Deborah Raney’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after 20 happy years as a stay-at-home mom. Deb’s 20th novel releases June 14 from Howard. She and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy the wildflowers and native grasses in the Kansas prairie garden in their large back yard. They also love traveling together to conferences, and to visit four children and three little grandsons who all live much too far away. For more info, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
If this was your last day on Earth, what would you do?
I’d want to hug each of my kids and my three little grandsons, my parents and mother-in-law, but other than that, I think I’d just want to live an ordinary day. I’ve already had a wonderful life with no regrets that I haven’t already made amends for, so I think sitting on the front porch drinking coffee with my hubby (tea for him), working in our garden together––and maybe writing a really good chapter––would be the perfect way to spend my final day here on earth.
From idea to completion, how long does it take to write a book?
That’s been different with each book, but an average would be 7-8 months. What’s interesting is that the bulk of the words go on the page in the last 6 weeks of writing. It’s the research, character creation/development, and story/plot ideas that take the most time.
Was it easier to write before or after you were published?
Definitely before! When I started writing I didn’t know the rules, I didn’t know much about the craft. I just wrote. I was like a little kid pounding the keys of the piano with joyful abandon, not hearing the discord in my own music. Now that I know how to “read music” it’s not nearly so easy, but it’s much more satisfying when I reach “the end” because I know I’ve written something that is worthy.
What would you like your life to look like in ten years?
Wow! That’s a great question. My husband and I have good genes, with grandparents who all lived into their late 80s and beyond. (One grandpa is still living at 101!) So we’ll probably still feel relatively young in ten years. I hope we have a dozen grandkids, live a little closer to all our kids (not easy when now they are scattered from Iowa to Missouri to Germany!), have a smaller home, smaller garden, even cooler office spaces, and still be enjoying working with the talents God has given us, but have plenty of time to spend with family and friends who fill our lives with such blessings.
How many words do you write each day?
My goal is always 1000. Early in a story, I may fall short of that many days because research and plot and character take precedence. But later in the process, I may write 2500 words a day without breaking a sweat. But 1000 is a good average.
Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?
Seat-of-the-pants all the way. Actually I’m trying to learn to plot at least a few chapters ahead, but more than that takes all the fun out of writing! I like the writing journey to be one of discovery, just as it is for the reader.
What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue?
I have a pretty awesome writing studio as it is, but if I could remodel it, I’d take down the wallpaper, panel the room with white beadboard, add a full wall of white bookcases and a wonderfully funky overstuffed chair piled high with pillows.
What’s the first item on your bucket list?
I’d love to spend six months living in Europe with my husband, avoiding all the usual tourist stuff and just meandering through the countryside, touring tiny villages, and eating at sidewalk cafes along the way. Of course, I’d be writing a novel inspired by my adventures while I was there.
What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?
Easiest was A Vow to Cherish, my first novel. Partly, because I didn’t know enough about writing then to know what I was doing wrong, and partly because, I think God knew I’d never write again if that one didn’t flow. By far the most difficult––and yet, one of my favorites––was A Nest of Sparrows. The research on that book about killed me, both because it was a tough topic, and because information was hard to come by. But I’m very pleased with the end result, and it won a ton of awards as well, which is always nice.
Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret?
My philosophy is…the more people who read my book before my editor ever sees it, the better the book will be. Every author has tunnel vision, and when we allow others to read our work and when we apply their suggestions, we up the chances that we’ll speak to a wider audience. My parents, daughters, and several friends all give my manuscript a workover before it goes to my editors. I also work with a wonderful critique partner (mega mega award-winning novelist Tamera Alexander) so I know the value of letting someone else evaluate my writing before I say it’s done. Ultimately, I must be the final judge about my own work, but I love getting feedback from others.
If there is one genre you’d never write, what is it?
One should never say never, but if I ever wrote a horror novel, it would shock me––especially since I’m president of the Big Honkin’ Chicken Club (a club inspired by the award-winning, best-selling novels of Brandilyn Collins––but which are too scary for me!)
Do you write with music?
Yes! I’ve discovered that movie soundtracks are just wonderful to write to! Because they are subtle and in-the-background, they don’t interfere with my thought process (I can’t have lyrics playing or suddenly instead of typing my story, I’m typing lyrics!) and because soundtracks are composed to evoke emotion, they tend to do that in me as I listen. A fun bonus of writing to music is that in essence, I create a soundtrack for my own novels. For example, when I listen to the soundtrack to Dances with Wolves and Legends of the Fall, I’m transported to Colombia, South America, the setting of my novel Beneath a Southern Sky, because that’s the music I listened to when I was writing that story.