem to write best from noon until about five or six o’clock. Never at night. Disregard everything I just said at deadline time…lol.
Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?
I never set out to base a character on a real person, but several times it’s happened by accident. I never realized that Grandpa Jonas in several of my books was a lot like my father until my sister pointed it out. And I think that all of my characters have a little bit of me in then, whether it’s things I’ve done that I regret, or characteristics that I strive for to make me a better person. Writing books can be like therapy – you just act out scenarios in a way that makes it a learning—and healing—process.
What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?
The easiest would be a tossup between book #1, Plain Perfect, and book #3, Plain Promise. Plain Perfect because it was such a calling for me, and Plain Promise because I think I finally hit my stride with that book and felt a level of writing comfort that I hadn’t before. The hardest? Most definitely Seek Me With All Your Heart. I tried to spread my wings a little too far while writing that one, and ultimately I had to rewrite 30,000 words of the book. It was also a new location for the setting that required lots of research. In the end, I think it’s my best book to date.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Can I offer some instead? I can’t pinpoint the best writing advice that I’ve received. There’s been a lot of good advice from my editor and fellow authors. But the one thing that I have come to realize on my own as a writer—and encourage new writers to adhere to—is to take care of yourself, nurture your relationships, and make time for those you love. Most of us are living our dream, and as such…it’s easy to get so caught up in everything that it becomes all-consuming. I keep a rock on my desk that says BALANCE. I try very hard to spend as much time as I can with my family and friends, make doctors’ appointments as necessary, go to the dentist, get rest, and vacation with my husband.
What is your dream vacation?
Oh…too many to list. We’re trying to go to Hawaii this summer. That will be the first of many, I hope.