I'm back with Love Inspired Wednesday's and this week I have a good one. I just finished Operation Married by Christmas. . . This is the second Debra Clopton book I've read. I started with Meeting Her Match right after the ACFW conference in September. I was so impressed with Debra's honest and real presence that I was eager to see if her style of writing matched her sweet personality.
Meeting her Match was very good. I was immediately drawn into the fictional town of Mule Hollow and right away ordered Operation Married by Christmas to see how Debra progressed with the lovable characters.
I wasn't disappointed. I loved Operation Married by Christmas. A story about a young woman who has left three men at the altar and comes home (wearing the wedding dress from her most recent escapade) only to run into the first man she left at the altar. It would seem that she never got over her love for him and the story is about the two of them coming to terms with their hurt and fears. It's a wonderful story of forgiveness and even how to take responsibility for our own actions, even when we feel we're the one wronged.
I'll be posting reviews of these books soon, but for now, I'd like to introduce Debra Clopton. :)
Debra, tell us about yourself. Your family, day job…basically, anything you want to share.
I write full time now and love it. I was married to my high school sweetheart for 22 years but have been a widow for four years now, a fact that has greatly influenced how I approach my writing. I have two wonderful sons ages 20 and 22 and in April will add a daughter-in-law to the family!
Boys are wonderful, and how fun that you're going to have a daughter soon. :)
What made you want to write a book? And why romance?
I’ve been an avid romance reader most of my life, I love happy endings. I despise books that don’t end well or someone I care about dies in the end. This sort of thing leaves me as stressed out at the end of the book as I may have been when I started it and that isn’t why I read. Also, I love that true romance edifies marriage between a man and a woman. To me a great romance makes a woman appreciate her mate and can help a young girl look for heroic qualities as she searches for her future husband. I want readers to read my books and say “that’s the kind of man I want to marry”. I love writing heroes who make the heroine feel safe, strong and fulfilled. My husband did that for me and so my heroes are modeled after him. Plus, I love writing romance that is fun and I try to never let it get boring!
I agree. I hate being frustrated when I'm reading. Who wants to feel stressed out when they put the book down? Now, what’s a typical day in your life and share your writing schedule with us.
I’m usually at the computer by 7 drinking a cup of coffee and checking email. By 8 or 9 at the latest I’m writing. I write all day, taking breaks every hour. I write at least 8 hours a day and many days, especially if I have a deadline, I write 12 hours or more. I love it!
Tell us about your writing journey and the day you found out you’d sold your first book.
This is sort of complicated but here goes. I wrote for 13 years—three of those years right before I sold my first book I didn’t actually write, I’d felt God urging me to give my full attention to my family so I did. At the end of that time my husband, the love of my life, died suddenly and I became a widow. I thank God everyday for the gift he gave me when He pressed upon me the need to focus on my family during those 3 years. I always tell others if you feel God leading you to stop writing by all means pause your career. You can always go back, but God may have a reason for asking you to lay your dream aside for a little while. Wayne died on July 5, 2003 and in my grief, needing something to help me during those dark lonely hours I was now faced with, I started reading Christian fiction. But, and by no means am I putting these author’s work down--because their work is a blessing to many and meets a need out there...it just wasn’t meeting my need. For me it seemed that all the Christian fiction I was reading was so heavy with the heartaches and “realisms” that the characters were suffering from that it was just too real to me and the fresh heartbreak I was dealing with. I didn’t need “real”, I needed escape, I needed something to help me smile. That’s when I felt compelled to start writing again. I pulled my last book that I’d written off the shelf, tweaked it a bit and sent it in. That was December of 2003 and, long story shortened, it was a romantic comedy about a wacky hairdresser who went to a small town in Texas to try and marry off all the cowboys! THE TROUBLE WITH LACY BROWN was a Golden Heart finalist and Joan Golan of Steeple Hill was judging. Since my story was targeted toward their Love Inspired line I hoped it would catch her attention. It did and she had Krista Stroever call me the week it arrived in New York with an offer! LOL…I was totally surprised—I knew the finalist were going to the editors desk that week but I wasn’t expecting the call to come so soon if it came at all. As it turned out I was the first GH finalist to sell that year. So after all those years of waiting for the call I was totally caught off guard. But I was happy! However, the call was bittersweet to me in that it was only 7 months after my husband’s death therefore while I was thrilled I was also so sad that Wayne wasn’t there beside me...but I knew in spirit he was and is. The reason I go on about this is because God has a plan for all of us and on the day I got the call I knew God was opening a new window for me. In His timetable He’d given me a new path for my life at exactly the time that I needed it most. I know my purpose is to write fun books that touch the hearts of readers. I write to help my readers laugh and escape the harsh realities of life for the little while they are reading one of my books. I strive to build a world where they can rest easy. Truly, the day I got the call changed my life.
I read my first book by you just a couple weeks ago. Meeting Her Match. Even though I don’t know you personally, I felt like I could see you in Sheri. Do you put a little bit of your own life in the Mule Hollow Books? And what about Mule Hollow? Is there a Mule Hollow in your life?
Yes, I’m in all of my books in little ways…but definitely in the way my speaking voice comes out on the page! Talk about voice, you can hear me loud and clear so I get that all the time :). But also, you will see snap shots of some of my life in the books although believe me, my life isn’t quiet as exciting as my characters—for instance Sheri had an encounter with an alligator in MEETING HER MATCH and so did I but hers was a lot more exciting than my own experience! And about Mule Hollow it is completely made up. However the small town I live in is a wonderful place full of great people but it isn’t Mule Hollow. I love that readers really wish they could move to Mule Hollow and I’ve had several people write to me asking if I could fix them up with a cowboy--I love that! I’m thinking maybe I should start an online dating service or something!
LOL, hey, I bet you'd be busy. I also just finished Operation: Married by Christmas. It was very good. The romance was fabulous. I could feel their pain and longing in each page. You did a great job making us believe their backstory. What makes your romances so good or what’s the key to writing a good romance?
Thank you so much for the nice comment! And I love this question, Sabrina. I believe understanding the dynamics of why two people are attracted to each other is key in building a romance. It is obviously part physical—very important to the dynamics of the sexual tension that makes real life and books exciting. But, the glue that binds it all together runs so much deeper and I believe foremost that two people have to make each other want to be better people. Also, something about the person has to make you feel alive in a way no one else can—got to have those sparks! Also, each hero and heroine has to be someone your readers connect with or it doesn’t work as a book. To achieve this I study movies with great dialog and story and also the same with books that I read. But I think for me I get it better through movies. I study why the relationships work on screen and why they don’t and I think it helps me with my work.
Any tips or advice for new writers that you wish you’d have known back before you were published?
Okay, take this with a grain of salt since I am still learning and growing myself! But I believe you need to always be open to learning and to changing the things that will make you a better writer. Learn what works for you, be true to how you would say it on paper—that’s your voice. Many new authors strive to please too many critique partners and so they don’t stand out. So my advice is: learn your voice and what works with it, what makes it better and then hone that voice until it stands out not blends in! People always say, “But how do you do that? How do you know if you have a voice?” Like I said earlier everyone has a voice, a way they say things, the way they see things. You just have to figure out how to get that to the page in a captivating way and then there you go--you have a voice. Yeah, I know, easier said than done
You’ve created a great little town in Mule Hollow. How many more Mule Hollow stories do you have planned?
Thank you, I’m hoping everyone wants to visit Mule Hollow! I’m working on book 10 in the series (praise the Lord!)and since readers have embraced the books we’re keeping it going for now to fill that demand.
I’m so excited about the three books I have coming out in 2008 with Love Inspired and yes they are all set in Mule Hollow! The first book (Jan 08) NEXT DOOR DADDY is very special to me. I feel like it is one of my best books to date. It is about a widow and a widower who both have loved and lost their soul mates. Their journey to loving again is to me a very special one. It is a little different than my other books since it is heart wrenching in parts, but I balanced this out with tons of humor so that it is in keeping with my normal style. To do this I added a daredevil eight year old and a houseful of wonderful animals that are sure to make readers laugh! That book is followed by HER BABY DREAMS in April, this book is lighter and the hero was totally fun to create. He just won’t take no for an answer! Then comes THE COWBOY TAKES A BRIDE in July and it has the spunkiest, heroine who is a down and out actress with big dreams and she’s hoping Mule Hollow will help make them come true. All are fun books but each one is different and I hope meets readers expectations. You can read about them at my website debraclopton.com so please come on by and leave me a note!
I’ve enjoyed this interview Sabrina. Thanks for having me! I do hope readers will check out my website debraclopton.com and my new blog debraclopton.blogspot.com where I put out my newest news. And if you haven’t been to Mule Hollow yet—I hope you’ll grab a book and come visit me and the gang! God bless you all.
Thank you so much, Debra. This has been one of the most fun interviews. You're so kind to share of yourself with us. Now if you'd like to win a copy of Operation Married by Christmas, email me the answer to this question. What is the name of Debra's dog. :) The answer is on her website. And please leave a comment for Debra. :) Happy Sleuthing.