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.
AH: Ah, yes, I remember that. And speaking of my role as a mother, have I shown you my latest pictures of the Grand Baby? Tee hee. I’m besotted.
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!
I do value the tail-end comments about partnership and friendship in the publishing process. That is a kingdom value. We burn out and lose spirit when a task is merely part of a to do list or for the sake of a bottom line, but we energise ourselves and our outputs, when we find a higher purpose for doing it. If professional relationships merely serve the task at hand, they will be stilted and empty. That won’t improve if either party to the relationship feels obligated to the other. However, to use an extension of Myers Brigg’s thinking, not much will be achieved through a subjective, cosy relationship. We need to get God’s heart in these things and relate to the overriding virtue of stewarding the heartbeat of His kingdom, else we will be all production and no impact, or all heart and no discipline.
“The fascination [in vampire novels] stemmed from the very real power in Jesus’ blood”? That seems like quite a stretch for me. When I think about why there is power in Jesus’ blood and I’m not sure what about vampires I could possibly compare that to.
I like the comment about the anxiety of tarnishing a story as it makes its way to paper. That is the thing that bugs me the most about writing. The story in my head is always a vibrant world, full of color and depth. Somehow, that world has to be placed on paper in such a way that the reader can see what I see.
Tim, Einstein would associate your argument to relativity – because, whilst the reality of your book does not change for each new lens or for every different observer, the perspective of that reality can and does.
However, I don’t see Paul fussing too much about such things -He wrote for a 1st century audience and the Holy Spirit made that relevant to a 21st century audience. I am not suggesting we should ignore market forces, but that we must strike a balance.
My sense after many years of soul-searching and research on these issues, is that we should please God first. Then, as He did for the tent that Moses made, He will breathe His own life into the outcome to give it a life of its own.
I shared the same idea with a world-class photographer earlier today and she acknowledged that it had taken her the better part of a lifetime to get that very point. We can build things that look right and seem right, that fit markets and resonate with readers, but what we write will only shake the world when God gives it life.
I think you are over thinking what I said. I’m just saying that I want readers to see the world that exists in my imagination, but what I am able to convey is far less than what I want them to see.
Timothy, Karen’s long-ago comment about vampires vs. the power in Jesus’ blood goes back to the fact that Satan loves to counterfeit. Because there IS power in the blood of Jesus, the counterfeit is vampires and the power in blood that keeps them “alive”–when the power of Jesus’ blood gives the Christian spiritual and eternal life.
The analogy is a valid point.
Thanks for chiming in. And thanks, Karen, for the interview! Always a pleasure. 🙂
Okay, I’ll buy that.
Love your novels, Angela. i always shied away from vampire books, but after reading your comment, guess i might try one. Thanks for sharing.
ooo, don’t take my point as a recommendation, Marianne, it was just a point. If you’re feeling convicted, go with what the Spirit is telling you. Always.
That bit about the emotional core… yep! Sometimes it’s scary to put our own feelings into our characters, but when we do, boy-howdy does it pack a punch!
Mocha with Linda
Loved reading this interview. The more I learn of the behind-the-scenes process of writing, the more it enhances my reading experience!
Mocha with Linda
Although I’m a little surprised Angie didn’t say she recharges by getting in her kitchen and baking! 🙂
LOL. Baking does it too, Linda. Next on my list: homemade pasta! :-0
Great interview! I hope some day if/when I get an agent, I will have such a close relationship as the two of you share. 🙂
Janet Ann Collins
What a great interview! Karen and Angie, I’ve met you both at conferences and this felt like chatting with you in person.
Very nice, Angie!
By the way, in case anyone misunderstands, Angie is represented by Danielle Egan-Miller of Brown & Miller Literary Associates.
I love how this interview illustrates how relationships and friendships grow and flourish over the years and transcend the business of publishing.
Amen, Steve. That’s one of the greatest gifts we receive working in Christian Publishing. We’re not just authors and editors and agents and publishers. We become trusted friends. Angie has been that for me for many years, and I am so grateful to her–and to God–for that friendship.
Ditto backatcha, Karen and Steve and Danielle. 🙂 Love and appreciate all of you.
Amy Michelle Wiley
I’m almost ready for an editor for my first novel (though I’ve had lots of short stories published) and this helps me understand the deep importance of a good relationship between the editor and the writer, and how much stronger and better and editor can help my writing become. Of course I knew that, but good to be reminded about it. Loved the interview!
Excellent article and interview. I just started reading Angela’s books. Currently reading Esther. Love, love, love this book. I have the other two in the series in my wish list on Amazon. Can’t wait to read those. So happy and excited that I found a great author that books move my soul!