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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Meet Ramona Cecil

Hey, folks, please welcome fellow Indiana Hoosier, Ramona Cecil. I've known Ramona for a couple years now and one thing I've learned about her in that time is she's passionate about her writing. She has a great desire to create a well crafted story and take the reader on a journey with the characters. I've had the pleasure of reading her book, Larkspur, and loved it. I thought it was wonderful and you can check out her website for my review.

So, Ramona, tell me about jobs...anything you'd like your readers to know.

I'm a wife, mother, and grandmother and live in a small, Indiana town. I grew up in a rural area with parents who both had an interest in writing. Sadly, life intruded and neither enjoyed any real writing success. But they noticed my interest in writing early on and always encouraged me. I've written poetry since I was small. Between the mid-1980's and 1990's, over eighty of my inspirational verses were published by Dicksons Inc., a major producer of inspirational and Christian gift items.

I have worked many jobs including keypunch operator(remember the old punch cards that had to be fed into a giant computer?)to accounts payable clerk, to working at Wal-Mart in the toy department. My young grandson loved that one! LOL

What do you do in your free time? Hobbies or fun things you like to do with your family...

Our two grown daughters live away, so we don't get to see them as much as we would like. My husband and I like to take long drive(getting more expensive with the high gas prices),try out new restaurants, and visit places of historical interest. That works well, since I write mostly historicals.

I know you wrote poetry for years. Tell me about the experience that led you to write your first novel.

In the mid 1980's when our daughters were small, we took them to Conner Prairie, a living history museum near Indianapolis, Indiana. It was there, while visiting the "doctor's" house, that the idea for Larkspur was first planted in my imagination. In the kitchen, the "doctor's wife" introduced us to her hired-girl, a teen-aged girl working at the family's new-fangled iron stove. We were then invited to visit the surgery, then a separate log building behind the house. There, we were met by a young man who introduced himself as the doctor's apprentice. Well. . .my romantic imagination took off, and I thought "There's a story here!"

See that's why I'm not a historical writer. I visited the same place and thought, sheesh, can you imagine not having running water and indoor plumbing. LOL. I'm such a wimp. ;) Tell us about Larkspur and how it has changed over the years.

I had no idea what the craft of writing involved. All my life, I'd been a voracious
reader. I'd always made up stories in my mind, so assumed I could write one. But banging away on an electric typewriter was tedious and the pressing duties of motherhood and occasional jobs dragged me away from my story. I think I did a couple of rewrites(still having no idea of the proper way to craft a story)before I shoved it into a drawer somewhere to languish for years. It was about 1999 when our youngest daughter left home and I got a computer that I began to seriously consider trying to write again. For a long time, I didn't even get online. I just used my computer as a word processor. I continued to work on my own for a couple of years. I rewrote Larkspur again, a medieval that will never see the light of
day, and several novellas. Knowing I needed help, I finally got online and found American Christian Romance Writers. I couldn't believe I'd found an entire group of people who did what I wanted to do. I quickly joined a critique group and began the process of actually learning the craft of writing. I took advantage of the wonderful writing courses offered by great, multi-published Christian writers. In 2003, I entered Larkspur in the Northeastern Indiana Opening Gambit Contest and it won third place. Encouraged, I submitted it to a publisher. It was rejected. That was a real blow, but great suggestions came along with the rejection. I had already begun writing Sweet Forever, a sequel to Larkspur. I put Larkspur away and didn't plan to do anything more with it. Then, I noticed a contest posted to the ACFW loop. A small publishing company that just published historicals was sponsoring a contest for inspirational stories. I decided to dust off Larkspur, rewrite it implementing some of the suggestions I'd gotten along with the rejection. I thought it would be a good way for to get my work looked at by another publishing company. I never seriously thought I'd win. But I did! Part of first place prize was a contract to have my story published. It was more than I could take in. At long last, Larkspur was actually going to be a published book I could hold in my hands! Oh, it had gone through many rewrites, but it was basically the same love story I'd envisioned twenty-three years earlier!

Twenty-three years!!! Oh you give me hope, Ramona. ;) What has been the hardest thing you've learned on your writing journey?

That no matter what happens or how discouraged I might get from time to time, I can never give up.

What do you think is the biggest misconception for new writers?

Probably the same one I had----that reading great writing is all the instruction one needs to author their own story.

And what was the most valuable advice you ever received about your writing?

Never give in. Never, never never, never give in! And it's just as true now as when Winston Churchill first said it. I've heard that from many writers during the six years I've seriously been working at the craft. Just as important, was the advice to turn my writing over to God, believing that there are no limits to what He can do. I did. And every time my heart cried out to Him to show me if I was still supposed to do this, he brought another encouragement.

With my last post about the Genesis contest, I have to ask, how do you feel about contests and how they help or hinder a writer?

Hmm. That is a tough one. They can be so subjective. But I've entered several contests and have learned something from each one. I do think they can be beneficial if you remember that they are subjective. But if you notice the same comment repeated by several judges, know that is something you need to work on.

I agree! Now tell us about your new Heartsong.

Sweet Forever picks up with the younger brother of the heroine from Larkspur. Ten years later, in 1845, Jacob Hale is a young minister in Madison, Indiana, a bustling town on the banks of the Ohio River. The heroine is Rosaleen Maguire Archer, a troubled young woman deposited on the banks of the Ohio at Madison after a steamboat explosion. Believing God hates her because she was born illegitimate, Rosaleen rebuffs Jacobs efforts to bring her to Christ. Always looking over her shoulder for the sinister gambler that killed her husband, Rosaleen longs to travel to New York where she hopes to become a concert pianist. But a growing attachment to Jacob, involvement in the Underground Railroad, and a burgeoning desire to make herself acceptable in God's eyes, keep delaying her plans.

What else are you writing now?

I just finished Charity's Heart, which is, I think, the last in the saga of the Hale/Morgan family. Set in 1866 in the towns of Vernon and Madison, Indiana, it deals with forgiveness in the context of lingering animosities following the Civil War. The hero, Daniel Morgan, is a veteran of the Union Army and survivor of Andersonville prisoner of war camp and the Sultana steamboat explosion. The heroine, Charity Langdon, is a refugee of the war-torn South, forced to flee north during Sherman's march through Georgia.

I'm also working on a long women's historical, The Heritage, set in my own southern Indiana county during the War of 1812.

You're a busy woman! Who has helped you on your journey...people or organizations?

First, I must say, God. I asked Him to put people in my way to help me, and He did---and still does. I must thank my parents for encouraging my writing from my earliest days. I thank my husband who has always believed in me and makes what I do, possible, and my daughters, who are my constant cheer-leaders. There are many, many writers and critique partners I've come to know and love dearly since joining ACFW who have encouraged me and taught me so much. I cannot name them all, but must mention a few. Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt, Staci Wilder, Pat Loomis, Kim Sawyer, and Louise Gouge are some of the wonderful, selfless Christian writers God has placed in my way to help me along on my journey.

Finally, thank you, Ramona, for taking the time to answer these questions, I know you're a busy woman.

Sabrina, thank you for allowing me to tell the story of my writing journey. I pray that my testimony will encourage others who write the words God lays on their hearts and dare to dream they might one day see their stories in print.

Now, for anyone who'd like to win a copy of Ramona's book, Larkspur, go to her website and find the answer to this question: Name three of Ramona's books listed on her website that are Germinating in her Story Garden. ;) Then email me at least three titles and I'll draw for a winner. ;) Happy sleuthing.


Diane M. Wylie said...

Great interview! So nice to learn more about you and your book, Ramona!


Cherie J said...

Great interview! I love learning about new authors.

Crystal Warren Miller said...

Hey, Ramona! I remember the first time I met you in my room at ACFW conference in Houston (also Colleen, Diann and Tammy's room) as you nervously pitched your book to Colleen as practice. Now look at you!
As to Conner Prairie--my Aunt Adeline played the doctor's wife (and a few other parts) back then, and you may have even talked to her! She is now gone, but she loved playing the parts at Conner Prairie. It is a GREAT place to see living history. Awesome.

Great interview, Sabrina and Ramona. Very nice!

Cara Putman said...

I'll play...then you can bring me the book the 23rd when I win :-) NOthing like positive thinking. Check your email, girlfriend!