Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Stories, Nancy Campbell Allen

My special guest today is published author, Nancy Campbell Allen.

I fell in love with Nancy's writing when I picked up her amazing Faith of our Fathers series. In the pages of those books I eagerly discovered a treasure trove church and US history and fell in love with her ability to weave a wonderful romance.

This interview was so fun that I won't waste your time on any more of my ramblings, other than to say check out her self-titled blog, Nancy Campbell Allen.
Q--Would you please share some background with us?

Well, I’m the oldest of five kids, born into a family that loves to read and travel. My mom is Norwegian, and some of my fondest memories include time spent in Norway on vacation, visiting family. While my dad was attending college and then graduate school, we moved around a fair bit. I lived in roughly 6 different places (including Germany!) before I turned 9. Then, we finally settled in Ogden, Utah, where I’ve been, on and off, ever since. 

Q--You have an amazing background in the LDS writing world. Would you please share your journey from picking up the pen to becoming published, to now?

Right after I finished college, my husband and I packed up our baby and moved for a short time to Atlanta, Georgia. We ended up back in Ogden for my husband to finish school, but the short jaunt to Georgia sparked a renewed interest in the Civil War, for me. I had just read a time travel romance, and while living in Atlanta, I decided to write a Civil War time travel romance. I had just begun it when we made the decision to return to Utah, but I kept at it. 
It took forever to finish. To date, it’s the shortest of all my books, but it took the longest to write. I kept putting it away, thinking it was such a waste of time, and who did I really think I was, anyway? In the mid 90s, I discovered the internet and made some friends online who were writers or aspiring writers. Their encouragement and friendship helped me finish the book. 
In the meantime, I had done some research on local publishers because I knew my chances of getting published were better in a smaller, local market rather than the big houses back east, so I turned my story into an LDS book and when it was finished, began submitting it. I made three copies, submitted it to three different publishers, and after much nail-biting and trepidation, Covenant Communications accepted it. I was over the moon!
In the time it took to get that first book, Love Beyond Time, accepted, I wrote the sequel, No Time for Love. Once the first book was accepted, the second was ready to go. They were soon followed by A Time for the Heart, and Echoes. 
My editor then asked if I’d be interested in doing a whole series on the Civil War, and I jumped at it. The next four years were consumed by research and writing the four volumes that became Faith of our Fathers
After a brief hiatus that involved having my third baby, my husband returning to school for his Masters, and teaching 4th grade for two years, I finally finished my spin-off to the Civil War series. Isabelle Webb, Legend of the Jewel was published in 2008, and the sequel to that book, called Isabelle Webb, the Pharaoh’s Daughter will be released in January, 2011. Yay!

Q--Would you please share any awards you've won, books (or short stories) published?

In order of publication, my books are:
Love Beyond Time
No Time for Love
A Time for the Heart
Faith of our Fathers vol. 1: A House Divided
Faith of our Fathers vol. 2: To Make Men Free
Faith of our Fathers vol. 3: Through the Perilous Fight
Faith of our Fathers vol. 4: One Nation Under God
Isabelle Webb, Legend of the Jewel
Isabelle Webb, The Pharaoh’s Daughter
The Faith of our Fathers series, volume 2, won Utah’s Best of State award for fiction. It was a huge honor and I was so excited. Legend of the Jewel was a Whitney Award finalist, which was also such an honor.

Q--Who is your publisher and how did you choose them?

My publisher is Covenant Communications, and I submitted my first book to them. They accepted it, and I’ve been with them ever since. They’ve been so good to me, and I have had exceptional editors. The marketing department is amazing and I have loved every cover my books have had.

Q--What have you done to help improve your writing talent? Any advice?

I read, read, read and I would suggest the same for any aspiring writer. You must read everything. Read things you like, branch out and try things you may never have thought of reading. I also love books about the craft of writing, and I buy them so I have my own copies to thrash and mark up. 
The more you write, the better you become. I had a reader tell me once that she was amazed at how much my writing improved over the course of my Civil War series. I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or hurt. ;-)

Q--Computer or Notebook?

I do much of my brainstorming by hand, but do all my writing/drafting on the computer. It’s so much faster. I do love notebooks, pens, pencils, etc, but the actual work is done on a keyboard.

Q--What is the strangest thing, person, place, or event that has inspired your writing?

I saw a documentary, once, about a woman whose job it was to set herself up as bait for cheating husbands. She was a private investigator, paid by the wives, and she would allow herself to be approached by these men in question, to see if they would be unfaithful. She then turned the evidence over to the wives. I know! Cheery, isn’t it?! But it stuck with me for some reason. I found myself wondering how it would affect the view of the P.I. who did the work. Would she become jaded? Have a hard time with relationships? So this became my second book, No Time for Love. Of course, we mellowed the story line a little—my character wasn’t actually bait, but rather her job was just to follow the person around and take pictures—but in essence, that documentary shaped my whole novel.

Q--Would you please share a story about writing with us? 

After I submitted my first book, I was anxious, of course. I heard from the first two publishers relatively quickly. They were very nice rejection letters. Covenant still had the book, and I was antsy. I was also flying solo in a market I knew nothing about. There was no such thing as LDStorymakers, and I didn’t have any personal friends who had ever tried to publish in this market.
Sooooo, I called the publisher. Yeah. Left a message or two for the editor who worked at Covenant at the time. I eventually connected with her, and she said something like, “if you need the manuscript, we can send it back to you.” I almost swallowed my tongue. I learned to be patient.
She contacted me again, some weeks later, and said that they were looking for more emotional involvement from the characters.  I wasn’t sure what to do with the book, so I had a few more people I trusted read the book and give me feedback. 
I rewrote a few things, and the book was eventually accepted. The moral of this story: be patient. Do not call the editor. (Unless there are guidelines on their website that instruct you to do so. I doubt there will be, but you never know.)
Truly, people who are writing today in the LDS market have more of an advantage than I did. Information is readily available. We have conferences that address not only writing, but submitting to the very companies that I blindly mailed manuscripts off to. The writers who were published at the time I was submitting were gracious and lovely, as I later learned, but I didn’t know them at the time and had nobody to go to with questions. Writers today should take advantage of the wealth of information available on websites, blogs, facebook, etc. It’s easy to get overloaded with too much info—remember the writing is the most important thing—but sort through what will be useful for you to know when you want to submit and make good use of all the info out there.

Q--At what point did you begin considering yourself a bona-fide writer?

I suppose I considered myself legit when my book was accepted for publication. Truly, though, I’d been writing for a long time. I was already a writer.

Q--Of all the characters you have ever written, who is your favorite and why?

Unfair question! I have so many favorites. I really like Claire from A Time for the Heart. She’s an archaeologist, and I want her job! I also had a fondness for Camille Birmingham from my Civil War series. She had such tremendous character growth over the four volumes. She was fun. 
Lately, though, my favorite has to be Isabelle Webb. I’ve enjoyed this character so much. She actually had her beginnings in the CW series. When I finished those books, I was so done with depressing research. I wanted to do something fun and light, so I sent Isabelle to India and she got her own adventure/mystery/romance series.  She’s an awesome character. She was a spy in the 1800s! How cool is that?

Q--Do you have a certain process you go through when you write or do you just wait for the "muse" to come out of hiding?

The muse is fickle, and I don’t like her much of the time. ;-) I brainstorm like there’s no tomorrow when I begin a new project, and keep copious notes of every little thing that comes to mind. I give myself a rough outline and then adjust it as I go. I also have character sketches so I know my people pretty well, know how they’ll react in any given situation. I see my best results when I write daily, and can keep the story fresh in my mind, rather than having to relearn it all over again each time I turn on the computer. Consistency is key.

Q--How do you balance your writing and your family?

It can be tricky. I do most of my writing at night or during nap time. I babysit my 3-year- old nephew, so when he sleeps and my kindergartner is having his down-time, I can sometimes get work done. Mostly, though, I have to write in the evenings. Mornings are a joke for me. If I tried that, all of my characters would be either dead or chugging vats of Diet Coke to try to wake up.

Q--If you could offer an aspiring author any advice, what would it be?

1. Don’t quit. Keep writing even when you’re telling yourself it’s stupid. 
2. Read. Always make time to read something for enjoyment or learning.
3. Attend conferences and/or workshops if you can. They’re inspiring and helpful.
4. Try to connect with other writers. Not many people will understand when you try to explain to them what you’re doing. Most people hate writing. It helps to have friends who “gets” you.
5. Try to be as consistent as you possibly can. Write something every day.

Q--Was there a book you read as a child (or adult or teen) that got you hooked on reading and/or writing? If so, please share the story.

So many books have shaped my desire to be a writer. It started as a kid. I loved, LOVED Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, etc. I used to love it when my teachers in school would read to us after we came in from lunch recess, all sweaty and gross. I never wanted them to stop reading. For me, being an avid reader and transitioning into writing was very natural. It feels like one and the same. It’s all part of a world I adore. I wish I could point to exactly ONE book that made me want to write, but it’s all of them. It’s every book I’ve ever read and loved. I’m like Belle in the beginning of Beauty and the Beast, where she’s dancing all around town with a book clasped to her chest and the people think she’s a dork.

Q--If you could live or experience any story/book you've read, what story would it be and what character would you choose?

Ooooohh, good question! I think a fun book to experience would be any of the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. Amelia is a quirky Egyptologist in the late 1800s and that was just when the Western world was becoming turned on to Ancient Egypt and digging in the sand for treasures. 

Q--Is there somewhere you go for inspiration? A quiet park, a busy people watching spot, a mountain retreat?

Josi Kilpack’s office! Josi and I live near each other, and she and her husband have an office downtown where she and I go write late into the evening. It’s wonderful, because there’s someone there for company, but we can work in companionable silence and get stuff done. I love that time!

Thanks Nancy!

Make sure to check back next week because published author Tristi Pinkston will be my guest!

I'm still looking for volunteers for Saturday Stories! Make sure to drop a comment and let me know if you're interested.


  1. It's so nice to meet you Nancy!! I'm really enjoying all this introductions! There are so many people to be inspired by!

  2. I love Amelia Peabody!! "Crocodile on the Sandbank" was a great book. She reminded me so much of my mother it was funny! It's nice to meet you too Nancy.



Related Posts with Thumbnails