Rachel, you’re a past president of American Christian Fiction Writers, and currently serve as an advisor for the organization. Please tell us about the ACFW. How did you first become involved?
I’d met DiAnn Mills at Write to Publish in ’97 and she was a founding member of ACFW, then ACRW. She encouraged me to join, which I finally did. Then I met Lynn Coleman, founding member and president, at the Blue Ridge writer’s conference. She suckered me into being, I mean, she invited me to run for the Board but I was really busy. Then after the first conference in 2002, the Vice President resigned and the board asked me to step in the position. I agreed. Which also meant I was coordinator and conference chair of the 2003 conference. It was a wild year. I was writing my first book, managing the road warriors for a software company, and leading worship at my church, as well as working in youth ministry with my pastor husband.
The 2010 ACFW writer’s conference is scheduled for September 17-20, in Indianapolis, Indiana. If a writer has never attended an ACFW conference, what can they expect?
A great, warm, Holy Spirit infused atmosphere. They can expect to learn, to network, to see what goes on in the life of the writer. There will be good moments and ones with regret and sorrow. It’s all part of the process. A new conferencee can expect to feel overwhelmed and confused, but also excited and envisioned. If you want to be a novelist, you have no choice but to attend ACFW’s conference.
Are you teaching this year?
I am. Susan May Warren and I are teaching a continuing education class on scene structure. And I’m teaching a single workshop on metaphors and symbolism in our work. Come on out. Should be fun.
You’re the author of twelve books—with more on the way. How did you get started as a writer?
I always wanted to be a writer. I kept journals for 17 years. I doodle. I like words. My father always encouraged me to be a writer. After I was married, I left my corporate job for a season and was a stay-at-home wife. In the calm and quiet, I started writing. Christian fiction was just coming of age so I was reading Gilbert Morris, Lori Wick, and the Thoenes.
Was there an a-ha moment when you decided to turn your passion for writing into a career?
There were probably more “oh no” moments where I thought I wouldn’t make it as a writer. I suppose that question is still up for debate, but I’m writing novels for now and I love it. It’s been the dream from the time I was ten.
You’re a journalism major, as I am. In talking to others with that background, it seems we all tend to write tight first drafts with the need to add words for the final—the opposite of what a lot of writers do. Do you fit that mold?
Too funny. Yes. I also struggle to write pretty. I’m more plain, say it like it is. But I’m working on adding more lyrical prose while being true to myself. When I edit and rewrite, I might cut two pages of rambling down to one paragraph. If I don’t write tight in the beginning, I definitely do at the end.
It’s difficult to break into book publishing. What advice would you give young writers who are looking for their first break?
It’s difficult. But not impossible. For writers just facing the race, run hard. Run well. Don’t give up. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Really go to God and ask Him to open doors and confirm this desire. Writing takes up too much time and emotion if God has not really called you to do this. Don’t just assume, ask. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but there was a point where I said, “Lord, I don’t want to account for wasted time. Confirm to me I’m supposed to pursue writing.” Doors began to open.
That’s inspiring, Rachel. How does your faith play into your writing?
Whether we know it or not, faith plays into everyone’s writing. We all have some level of faith. We all believe in something. Be it humanism, liberalism, socialism, any of the “isms.” My faith just has a more purposeful and tangible part of the protagonist journey.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
My life is a life of detours. Every significant thing that’s happened to me from college to marriage to getting published came when I said, “God, I’m done trying. You got me. Do what You want with me.” The seal on the deal was the confession of His love and goodness. “You’re so good, whatever it is, I’ll love it.” He’s so faithful!
Writing is hard work. How do you discipline yourself to write every day? Do you have a writing routine? Where do you write?
I look at my deadline, the season of the year coming up, and plan how much time I have to write, then figure out how many words a day I need to put down for a first draft. I like to revise a lot, so the faster I write a first draft, the faster I can get to fixing!
When I first left the corporate world to write at home, I was really disciplined. I had sooo much time. Now that I’ve been home six years, I’m not as disciplined with my time. It’s easier to fritter. Plus, six years ago social media was not on the horizon. Participating in that changes my focus, often for the negative. Too many cyber conversations.
But I just grit it out. Get it done. I want to keep my deadlines.
Let’s talk about your latest book, written with country music star Sara Evans. The Sweet By and By was released in January by Thomas Nelson. How did the collaboration come about?
Thomas Nelson approached Sara about a fiction project. She loves to read and loves fiction. So, they asked me to write with her since she’s a songwriter not a novelist. I was honored to be asked. We get along well and she’s very easy to work with. It’s been a great experience.
Please tell us about the book.
The Sweet By and By is about healing relationships. Jade Fitzgerald is about to get married but she doesn’t want to invite her mother. Bery was a footloose and wild hippie and often left Jade and her siblings to be raised by their grandmother. Then Jade encountered an emotionally devastating event and gave up on her mother all together.
Sara liked flashbacks, so part of the story is told when Jade was a girl, then as a teen. But I worked hard to make sure the flashbacks launched off the present day stage. I learned a lot writing that book. It was fun, too.
Is there a future collaboration in the works?
Sara and I are doing four books together. There will be three in the Songbird Novel series. Softly and Tenderly releases January 2011. I’m writing book three now, tentatively titled Blessed Assurance.
Any other current projects for you?
My own book, Dining with Joy, releases this November.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
I love a good sandwich with chips and nice cold Diet Coke. Yum!
This website features writers as well as musicians, so I like to mix it up a bit. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
I don’t know if I have musical talent, but I am the worship leader at my church and I lead worship for the ACFW conference. I can sing. I taught myself to play keyboard, but it’s not pretty.
What kind of music do you listen to when you’re relaxing with the radio or an mp3 player? Does music help you write?
I love solid, in love with Jesus worship. Jesus Culture, Misty Edwards, Justin Rizzo. Misty and Justin are out of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. I love Michael Bublé. I recently saw him in concert. He was fantastic.
But I’m a big country music fan. Sara has a voice to die for. I like Keith Urban.
I like quiet.
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
In some ways, I am a song. I’m a living, breathing song to the Lord. I love all kinds of music, and I’m about as non-religious as they come, but I really only love to sing and play songs from my heart to Jesus. I love a worship song that awakens love in my heart for the reality of who He is and His love for me. For all of us.
Are you a major or a minor chord?
Minor. Major minor. : )
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
Strong female lead. Hubby just said so.
I’m a dog lover. Any pets?
Love animals. Love, love dogs. We’ve had four dogs and one cat in our 18-year marriage.
Thanks, Rachel! I hope to see you at the ACFW conference this year.
Thanks so much for having me! See you there.
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For more information about the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in September, visit the ACFW website at www.acfw.com/conference.
For information about Rachel and her books, visit her website at www.rachelhauck.com.