Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Searching for Spice by Megan DiMaria

Yesterday Roger and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary. Hard to believe that much time has passed since we committed our lives to one another and to God. God has truly blessed our marriage, and while neither one of us is perfect, we do love each other more than we did thirty years ago. God is good! We aren’t having a huge celebration now, but in October we’re going to England and Scotland to celebrate and to visit our daughter who lives and works in London.

When I first read our featured book for today, I identified strongly with the main character, in that she wanted to have a steamy affair . . . with her husband! Shortly after I did the requested assessment on this manuscript for Megan, she received a two-book contract from Tyndale for Searching for Spice and Out of Her Hands, due to be released this fall.

Megan joins us today to answer a few questions I asked her about her books and her writing in general.

How did you get started writing, and where has that journey taken you that you may not have expected starting out?
I started writing in grade school after my 6th grade teacher convinced me I was good at it. In high school I was on the staff of the school newspaper and did an internship at the local newspaper. I studied Communications and Mass Media in college, and after graduation I was a radio and television reporter. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I was a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers. I guess you can see a pattern here. Working with words and ideas has always been a pleasure for me. From the time I was a teen, I always dreamed of writing fiction. It was a dream that I postponed while my children were little and didn’t pursue until 1995. I wrote my first book from 1995 until 2000—and it was awful! After that I joined ACFW (then ACRW), got into a critique group, studied books on craft, and hung out with other writers. I began writing Searching for Spice in 2004 to enter it into a contest. I finished it in 2006, the year I met Jan Stob, the acquisitions editor for Tyndale House Publishers. She requested my proposal, and in the spring of 2007 I got my first contract. Both of the contracted books release this year. Out of Her Hands will be available in October. I think the unexpected place my journey has taken me is to being a published author. After studying and submitting for 12 years, and also being a part of local writers groups, I began to think that my part in the industry was as an encourager for other writers. I always believed (and still do) that I was not called to be a bestselling author, I was called to be an obedient child of God. The success I’ve attained is all about Him.

How do you balance family life with writing?
My kids are all young adults now, so they don’t need my attention as much as younger children would. Most of Searching for Spice was written in the evenings and on weekends while I held a full-time job. In 2006, I started to work less hours, and now I only work at my day job two days a week. I give priority to my family and will always take a break to spend time with them. I jump at any opportunity to spend time with my husband, even if it’s as simple as walking to the mailbox.

How does your walk with the Lord affect your writing? And how do you balance time with the Lord with your writing schedule?
I truly give all the credit for any success I enjoy to God. The close relationship I have with Him is what sustains me through my writing journey. Many years ago an older woman prayed that I would be blessed with words, and that’s a prayer I continue to pray for myself. I freely acknowledge that my words are from the Author of life. I start praying even before I open my eyes every morning. I keep my favorite devotional book near my comfy chair so it’s handy. In the winter, that’s my rocking chair in the living room, and in the summer I perch it on the computer desk by the back door so I can grab it on my way out the patio.

Since my blog is geared to writers who want to improve their self-editing, could you briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision?
I come up with an idea and write a first chapter to see how it works. Then I marinate the plot in my brain for a while before I start to write more. I’m an intuitive writer, which means I don’t write a point-by-point plotline before writing the book. I know who my characters will be and where I want the plot to go, but the details are worked out in progress. I always know what the deepest, darkest moment will be and how the story will end. After I finish writing a chapter, I put it on a separate word document, give it a quick edit, and send it on to my critique partners. After they send me the chapter back, I consider making any changes and move on. I don’t edit any more than that. However, after my manuscript is turned into the publisher, I will receive it again to go over the suggested edits. I trust the editor I’ve worked with from Tyndale, Lorie Popp, so I usually will tweak the story according to her guidelines.

What kinds of things do you have to revise once the editor at a publishing house gets done with your manuscript?
Most of the changes are to clarify a scene or a character’s motivation. In Searching for Spice, Lorie suggested that I switch around the placement of a couple of scenes. It made the story stronger, but it was if my story was a puzzle and all the pieces were thrown in the air, and I had to put it back together again. The ripple effect of changing the sequence of a few scenes is very involved. The timeline was disrupted and so many of the details needed to be changed. Out of Her Hands required a much more intense edit because the last third of my book dealt with issues covered in two books being released by other Tyndale authors just months before OOHH comes out. I had to rewrite my deepest, darkest moment. In the end, I think it’s still as good a story as the original one because I maintained the same emotional pressures that were involved in the first draft.

Would you tell us a little about your future projects?
Right now I have four novels summarized. That means I’ve outlined the basic plot, the characters, the obvious need and the hidden need, and how the story will end. I’ve begun to write the first of those novels, the wip is titled Many Happy Returns. It’s about a woman who is jazzed to enter the next phase of her life, that of the empty nest. She has dreams of renewing her marriage, traveling, and beginning new hobbies. But as usual, life doesn’t go according to plan. The story starts in a Mexican toilet stall where she’s trapped due to a rusted latch. (Margie here: Ha! This really happened to Megan not too long ago. You should hear her tell the whole story in person. Can't wait to see it in print. VBG) She and her husband are on their first vacation as a couple in 26 years. Unfortunately an approaching hurricane forces them to cut their vacation short. They return home to find that her mother’s moved into their house, and their college daughter has dropped out and come home from school.

Finally, would you discuss Searching for Spice? The research, the idea, and the scope of the project?
Searching for Spice was written as a response to a running joke with some girlfriends about desiring more romance in our lives. We all enjoy solid, satisfying marriages, but, well, a girl can dream. J The research was basically observing human nature and how men and women perceive love in different ways. There were a few places where I needed advice, and I relied on the expertise of friends, one is a nurse and the other a lawyer. I think I was unprepared for the emotional depth that I took that story to. I knew that I had to go in that direction, but I didn’t expect to live the emotions that I put my characters through. I lived, laughed, and cried with them.

Thank you so much, Megan! We appreciate your time and the opportunity to spotlight your work.
Thanks for hosting me, Margie. If anyone wants to take a peek into my crazy world, feel free to visit my website or my blog.

Daily Bible reading: Tuesday, July 15—Psalms 13–15; Acts 11
Wednesday, July 16—Psalms 16–17; Acts 12
Thursday, July 17—Psalms 18–19; Acts 13:1–25
Friday, July 18—Psalms 20–22; Acts 13:26–52
Saturday, July 19—Psalms 23–25; Acts 14
Sunday, July 20—Psalms 26–28; Acts 15:1–21
Monday, July 21—Psalms 29–30; Acts 15:22–41


Jan Parrish said...

Margie - Happy anniversary. I enjoyed getting to know you more at CCWC. I wish you lived on this side of town so I could see you more often!

Megan - I pray that God blesses you with many more wonderful words. Searching For Spice was awesome. I can't wait to read OOHH.

Margie Vawter said...

Thanks, Jan! Seeing each other more often is harder to do when I'm spending a third of the summer in Georgia—a long, long ways from Denver. LOL

Tina said...

Thanks for the great interview with Megan! Megan let me sign with her in Wyoming this past weekend and people here loved her. We're all so excited about her book. God has plans for Megan! :-)

Kay Day said...

Great interview!
You rock, Megan!

Megan DiMaria said...

Thanks, Margie, for letting me visit The Writer's Tool. Thanks also Jan, Tina, and Kay for the kind words.

Write on, girls!!

A prisoner of hope,

Patti Shene said...

Great interview, Margie & Megan. I enjoyed your first book and look forward to reading OOHH. Best of luck with your writing career.