by Karen Ball
Today’s guest blogger is Angela Hunt, a master craftsman and wonderful woman. Angie is one of the first novelists I ever worked with, so we go back a loooong ways. In fact, I think we’ve been friends now for almost 25 years. She’s agreed to share her thoughts about writing, the changes in publishing, and how she refuels creativity. So without further ado, ladies and gents, I give you the amazing Angela Hunt.
KB. Angie, I’m delighted to have you join us here at the Steve Laube Agency Blog.
AH: Do you remember when we first met? Back at Tyndale House, when I was writing novels for young readers and you were my editor?
KB: I remember it well. You were writing the Cassie Perkins YA novels. I remember how impressed I was not just with your writing, but with you. Your honesty and sense of humor drew me in right away, and I knew I’d found not just an author, but a friend. Love how God works that out!
AH: I remember us talking about all kinds of things, recommending all kinds of books, and I thought, Here’s a woman who’s not reading in a sanctified bubble–she knows what’s out there. I liked that. I remember us talking–even back then–about the allure of vampire books, and you saying that you thought the fascination stemmed from the very real power in Jesus’ blood. I liked that, too. I think you were on to something.
KB: I remember you didn’t run screaming from the room when I talked about vampire books! That was another thing that let me know we’d do well together. You weren’t scared off by my crazy ideas! So considering where we were then and where we are now, how has publishing changed since you started?
AH: Wow–how has it changed in the last week? I’ve seen Christian fiction move from something nebulous to a definite genre with many subgenres, and now I wonder if it isn’t moving back toward nebulous again because publishing is changing. Christian writers aren’t writing only for Christian readers any more. Since our books are “out there” in Sam’s Club and Costco and on Amazon.com, I think our audience is the world at large. That thought thrills me because most of my books are aimed toward that audience.
KB: What’s the hardest thing about being a novelist?
AH: Getting started. Blank screen dread. Anxiety that the project blooming in one’s brain will somehow tarnish as it becomes a material thing of paper and ink. And pixels.
KB: What’s the best thing?
AH: So many wonderful things–first, touching readers’ hearts and minds. Second, finding and befriending so many like-minded souls (like you, K.) Thirdly, being able to explore so many different things in our books. I often say, “I’ve never been a (lawyer, doctor, explorer, gorilla trainer, etc.), but I’ve played one in my books!”
KB: How do you refill the “creativity well” when you feel you’ve run dry?AH: I leave my office and spend some time in my real world. My husband, for instance, isn’t a writer, and whenever I feel uninspired or overwhelmed, I focus on his ministry, which is about as “real world” as it gets. That fills me up again.
And now a question for you, Karen: how do you manage to find the emotional core of a book if the author hasn’t developed it enough? I know you’re a “feeler” in Myers-Briggs parlance and I’m a “thinker,” so my books tend to be centered more on the “head” than the “heart.” Yet readers pick up novels expecting an emotional experience. So how do you help an author find the true heart of the story? (I’m thinking of The Note by the way, which you edited brilliantly.)
KB: That’s one of the things I enjoy most about editing and agenting, finding that emotional core in my authors’ and clients’ stories. The writers I work with do such a great job of crafting worlds and characters that they come alive in my mind as I journey through the story with them. The more I spend time with them, the deeper I go into the story, the clearer that core becomes. The fascinating thing is that so much of that core has to do with the writer. For example, I remember working with you on The Pearl, a wonderful novel that had such deep, emotional potential, but the pivotal scene, where a woman’s little boy is killed, came across too…sterile. Distant. By this time we’d worked together a long time and become friends, so I knew you’d struggled as a mother, and I couldn’t help wondering, though you’d never lost a child to death, if you’d held back in the writing of that scene because the emotions hit too close to home. Sure enough, we talked it over, and when you sent the reworked scene back to me, it was stunning. All the power I knew could be there, and then some. When that happens, it’s an amazing blessing to know I had a part in it.
KB: No wonder. That’s one adorable baby! Okay, one last question for you, Angie. It seems to me that the most intimate relationships in publishing are the relationship between writer and agent, and writer and editor. What wisdom can you share with writers to help them keep those very important relationships on track?
AH: The relationships between writers/editors and writers/agents are a bit like a marriage–you sign on and hope for wedded bliss, but in reality, these are professional working relationships. It’s wonderful if you find a partner who “gets” you because you’re soul mates, but it’s often better if you find someone with whom you can be a friend. You may not always agree with your editor or agent, and if you are professionals and friends, you can often weather the storm more successfully if you are not more emotionally connected. (And here I am, sounding like a “thinker” again!)
But seriously–appreciate each other, respect each other, and support each other’s efforts. That’s what makes those relationships mutually beneficial.
Thank you, my friend, for inviting me to your blog!