When I first started writing, I heeded the admonition to “write what you know,” even though it severely limited my topics and focus. As a result, most of my novels were set either in Southern California, where I was born and raised and currently live, or up in the Pacific Northwest, where I also lived for several years. My characters were a lot like me and/or the people around me, and their lifestyles and circumstances often paralleled my own to some degree.
But somewhere along the line I had to ask myself, Is that all there is? Can I move beyond my own little corner of the world in my writing, even if I can’t actually do so physically? With the Internet at my fingertips, I decided I could.
That’s how my Extreme Devotion series with New Hope Publishers came about. RED INK, the third book in the series, is set in China, and though I’ve never been there myself, my readers tell me the book reads as if I have. The same is true of NO GREATER LOVE, set in South Africa, and MORE THAN CONQUERORS, set in the San Diego/Tijuana area (been there!), but also San Juan Chamula in Southern Mexico, where I’ve never set foot. (Book four, PEOPLE OF THE BOOK, releasing in Spring 2011, is set in Saudi Arabia, where I have also never been.)
I started putting together the rough draft of the books by doing extensive Internet research, which helped a lot. The books began to take shape, but they were missing something—a cultural element that could only come from someone who actually lived in the country. And so I began the search for just the right person for each book.
I can only say that I believe God provided those people, as I really had no clue how to find them myself. In each instance, just when I needed a reader who knew the country and the culture, God placed the right person in my path. Not only that, He gave them a willing heart to read the manuscript and give me feedback that would flesh out the stories and bring them to life. As a result, my readers rave about the way they feel they’re actually right in the middle of the story/country/culture. Even bestselling author Jerry Jenkins said on the cover of book one, NO GREATER LOVE, “You’ll feel as if you were there.”
And so, though I strongly encourage new writers to consider starting out by writing what they know, I also encourage them to consider branching out a bit as they grow in their writing career. It’s a tidbit of advice that I believe will work for any of us, regardless of whether or not we are writers.
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NO GREATER LOVE
MORE THAN CONQUERORS
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