Monday, November 2, 2015

Where do you get your ideas? From everywhere!

Stephanie Landsem
With the three books of The Living Water Series released in the past three years, I’ve fielded plenty of ask-the-author questions on blogs, on my Facebook page, and at author events.  I’ve developed standard answers to the some of most common queries:

How did you start writing?

What is your favorite part of being an author?

And even the hard-to-answer . . . So how many books have you sold?

But the one question that always gives me pause is the seemingly innocuous: Where do you get your ideas?

The easy answer is . . .  everywhere. From the Bible, my favorite novels, an old lady I pass in the grocery store, historical research, and sometimes completely from my imagination. But many authors will agree with me that some ideas—often the best ideas and foundations on which our stories rest—come from the deepest and most intensely personal experiences of our own lives.

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Writing is an imminently personal experience. Our stories—the ones with the most resonance and meaning—come from a place deep within us, experiences that we wouldn’t think to discuss with strangers, but will disguise as fiction and send out into the world. Sometimes we don’t even know what we’ve done until we look back on a book and realize how closely its themes parallel what we were experiencing in our personal life during the writing process.

But how could my own personal life transform a story about people who lived two thousand years ago and half a world away?

My most meaningful example comes from writing The Tomb, A Novel of Martha.

In it, the character of Lazarus, his relationship with Martha, and the scene in which he died come directly from a very personal and heartbreaking experience.  

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For several years, my dearest friend’s son waged a fight against a rare form of bone cancer.  In the spring of 2013, he was 18 years old and had only weeks to live. As his suffering increased, so did our prayers. Each day I begged the Lord for strength and peace for Zach and his mother, Laura, and their family. Laura suffered beside him, praying for more time with her beloved son, knowing she could do nothing more than be with him and love him up until his last moment. On May 20th,  2013, Zach died, surrounded by his family, who knew that he was entering into a life of unbelievable joy and yet were devastated by the loss of his bright light.

That summer, I began to write The Tomb, A Novel of Martha. In it, Lazarus is a young man of eighteen, ready to go out into the world and follow Jesus. Instead, he is stricken with a deadly illness.  His sisters, Martha and Mary, stay by his bedside, praying for more time—time for Jesus to come and save him. But their prayers and their plea to Jesus seem to be unanswered.

Much like my friend Laura, Martha called on Jesus, but he didn’t come to save Lazarus as she knew he could. When the answer to her pleas for Lazarus’s life seemed to be ‘no’, Martha—just as my friend Laura—did not lose her hope or faith in Jesus. In fact, it was then that her faith grew stronger.

When Jesus finally did come to Bethany, Martha went to meet him. Her faith was so strong, that even with Lazarus in the grave for four days she trusted that whatever Jesus asked, God would give him. Laura and her family, although experiencing the worst grief imaginable, also stayed faithful to their belief in God’s goodness. Their faith gave them strength and peace on the worst days and continues to uphold them.

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Writing out of your own pain, or your best friend’s pain, is hard. Each chapter leaves you emotional drained. I sometimes wished I didn’t have Zach’s face in my mind as I wrote of Lazarus’s suffering. I wished I didn’t remember Laura’s grief when I thought of Martha. I didn’t want to reach into that place of sadness put it into the story.  And yet each morning as I sat down to write, I knew that what I was reliving was nothing compared to my friend’s constant ache of loss, or to the pain Martha had experienced two thousand years ago.

I remember while in the midst of writing the ending of The Tomb, I talked briefly to fellow writer. She asked me how the book was coming along. After just a few words, I was choking up.  She saw this and immediately stopped what she was doing, took my hands, and prayed for me. I needed that more than I had realized.

I’m currently working on a book mirroring the parable of the Lost Son. This has always been a favorite parable of mine, as it shows the absolute love and mercy of the Father. It’s no coincidence that I was drawn to this story just months after the death of my own father, who was the most compassionate and loving man I’ve ever known. The father figure in this book will reflect him, and I’m sure I’ll shed many tears again as I write.

It takes courage to bare our souls in print. But a writer has the unique opportunity—perhaps even a duty—to dig deep, to use our own intensely emotional experiences to make our stories resonate with truth. In the end, it is worth the emotional toll when we have crafted a story that will touch readers’ hearts in a true and authentic way about love and loss, forgiveness, and faith.

How do your own very personal life experiences influence the stories you write? Do they influence what books you choose to read?

If you’d like to know more of Laura and Zach’s story, visit

Stephanie will be giving away a copy of The Tomb, A Novel of Martha, to one commenter.

Stephanie Landsem, author of The Living Water Series, writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s explored ancient ruins, medieval castles, and majestic cathedrals around the world. Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband, four children, and three fat cats.  When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, avoiding housework, and dreaming about her next adventure—whether it be in person or on the page.!/stephlandsem


  1. Now I'm intrigued Stephanie. I've read a few Biblical Novels lately, even though they're not my favourite genre. I'll look for The Tomb when I get to Arizona! Thanks for joining us, and for the great post. As a reader I know that when the author writes from the heart, I feel it.

  2. Stunningly gorgeous covers, Stephanie! Just beautiful!

    Congratulations on your success, and on your ideas to bring Biblical stories to life. My first intro into Biblical fiction was Two from Galilee by Marjorie Holmes, and that brought to light the people behind the written word...

    So beautiful!

    I'm delighted you're here with us today on All Souls Day.... A day of remembrance for those called home and your blessed re-telling of Zach and Laura's story in the essence of Lazarus's book is so heartfelt. Saying goodbye to a child goes against the laws of love and nature. Thank you for sharing that with us today.

  3. I brought coffee and pumpkin muffins filled with cream cheese frosting. Because why wouldn't they be????

  4. Thank you for sharing your post with us today Stephanie, as Marianne said above, as an avid reader I can tell when an author has written from their heart and pulled me into their story. I love deep stories that the author bears their souls in.

    Have a blessed day everyone!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  5. Stephanie, Your books sound very touching and beautiful. I definitely have drawn on my own experience as I write. My first novel attempt was about a person who has written a musical. Some of my experiences with musical theater went right into the work.
    Please enter my name for the book and congrats on your series.

  6. Welcome back to Seekerville, Stephanie.

    Your books have amazing covers. I congratulate you on your success and pray you continue to touch lives for Christ.

    I firmly believe that as authors we generally tell the same story over and over. Each of us has a basic theme, a message and we write that theme over and over whether we realize it or not. It's our banner. Different characters, different plots but the same message. It's our calling and we deviate very little.

  7. Stephanie, your emotional core has helped guide you in your writing. Your column brought tears to my eyes. Keep writing what inspires you the most.

    I agree, the Bible has the most amazing stories and interesting characters to draw upon. Real life on paper. Smile. I really enjoyed your column today. Thanks for blogging about your experiences and how you draw on our Christian values. Very nicely done.

  8. A final thank you to Seekerville for a wonderful birthday celebration all through October. Applause, here!!

    I salute you with French vanilla coffee and almond bear claws on this wonderful Monday morning sent to us from God.
    Bless you all and I wish you a good writing week.

  9. Hi Stephanie,

    Welcome to Seekerville, and thanks for sharing with us today. Your book covers are beautiful and your stories sound amazing!

    Julie Lessman, happy birthday!

    Have a great day everybody!

  10. Hello Stephanie! Your book covers are beautiful. Congrats on your success with this series. I'm raising my cuppa tea to everyone. I've brought cranberry scones.


    Please put me in for today's drawing.

  11. Hi Stephanie,
    I was moved and touched by your post. I'm sure your friend knows how blessed she is to have a friend like you walk beside her through the hardest time in her life. That's what true friends do, come along side and just share what your going through. I hope she is doing well, I'll check out the link to their story.

    Thank you for sharing such a personal aspect of your writing.

    I'd love to read your book, please enter me in the drawing.

    God bless!

  12. Good morning Stephanie.

    I love the way you dig deep and use your personal experiences to bring your stories to light. I might use some of my own experiences, but not all of them. I tend to be a private person. Maybe one day. :)

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Good morning Stephanie,
    Thanks for an interesting post. I DO NOT tap emotion enough and it's one of the things I'm working on, sigh. Thank you for sharing the story of Zach.
    Two fictional deaths that really tugged at my emotions were Sylvia, in Beverly LaHaye and Terri Blackstock's "Seasons" series and Elizabeth, the matriarch, in Karen Kingsbury's Baxter series. The authors didn't spare any details of the women's ordeals, or the pain their deaths brought to their loved ones, but they also wrought something beautiful out of Sylvia's and Elizabeth's Homegoing. Would like to be able to do that myself but know I need to go longer and deeper.
    Ruthy, thank you for the muffins! I do love Pumpkin Anything!
    Got to work, back later, I hope.
    Kathy Bailey
    Pumpkin eater in New Hamsphire

  14. Hi Stephanie Welcome to Seekerville. Oh my goodness, Martha's story is so mine. I always joke about how I wake up in the morning and say "Good Morning Lord" and He answers "Good morning, Martha." I get that from the verses that Martha complains because she is so busy and the Lord reminds her it isn't busyness He wants but quiet listening. chuckle.

    But my brother just passed and I am so thrilled to know he is with the Lord and cancer free.

    I am definitely going to have to go buy this book. Thanks for sharing.

    Have fun today.

  15. I'll take some of those muffins Ruthy

  16. Marianne when are you going to become a snowbird and come to Arizona?

  17. Enjoy the warmth of AZ, Marianne! I hope you enjoy my take on biblical stories. My hope in writing biblical historical fiction is that it will help readers to look at the Bible with new eyes.

  18. Ruth, I'll take one of those muffins! I'm working on my second cup of coffee but haven't managed breakfast yet :) I'm glad to be with you all on All Souls Day, an appropriate time to remember both Zach and my father in this post. May the souls of the faithfully departed rest in the peace of Christ.

  19. Thanks, Cindy. It is often hard to really go deeply into our pasts as we write, but it is always good for both the author and the reader!

  20. Thanks for stopping by, Bettie! Writing about something close to you -- like your musical -- is always a good way to bring life and authenticity to a story. Good luck with your writing!

  21. Thanks for having me at Seekerville, Tina. I agree. I was at a conference listening to a speaker talk about that a couple years ago and it hit me -- my books are always about sacrificial love. The stories are different, but that theme is always there. And thanks for the kind words about my covers. The team at Howard Books is amazing at getting the covers just right :)

  22. Suzanne, thank you. We all need as much inspiration as we can get on a Monday morning :) Have a great day.

  23. Jackie, thanks so much for stopping by. Have a great Monday!

  24. Caryl -- I add my happy birthday wishes to Julie! Tea sounds great and so do cranberry scones :) Best of luck in the drawing.

  25. Tracey, I think I was the fortunate one to have Laura in my life and be able to be with her through this tragedy. It really has been a blessing to see God work in this family. They are so faithful and their entire story is amazing. Laura and I have been friends for over 20 years and never would we have guessed what God had in store for either of us.

  26. Connie, I totally get that! I'm very private also. The great thing is that readers don't know what parts of your story came from your imagination and what came from real life :) So you can hide behind fiction in a way that you can't if you are writing a memoir like my friend Laura's memoir about her son's story. I'd rather write fiction any day!

  27. Kathy, good luck with your writing. When I wrote the scene of Lazarus's death, I went through a lot of tissues.

  28. Stephanie! It is so great to see you here! And I am so happy there is another book in the works. I love the parable of the lost son. Cannot wait until you finish it and I can read it! You bring unique perspectives to the stories that draw readers in. When I've finished one of your books, I am even closer to God than when I started the book. Thank you for that! I read Two from Galilee every year. I have now added your books to the ones I read yearly. I get so much out of them, and each time I read them, I get something else that I didn't see the first time. What do you do in between writing your books? Do you go from one book to the next, or do you do other things in between?

  29. Sandra, I am so sorry about your brother. It is an immense blessing to know he's in the arms of Jesus, but we still miss our loved ones so much. One of the reasons I wanted to write Martha's story in The Tomb was because my sisters and I always used to joke about who was being a Martha and who was being a Mary. I always thought Martha didn't get the respect she deserved. She was the one who went out and met Jesus on the road and said "anything you ask of God he will give you." And Mary was back in the house weeping. I thought that showed that Martha had really changed since her rebuke at the dinner table. So I wanted to tell about that transformation and maybe redeem Martha a little bit :)

  30. Hi Sally! It's good to see you here.

    I'm touched that you read my books more than once. That is a huge compliment. I'll have to read Two From Galilee now that I'm taking a break from biblical fiction myself. I don't like to read in the same genre I'm writing in, I get too critical of my own writing :)

    I did take a break after The Living Water Series. I needed to catch up with my family and devote a little time to marketing the series. But now I"m back to writing -- doing NaNoWriMo this month!

  31. It's kind of sweet that people want to know where my ideas come from, but the truth is, I don't actually know where they come from! I almost never remember, because the ideas evolve so much from the original kernel of an idea. That's really hard to explain and doesn't sound like the kind of answer they are probably looking for! :-)
    Great post, Stephanie! Hope you are well! Congrats on your published novels!

  32. Welcome to Seekerville, Stephanie. Congratulations on your writing success.
    My heart goes out to Laura and her family. I'm curious, did she read your book?
    I've always believed when we touch on the emotional challenges in our life, it makes for a stronger story.
    Happy Birthday, Julie!

  33. And I have to say, you are a more courageous woman than me, Stephanie. I purposely shy away from painful subjects, to be honest. I do sometimes have to go to a place of pain that I've gone through, but those are always the hardest parts of the book to write, and the most personal books are always the hardest to write, but are usually my favorites. :-)
    I'm so sorry about the loss of your dad and of your friend's son. I can only imagine the pain of losing a child, but the lost of a father I have experienced, and it was extremely difficult to write for a while after that. I know your books are touching lots of lives, Stephanie. God bless you for showing how faithful Jesus is.
    Hey, we have to see each other again at an ACFW conference some time! Will you be in Nashville next year?

  34. I'm doing Nano also, Stephanie! I've got one story almost finished, three more started, and I started a new one for Nano. I wrote almost 4,000 words yesterday. I'll look you up. I'm sallyshupe on Nano if I can't find you. I enjoy Nano just to get in the habit of writing every day. Being able to write anywhere near 50,000 words would be great! So far so good! Once I get a few stories edited, finished, completed, I'll see where to go from there. It would be fun to see them published.


  35. TINA and Sandra....tWO WEEKS. The countdown has begun!!!!! We fly into Sky Harbor in two weeks. And we stay til the end of April!!! I hope that gives us enough time to connect once or more.

  36. Oh Stephanie, I went to flyalittlehigher and watched all 22 minutes of the fourth video, I couldn't stop, Zach was such an amazing young man and what a terrific family.

    At one point Laura said, "life is so much richer and means so much more and I'm proud to be his mother", well the floodgates opened and I am totally undone for the day.

    Zach's comment "I went down fighting and I didn't really lose" will stay with me a long time.

  37. Stephanie, I have been wanting to read your series for some time. Thank you for sharing the story of Laura and Zach. It is true that intense emotional feelings which help make the book good can leave you drained as you write. Not that I have a lot of experience since I have finished writing only one book but it has a lot of emotional scenes.

  38. Tracey, isn't that an amazing comment?

    A true lesson for all of us.

  39. Yes it is Ruthy, yes it is!

    How's the "considerator" coming on those names?

  40. Stephanie, thank you for sharing your story of writing from personal grief. I know there have been scenes I've dreaded writing and have felt like a wrung-out dishrag when done. I agree it's worth it, and is really the only way we should be writing.

    Thanks for joining us today!

  41. Suzanne, thank you for the almond bear claw salute! :) It was our pleasure, and we feel blessed.

  42. Beautiful post, Stephanie. It does seem like the hardest times in our lives equip us to write the most moving aspects of our stories. I know it's been two years, but I am sorry for the loss your friend Laura, her family and their friends walked through. I know it's the most painful seasons in my life that enable me to write deeper emotion, when I'm willing to tap into it. :)

  43. Sally! 4k words yesterday is AMAZING!

  44. Thank you, Jeane T. I was lucky enough to take a workshop from Tosca Lee a few years ago and she talked about how to really think back in our lives and tap into the emotions of very meaningful moments. It is hard to do, but well worth it!

  45. Missy, I know what you mean! THere were some days I literally couldn't do anything more after finishing writing a scene. I was done writing for the day and could only manage to do laundry or some other task that required no brain activity.

  46. Wilani -- one book is something to be proud of! Those emotional scenes are the ones that draw the reader in and help them truly experience the life of the character. Thanks for joining the discussion this morning.

  47. Tracey, I'm glad you watched the video. It is amazing isn't it? I can't tell you how many days I still spend humming that song. It doesn't leave your head :) Such a great kid and family. Say a prayer for Laura if you can, it's still very hard for her and always will be.

  48. Great job, Sally! I haven't figured out the whole social thing on the Nanowrimo site yet. But I'm in there under Stephanie Landsem. Good luck this month!

  49. Melanie, I'm sorry about your dad. It's been a year and a half and I still miss Dad so much. I think he's going to answer the phone when I call and then realize he's not :( But I know I'll see him again and that is a great comfort.

    I didn't make it to ACFW this year, but hopefully next year. I'm glad it's in Nashville, that will be fun.

  50. Yes, Jill, Laura has always been one of my first readers and critiquers. Even for my very first book, The Well. And then when she wrote her memoir about Zach, I did the same for her. We never imagined that both of us would write books when we met at church 20 years ago!

  51. Thank you for this post, Stephanie. I was touched by the story of Laura and Zach. What really struck me was that the date he died was one day after my then 18-year-old son graduated from high school. I lost a daughter at the age of 17 months, so I do know the pain of losing a child. I imagine that will be reflected in my writing at some point, although it hasn't yet.

    Please enter me in the drawing. I really enjoy Biblical fiction.

  52. Stephanie, so glad you could be with us in Seekerville today. Thanks for sharing about Laura and her precious Zach. A dear friend of mine lost her 26-year-old son about three weeks ago. I've been mourning with her and today am feeling her loss even more deeply as we remember those who have gone before us. My prayer today is for all who have lost children. Such pain! I'm adding Laura to my list.

    How beautiful for you to turn that grief into inspiration for your story. The Martha, Mary, Lazarus passages in Scripture are so rich. I always relate more to Martha. Spent a year praying to be more Mary...but I still see myself as Martha. :) I've never thought of Lazarus as a young man. I always picture him as the older brother. How creative to put that twist on the story. God-inspired, no doubt!

    I'm sorry about your Dad. Hard to lose a parent. My mother died soon after the birth of my third child. It happened at Christmas when she and my dad came to visit. Unexpected and certainly a turning point in my own life. I often write about death, funerals, losing loved ones. Perhaps I'm retelling my own story.

  53. I've brought scones from Starbucks to share in celebration of Stephanie being with us today. She and I met at ACFW some years ago. We shared coffee at the Starbucks in the hotel where she introduced me to Frank Peretti! Be still my heart! He was charming, and the time spent with both of them was memorable.

    Then we attended Tosca Lee's wonderful workshop!

    Hope to see you next year in Nashville, Stephanie!


  54. Stephanie what a beautiful and inspiring story. It makes me want to go back to my own books and be more open to the emotional risks included.

    It made me think of the death of a stillborn child, full term, of my best friend, when I was expecting my second child only weeks later.

    This was the saddest thing I've ever gone through. Just devastating for her and every bit of my own grief felt selfish because of how terrible she must feel.

    Not something I'd want to put in a book but maybe I shy away from things to much. I don't even like shooting my bad guys. (I make exceptions) I don't mind WINGING THEM.

  55. Tina I love what you said about writing the same things over and over.
    I've heard of that before but hadn't thought of it for a while.

    I can never exactly understand that and I don't know what my theme is.

    That family should stick together maybe. I know in the Wild at Heart series, sending the first daughter back east to live on her new husband's Shenandoah farm, so far from her sisters, has never set right with me.

    But it is truth. Families did move on, leave loved ones behind. Never seen them again for the rest of their lives. But I am never happy about that.

  56. Thanks for sharing that, Sandy. I think the death of a child can never be understood by anyone who hasn't experienced it. My mother lost a son when he was an infant and she still misses him and talks about him. I am sorry for the loss of your daughter. I hope if you get to read The Tomb it will be a comfort to you.

  57. Hi Debby, it's always so good to hear from you! What a good memory that was of meeting you and then having coffee with Frank. He is such a character :)

    I'll add your friend to my list of prayers for the faithful departed on this day. Even after being so close to Laura as she said goodbye to Zach, I can't REALLY imagine what it must be like to lose a child. I think as mothers, our minds just don't want to go there.

    I really hope I can make it to Nashville next year. If I do, we are heading to Starbucks to catch up.

  58. I don't like to kill my characters either, Mary! I love stories about the importance of family. I think that's a great theme and can't be stressed enough in these times. Thanks for having me on Seekerville!

  59. Stephanie, can you share what you're working on now? You said it's not biblical fiction, or did I get that wrong?

  60. Sandy Smith, so sorry about your precious little one. Sending gentle hugs along with my sympathy and love.

  61. Sure, Debby. I'm working on a novel based on the parable of the Prodigal Son - or The Compassionate Father (I prefer this title but most people know it by the first one). The story is about a prodigal daughter, set in 1930s Hollywood and the Great Depression. I won't give the story away, but I love the idea of a runaway daughter who wants to become a Hollywood star and her compassionate and loving father, who is waiting for her to come home to him.

  62. Got sidetracked watching clips about Zach and his family. Such a sad, but amazing story of family, faith, and ultimately, hope. I remember hearing about his passing and Clouds still just reaches in and wraps itself around my heart. He touched so many lives just as his mother prayed he would.

    Stephanie, it takes a brave woman to dig into the deep, hurting places and write a story about Lazarus even while you were grieving the loss of your friend's son.

  63. Stephanie, your new story sounds intriguing. Thanks for sharing! I know it will touch readers, as all your stories do.

    Good luck on NaNoWriMo! I'm in my last week of Fast Draft, another book-in-a-month process.

    Sally Shupe, congrats on writing 4,000 words yesterday! You're off to a great start!

  64. You are so right about that, Pam. It was amazing at the time it was happening. Clouds reached #1 on Itunes on the day of Zach's funeral -- a beautiful spring day after a Minnesota winter that looked like it would never end. I still am in awe of all the lives he touched and continues to touch years later.

    Thank you, Debby! I got 3,000 words this morning in between Seekerville checkups :) It's a great way to be stay motivated.

  65. Hi Stephanie:

    I'm a big fan of ancient Greek and Roman history. Some authors write romances in both areas. (Tracy Higley is a favorite.)

    Have you written or are you thinking about writing a story set in ancient Greece -- especially the Greece of Plato's time?

    You asked about how we came up with story ideas. My favorite method is to ask lots of 'what if' questions. For example:

    There were many good people back in ancient Greece who lead what appeared so much like moral Christian lives that the early Church considered making Plato a saint. (Theory of the immortal soul and that the 'real' world lies beyond this world of appearance.)

    Limbo was even invented so good pre-Christians would not be sent to hell. In the later Church, 'baptism of desire' and 'baptism of blood' were created so those not 'born again' of the water, could still enter the kingdom of heaven.

    I always thought it would make a great story to have a romance where, in 400 BC Greece, the hero and heroine were living good moral 'Christian' lives -- among pagans -- without there ever being any mention of their religion.

    Such a message could show the value and universality of Christian beliefs and lifestyle without any preaching or even the need for stressing faith.

    All one need do is simply show that the Christian lifestyle is essentially the best way to live.

    Oh, yes, please include me in the drawing for "The Tomb"… I once was totally on Martha's side until I got older. Now I think while Martha would make the best wife, Mary would make the best friend. (I think about these things.:))


  66. wow. I love the covers of your books. Thanks for sharing how you take what you've experienced in your life to add life/depth/emotions to your stories. I could not fathom the grief of losing a child. I only have one (and probably will only have the one) and he is so precious - the thought of losing him is more than my brain can wrap around. I will keep your friend Laura in my prayers.

    I have yet to really write anything of such depth in my stories, but I've long known I create stories to "fill the hole" of places in my life I wish had turned out differently. I shall definitely keep this post in mind when working on my next WIP. Thanks again for sharing. I'd love to be in the draw for your book. I am planning to check out your others once I get home from work.

  67. Stephanie,

    As always, I'm in awe of you! It takes great courage to open your heart up and examine where certain things influence your writing and then revealing those same motivations to readers—especially when it takes a painful turn. But that’s the beauty of writing, isn’t it? I’m so happy to know you and be a small part in your journey. I can’t wait to keep reading what’s next! :)


  68. Hi Mary:

    I believe that the 'same thing' authors keep writing, again and again, is not a theme or even an expressible characteristic.

    I believe the 'same thing' is actually an inexpressible emotion or feeling. It's like trying to explain a mystical experience in which existence is experienced directly and without being filtered thru one's ego. Historically the only way to approach describing such an experience has been by the use of poetry.

    Just as I know how different familiar wines are going to taste before I taste them, so too, I know in advance how familiar authors are going to make me feel as I read their books. In both cases I don't have the verbal ability to scientifically describe the differences between what I am experiencing.

    For example: I always know how a Glynna book will make me feel. Also I know that Missy's books will make me feel her love for her readers. Juile's books, on the other hand, always make me feel like I'm reading something that will be equally read and enjoyed hundreds years from now.

    Your books make me feel the same way as Mark Twian's. This feeling doubles if you have kids in your story.

    I think Sandra is the most consistent -- even her animal folk tales create the same emotional environment. (A love for the landscape.)

    Ruth is like Starbucks. It does not take much to identify her writing: the feelings come on strong and quickly!

    I could go on but I'm probably in enough trouble as it is already. Any way, I'm sure you get the idea at this point.

    This feeling is like 'voice' and 'voice' is a part of it; however, it is far more than an auditory metaphor. This feeling is a Gestalt that involves the whole body instrument on which the story is played.


    P.S. I must say, however, that "The Bossy Bridegroom" seemed more like a Cognac than a Cabernet. :)

  69. Missy Tippens and Debby Giusti- Thank you! Anxious to see how many words I will get once I get home from work lol. I'm hoping if I can do a lot of writing on the weekends, it won't be so hard during the week.

  70. Vince, I like that idea. I know exactly what you mean. I really do know what to expect from a beloved author, or even a well known author.

    I think that might be why we brand ourselves and try not to go outside the brand. When a reader who KNOWS you picks up a book and it's NOT YOU, it's a real betrayal.

    The difference is exactly what you've said because I don't really think of myself as a romantic comedy western author, I think of myself as a romantic comedy author, the western is just what I'm writing about now that has been so successful for me.

    But I wrote many books in many different genres before I got published and the romantic comedy was the foundation, whether a western or a gothic or a suspense.

    Always romance. Always comedy. Yes, even in Ten Plagues, my demon possessed serial killer by Mary Nealy, there was plenty of comedy.

    One of my favorite lines from that very intense book was, "We need a break from this case to clear our heads. How about we go get a six dollar cup of coffee somewhere? Then we can talk about highway robbery for a while."

  71. Mary and Vince, I couldn't agree more. I love picking up a new book from a favorite author and knowing that it will be familiar and yet also new. That is the joy of following my favorite authors. My goal is to continue to be faithful to my brand and never disappoint my readers! And Vince, I do love the comparison to a good wine. :)

  72. Thanks Katie! Glad to see you in the Seekerville community. I learned a lot from Laura about opening up and writing from the heart. She doesn't hold back when she tells her story and is an inspiration to everyone who hears it. One of the other beautiful aspects of writing is meeting wonderful people -- like you and all these great commenters at Seekerville. It is such an inspiration for me and a blessing from God. I thought I was just writing a book (or three) but God knew he was opening up a whole new world to me filled with people who would encourage and inspire me. :)

  73. I loved your post, Stephanie - thank you!!

    I'm a person who thrives on emotion and dysfunction in the books I read. It could be the outgrowth of my emotional and dysfunctional young years, and the joy found when I later allowed God control of my life. My past experiences resulted in the person I am today, I feel a responsibility to share like experiences with those seeking help. I personally feel books written from authors' own experiences are some of the most compelling and inspiring, one of the benefits of our trials allowing God to use them to inspire others - whether face-to-face, or across the written page.

    "Happy Birthday", Julie Lessman - hope today was filled with joy and special blessings, galore!! Thanks for blessing me with your writing and friendship!!

    I love fiction based on biblical stories and would love to read your books, Stephanie - please enter my name in the drawing. Thank you!!

  74. I think you hit the nail on the head, bonton. We can use some of our pain and difficulties to help others. God doesn't cause suffering, but he can use it to bless those who suffer and in the lives of others. Christ's suffering was the ultimate example of that.

  75. Hi Stephanie, no need to put me in the drawing, I have all three books in my church library. A patron started The Well and before she'd finished it wanted to know if you had more books.

    I get my ideas from a multitude of places. The hair stylist (I wondered what would happen if he went crazy and began killing clients). Disclaimer, he is a great guy and wouldn't do such a thing. Reading scripture, a line of dialogue that pops into my head, and even from the woman who presented a program on organ donations to our ladies group.,

  76. I'm late stopping by today but wanted to say thank you, Stephanie, for sharing with us. My heart always hurts deeply when I read about a mother losing a child. I will pray for your friend Laura.
    Blessings, Patti Jo

  77. I first got to know Stephanie through ACFW over three years ago, and I knew of her connection with Zach and Laura, but I never knew of the connection between Zach and The Tomb!

    Wow, Stephanie, I may have to go back and reread The Tomb with Zach in mind. I think it would bring a whole new perspective to the story.

    Also, I fully believe that our best writing comes out when we are the most emotionally raw. Readers connect well to vulnerable characters, and I think we as writers are the best at creating vulnerable characters when we're willing to be vulnerable ourselves.

    Note to Seekerville: No need to put me in the drawing for this one. I already own all of Stephanie's books, and they are fabulous!

  78. Just watched the video! So powerful! Thanks, Stephanie, for being with us today and for bringing us Laura and Zach's story.

  79. I'm glad you watched it, Debby. It really is an amazing testament to Zach and his family. Her book is beautiful and hopeful as well.

    Thanks, Amy! I can't believe it was only three years ago that we met at ACFW. It seems like I've known you forever :) And that is so true. Real, authentic characters come from real emotions. Those are the ones we remember. I hope we get to catch up sometime soon. You are a busy lady, yourself!

    I know Laura will appreciate your prayers, Catmom. Thank you.

  80. Terri, I don't think I'll ever look at my hair stylist the same way again LOL :)

  81. HI Stephanie,
    That is a powerful video. Thanks for the post. Mary and Martha are two of my favorites. I've lived with many Marys and Marthas, too - women who exhibit their traits - and learned so much from them.

    Sorry I'm late.

  82. Hi Stephanie,
    I just watched the entire video and was moved to tears. What an amazing young man and a beautiful testimony! I understand how difficult writing Lazarus' story must have been.

    Thank you for a great post - for sharing what you go through as you write from your emotions.

    Please put my name in the hat for the drawing!


  83. Thank you Edwina and Lyndee for taking the time to watch the video. It really is amazing. There has been so much good that came out of Zach and his family's suffering.

    Good luck in the drawing and I hope you get a chance to read The Tomb.

  84. That must have been a difficult thing to experience and then write about it. I'm sure that it makes the book so much more real. I'd love to win your book.

  85. And I teared up reading this.
    Thank you so much for sharing, Stephanie.

    Would love to win any of your books. What a terrific concept you have going here! :)
    Congratulations on your success!

    You know, I'm fighting with May the K9 Spy's 4th book more than the rest because they are written in May's POV, first dog you see (!). Since she crossed the Rainbow Bridge last summer, it's been excruciatingly difficult. We're working through it.

    May needs to continue offering hope to these kids so, we forge ahead, as she would.

  86. Your post really touched me today. Thank you for sharing it. Here is to much more continued writing success for you. I know there will be much more to come.
    I'd love to read your books they sound wonderful.

    Deanne P,