Now on to the interview!
Q–Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm a Hershey Kisses lovin' Pennsylvania girl who is totally missing the mountains now that I live in Pancakeville Kansas. There are actually quite a few things I love about Kansas, including the incredible people I've met here. If I could move the Alleghenies over here, it would be so perfect.
Q–Tell us about your book.
(dis)Abilities and the Gospel is a guide for parents and church leaders as they serve people with cognitive disabilities, such as autism, Down's syndrome, Alzheimer's, etc. You will find chapters about teaching strategies, how to teach prayer or scripture study, and keeping family relationships strong. What I love most about this book is that it's like talking to your friend. It's not blah or text bookish, but instead filled with humor, empathy, and hope.
Q–What was your inspiration for the book?
My oldest son was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old. During his preschool years, my husband and I were the head of the school's parent support group. Families often asked me to help them figure out how to help their child attend church or help their church leaders understand and love their child. As I researched on the internet, I realized there were very few resources available about disabilities and church. Over the following four years, I spent quite a lot of time working with a variety of individuals, families, specialists, and church leaders to create the resources and information found in (dis)Abilities and the Gospel. Four years is a long time to work on just one project. But my son, my friends' children, and people I met at conferences were a constant reminder of why the book was needed. It was truly an inspiring project to work on.
Q–What is one thing you hope people can learn from reading your book?
That no matter what our abilities are, we are all special, loved by Heavenly Father, and have unique ways we can understand and learn the gospel.
Q–How did you get started writing?
I can't remember a time I didn't write. When I was young, I wrote to help deal with family stress. My mom was often sick with cancer and in the hospital. Writing stories and poetry helped me to escape the topsy-turvy emotions for a while. My first article was published when I was in 6th grade. Once I saw my name in print, I was hooked on the idea of being a published writer. I continued writing, submitting to contests and publications. The only time I stopped writing was when my son was diagnosed with autism. I decided to set writing aside so I could concentrate on his therapies and needs. After my son entered Kindergarten, my husband nudged me back into it with a writing-themed Christmas.
Q–Of all the blogs you follow, which one is your favorite?
There are many blogs I love for different reasons. I have authors and agents I follow in the writing community, some family blogs I enjoy because they are super funny, and there's one food blog I often check out. I hate to cook, so if I'm going to do it, then I want it to taste fabulous. But the blog I check most often is Deseret News' Today in the Bloggernacle. I love how Emily spotlights different topics and I discover really great blogs I wouldn't have found without the spotlight.
Q–What is your favorite genre to read? What is your favorite genre to write?
Romance and Romance. I love anything that has a romantic twist to it. I am currently submitting my contemporary sweet romance - Sweet Confections - to national agents.
Q–If you had a fairy godmother what would your Cinderella moment be?
My Cinderella moment would definitely involve me in a gorgeous, flowing gown next to my sweetheart all decked out in a tux. I'm thinking of an outdoor dance floor with sheer white fabric and twinkly lights draped all around, bubbly fountains and tons of flowers everywhere. Like an outdoor garden ball. There would be dancing - preferably 50's swing - delicious food, and all of our friends, too. The evening would wrap up with my sweetie and I being whisked away in a horse-drawn carriage. (which definitely makes it a fairy godmother moment cause my hubby is allergic to animals!)
Q–If you could re-write the ending to any book or movie, what story would it be and how would you change it?
How about a whole movie? The one movie that seriously bugs me is Anne of Green Gables #3. I have fantasized for years and years about what it would be like when Anne and Gilbert finally got married, what their life together would be like, how their romance would live on . . . I was so, so, so excited when the third installment came out. But it was absolutely nothing like I thought it should be. I would change the movie to take place soon after the second movie, with the same time period clothes, and follow how the books describe their marriage - going through their engagement, their marriage, and ending with the birth of their first child.
Q–Is there something you swore (before you had children) you’d never say or do that you now find yourself saying or doing? If so, what is it?
I can't think of anything. I grew up with a mom who encouraged me to pursue my interests and do the best I could at anything I tried. I didn't need to get straight A's or be the best person on the team - just do my best. That's the kind of mom I've tried to be, too. Now - are there things I say that make me stop and think, "Holy cow! That's what my mom said when she was mad, too!" Of course. I'm sure we all have those type of moments.
Q–Your blog says you have the enviable talent of editing! Tell us how you gained this super power and how you use it for good among the common writing masses.
LOL! Editing is a super power, eh? Well, it all began with my love of writing. To be an editor, you have to know how to write well, but you also have to know when it's okay to bend the rules and what elements make a story great - like good plot flow, consistent characterization, and interesting conflict. I've done some really fun editing jobs for published authors like James Dashner, Tristi Pinkston, and Heather Justesen. But my favorite part of editing is working with a writer who hasn't been published yet. I love talking with them about what they are doing right and giving lots of encouragement. Then I show them the weaknesses in the story and give suggestions about how to make it stronger. Usually there's a particular area the writer needs help with and I can point him to blogs or classes to improve it. The pay-off is when the writer takes the time to research, improve his skill, and do the necessary edits and rewrites, then sends me the full manuscript to edit and review. I absolutely love to see how much the manuscript has changed and how awesome it's becoming. Of course, the big shiny gold star is when someone I've edited for receives a publishing contract. Happiness!
Q–French fries or potato chips–Which do you prefer?
This is a trick question, right? Both, at the same time!
Q–It is often said that writing is like therapy. What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself on your writing journey?
I've learned that what I write has a huge effect on others. It doesn't matter if it's my non-fiction book, which is all about helping others, or one of my fiction novels. I said earlier that I love romance - which is 100% true. But all of my stories have deeper plots than just if the girl gets the guy in the end. They feature women who face real-life drama - cheating husbands, being a single parent of an autistic child, or date rape - and the ensuing emotions they encounter. Was it my fault? Why me? How could anyone ever love me again? I take all of those questions and emotions and wrap them into my character, then weave a story that not only pulls the reader in, but also helps the reader to either find some help she was looking for or understand someone she may know that may have gone through a similar experience.
If you are interested in purchasing (dis)Abilities and the Gospel check out the links below.