19 June 2008

Interview with Becky Melby

Welcome Becky Melby (on the right) who shares some insights into Co-Authoring. Becky writes with Cathy Wienke.

Thanks Becky for indulging my interest.

Thanks for the opportunity, Jenny. It was fun! Becky

1. Firstly can you tell us a little about yourself?

I live in Burlington, Wisconsin. I married Bill, my high school sweetheart, 36 years ago and we were blessed with four sons, all of whom are married to amazing women and have gifted us with seven grandkids and two more on the way. We host and lead a Bible study on Sunday nights and we enjoy seeing the country in our motor home and rides on our Gold Wing. Reading and just being with family are my top picks for fun.

I started co-authoring with Cathy Wienke about fifteen years ago. We wrote three Heartsongs, Beauty for Ashes, Garment of Praise, and Far above Rubies, which came out as a 3-in-1, Wisconsin Blessings two years ago. We also wrote a novella, Over the Wall, which came out in the 4-in-1 collection, Race to the Altar in 2007.

2. How did you know you wanted to be a writer, have you always had the desire

or did it come later?

I started making up stories when I was about eight. In fifth grade I wrote a poem about a bunny (cotton ball tail glued on for visual effect!) and it ended up on a bulletin board at school. The teacher had written A+ Very Good! in big red letters. That was a defining moment for me, at only 10-years-old. I think I knew right then that I wanted to be a writer. In high school, my creative writing teacher renewed that vision and helped me develop my creativity. I hope this is an encouragement to teachers who question the lasting effects of the time they invest.

3. If you were not a writer what would you like to be?

A counselor of some kind. I was the director of a crisis pregnancy center for years and also a youth leader and volunteer at a teen coffee house. I love talking to kids who haven’t made up their minds yet about faith and values. My husband and I have often talked about doing marriage counseling. We sure don’t have it all right ourselves, but we have over three decades of lessons to share.

4. When you co-write a book how do you choose someone to write with?

Cathy Wienke and I had been friends for eighteen years when she called me and told me about the book she’d just thrown across the room because of the unrealistic dialogue. “We could do better than that,” she said. And so we started plotting right then and wrote our first book in nine months. Back then, we were homeschooling a combined total of seven children and writing was a way that we could share our faith and still be home with our kids—and a fun excuse for “Mom Time.” Today, if I were searchi

ng for another co-author, I’d look for the same qualities I see in Cathy—total honesty tempered with grace. A long-time friendship is certainly a plus.

5. How do you go about writing as co-authors, does one do the research and one write, or do you collaborate on each character?

We’ve tried different approaches. At first we alternated chapters and then I’d go over them to make it should like one voice. We’ve found a system now that uses both of our strengths. We brainstorm together. After that, Cathy fleshes out an outline and writes detailed character descriptions, including “interviewing” our main characters. I do the actual writing. When I finish a scene or a chapter, I email it to her and she sends back suggestions and corrections. And it’s not unusual for us to have four or five phone chats before noon. We live about half an hour apart, but sometimes we go more than a month without meeting face-to-face. (Why was it easier to take seven kids to the park than for two empty-nesters to meet for lunch??) As I’m writing, if I come up with something that requires more research than just a quick Google, I pick up the phone and Cathy will get on it.

6. Do you have differences of opinion on how the story should go and how do you work out what way to take the story?

Our differences of opinion show up in the little details more than large plot direction. I tend to be a bit heavy-handed with sarcasm and Cathy is constantly finding ways to soften our heroines to make them more likable. We’re both pretty easy-going. If there’s a disagreement on a character’s inner conflict or motivation, for instance, the one with the most passionate pitch usually wins.

7. What benefits have you gained from co-writing books?

The biggest advantage to writing together is that it’s simply more fun. Our first ms. was 75,000 words. When Heartsong Presents expressed an interest in it, we were overjoyed...but their word limit is 50,000. So Cathy and I spent a “rewrite” weekend at a Christian camp in northern Wisconsin. This was before laptops, so we took a hard copy and a pile of pencils and sat up all night on our bunks, taking turns reading out loud and slashing line after line. At first it felt like lopping off body parts or offering up our babies to a volcano, but a few hours into it, we were laughing so hard we were crying! Now, if you do that all by yourself, the men in the white coats come knockin’ at your door!

I absolutely love the “Aha!” moments. We may be talking over each other on the phone and then all of a sudden one of us yells, “Wait! I got it!” Almost every time, it’ll be a plot twist or character motivation that gives us both goosebumps because it’s exactly what we were searching for. It’s so awesome to feel God’s presence in the midst of our disjointed brainstorming.

I also know that if I were writing alone, my stories wouldn’t have the spiritual depth that Cathy brings to our projects. We come from vastly different backgrounds and we draw on our experiences to add layers to our plots and characters.

8. Do you have any up coming projects?

We’re in the middle of another three-book Heartsong series. This one is set in Minnesota. (I was born in Minneapolis, so this has special meaning for me.) The first book, Walk with Me, will be out the end of October. The second one, Dream Chasers, is due on June 1st. It’s finished and has been critiqued by my fabulous crit group, the Pearl Girls, and is being read by some wonderful, honest friends at the time of this interview. We’ll start the third book, Stillwater Promise, in June and it’s due in November. I’m also working on a chick lit. I absolutely love writing in first person and this genre allows for a bit of sarcasm freedom!

9. Where can we find you on the net? Our website is www.melby-wienke.com. Our books are available at Amazon, CBD, and Barnes and Noble.

10. Do you have any final thoughts for us?

My general writing encouragement would be: Unless you sense God leading you away from writing, never give up. Write to glorify Him--that is a far higher calling than getting published. For those hoping to team-write fiction, I’d advise you to pick prayerfully. Just finding another believer isn’t quite enough. Make sure you are working with someone who shares your same values and appreciates things like your particular flare for drama, sense of humor, discipline or lack-there-of. If you want to co-author romance like we do, keep in mind that not everyone defines a romantic moment or gesture in the same way—and you really need to be on the same page here. I really think someone should come up with a questionnaire for potential co-authors--eHarmonywritingbuddies.com, maybe! In many ways it’s like a marriage. You get on each other’s nerves at times and you need the liberty to be totally open and honest and you need to not take offense easily. Being a quick forgiver is essential. If you’re working with someone you don’t know, I’d suggest spending time together or a lot of correspondence about a broad range of topics before you begin.

1 comment:

Jewelz said...

Thanks for the interview! It was very inspiring.

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