A Visit with Angela Hunt!

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!


Leave a Comment

News You Can Use – Feb. 14, 2012

It has begun – The Welcome Assault on Costly Textbooks– But is this the best way to do it? Free online publisher-quality textbooks for five of the country’s most-attended college courses. Funded by big charitable organizations like The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It could change the economic future of some major textbook publishers. I fear the homogenization of Education or the control of what is taught in college Biology class, just because it is free.

Pinterest Boards for Book Lovers – Ten places to try out the latest social network phenomenon.

Five Ways to Maximize the New Changes on Facebook – Confused by yet another change to Facebook? This should help.

Is Self-Publishing a Ponzi Scheme? – Richard Curtis, as usual, is brilliant and insightful. Do think this is out of line? or cutting close to the truth?

Is it Time to Bundle the E-book with the Physical Book in Online Sales? – I asked this question of Hachette 2 1/2 years ago during a Digital Initiatives presentation and was told no. Dennis Johnson of Melville House Publishers discussed the issue with great insight.

Lady Solves Wheel-of-Fortune Puzzle with One Letter – This article shows that it wasn’t luck but years of study and preparation. Sort of like something thinking they can just sit down and write a whole book in a weekend.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Read More

The Stages of Editorial Grief

Nearly every writer will tell you they have experienced the proverbial “red pen” treatment from their editor. The reactions to this experience can follow the well-known stages of grief popularized by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

Skip Denial, I’m Angry!

There is no denying that the edits have arrived. And for the author who was not expecting a hard-nosed edit, they can transition from “shocked-angry” to “furious-angry” to “rage.”

And then they call their agent.

Read More

Modern Speech

A couple weeks ago we discussed local flavor in expressions. It got me to thinking that I grew up in an era where no one thought anything of saying, “He should be shot,” or “My father is going to kill me,” for minor infractions. One of my friends noted that if a teenager said that today about her father, someone would call Social Services. After the Columbine tragedy that left so many dead or maimed at the hands of gunmen, I decided not to use any reference to shooting or killing in a cavalier manner. I believe my speech is gentler for the change.

I’m not sure every alteration has been for the better, though. The term “waitstaff” throws me. I can’t help but visualize a shepherd’s crook leaning against a corner wall, waiting for its owner to retrieve it. On the other hand, I don’t mind “flight attendant” as a substitute for “stewardess.” Have you noticed that media calls both male and female stars “actors” rather than “actresses” and “actors.” This change seems unnecessary to me.

Read More

Let Creativity Flow (Part Five)

As promised last week, when all else fails to spark your creativity, give one of these a try. They almost always work!

1. Do something relaxing. Take a pad and pencil or a mini-recorder along to capture ideas when they spark. Some relaxation ideas:

A nice, long bath Play with your pet. If you don’t have one, go to the dog park and borrow one! Go to a movie Cook something you love garden look through old family photo albums take a nap
Read More

News You Can Use – Feb. 7, 2012

Author Says McGraw-Hill Cheats on Royalties – Details of a pending lawsuit.

What is Pinterest? –  The latest craze in Social Media Networks. AuthorMedia shows you the simple steps to sign up and tips on how to use it in the next article below.

Three Ways an Author Can Use Pinterest – Last week an editor told me how she was following a couple of her authors on Pinterest and how much she liked it.

5 Ways to Break Out of the Social Media Doldrums – Well said by Aubre Andrus.

10 Ways to Ensure No One Will Read Your Blog Post – Ali Luke give great insight

How Hard Can it Be to Write a Kids Book? – Sally Lloyd-Jones helps dispel a common myth.

A very cool six minute video envisioning a future technology. Imagine computing being done on glass walls, desks, and even National Parks. From Corning. By the way, Corning makes the “Gorilla Glass” that you find on the iPad2.

Read More

The Editorial Process

It is important to understand the process through which a book takes under the umbrella called “The Edit.” I meet many first timers who think it is just a one-time pass over their words and that is all that will ever happen. And many who self-publish think that hiring a high school English teacher to check for grammar is enough of an edit.

There are four major stages to the Editorial Process. Unfortunately they are called by various names depending on which publisher you are working with, which can create confusion. I will try to list the various terms but keep them under the four categories.

Rewrites / Revisions/Substantive Edit

These can happen multiple times. You could get input from your agent or an editor who suggests you rewrite or revise those sample chapters of the full manuscript. Last year I suggest that one of my non-fiction clients cut the book in half and change its focus. We sold this first time author. But the writer had to do a lot of work to get it ready for the proposal stage.

Read More

Fresh Formulas

Some have a hard time appreciating the talent involved in writing genre fiction. By genre fiction, I mean novels that fall into a defined category such as contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic suspense, or cozy mystery. Many of these novels are published by mass market publishers (like Harlequin) and fit in lines they have formed for the sole purpose of selling the genre.

These are distinguished from Trade fiction where there isn’t necessarily a specific line that has been formed to sell a genre, although there are exceptions to that “rule” like the “Love Finds You” series from Summerside Press. In publisher’s lingo “trade” means a 5 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ trim size and is probably between 80,000 and 100,000 words in length. “Genre” or “category” fiction can mean the 4″ by 6″ trim size (also known as mass market) and between 50,000 words and 70,000 words.

Read More