In honor of Mesu Andrews’s new novel Love In A Broken Vessel, I was given the opportunity to interview her for the second time. Here’s the questions that I asked her and her answers to me:
1. How long does it typically take you to write a book?
Well, I think I’m getting faster! The first book took me twelve years, the second about eighteen months, and I wrote Love in a Broken Vessel—start to finish—in a year. My fourth book (just turned in the rough draft March 1st) took six months from first day of research to clicking “send” to my editor. Eeee-gad! I don’t think I can go any quicker than that! The last six months have been pretty crazy! ha!
2. What interesting writing quirks do you have (like writing first draft in short hand, can only do it laying down, etc.)?
I don’t know if coffee is a quirk, but I must have coffee—with lots of French vanilla creamer—to function. In order to write new plotline, I need to have long periods of uninterrupted concentration. I have to go “deep” and stay “deep” into my characters’ world. Some of this I can do at home in between loads of laundry, letting the dog outside, and answering the phone; but at least once with every manuscript I need to get away for a writing retreat. I usually do a Priceline bid for a cheap hotel in my area and stay for up to a week. My sweet husband keeps me supplied with the essentials: coffee, creamer, bagels, tea, honey, and protein bars. It’s the diet of champions, right? I don’t recommend it on a regular basis, but I get a ton of work done, and I’m not interrupted by silly necessities like eating and sleeping. J
3. What sort of things do you like to do when your not writing?
Movies, movies, movies! Old movies, new movies, any kind will do. We also recently purchased a little plot of land in the foothills. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest in 2007, both my hubby and I are enamored with the mountains and emerald green moss and trees year-round. I’m not really sure what the Lord has in store for our little property, but we’re going to enjoy exploring it with our Rottweiler-pitbull, Bouzer, for a few years and see what comes next.
4. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The surprises always seem to unfold when I create my timeline spreadsheet. At the beginning of each project, I set up a spreadsheet with names across the top and dates at the left side, and then I record important dates for each character: birth, death, important life events. Some dates are listed in Scripture, so they’re easily accessible. Others are guess-timates from historical texts or archaeological finds. When neither of those resources bear solid, provable dates, I get to use my imagination—and that’s when things REALLY get interesting! Piecing together the irrefutable Truth of Scripture with the sketchy facts of ancient texts and archaeological digs is so much fun. Only a few times have I ended up in tears, thinking my plot impossible. Those were the times my sweet husband or critique partners had to remind me Who was really in charge of my projects. It seems I have at least one crisis with each book. In Love Amid the Ashes, I was certain Job’s age would be a stumbling block to the eventual outcome of the book. In Love’s Sacred Song, I wasn’t sure how I could ever make Solomon likeable—a king with 700 wives and 300 concubines. (I wasn’t even sure I liked him!) And in Love in a Broken Vessel, I was certain I’d have to break the first law of engaging fiction—it must be BELIEVABLE. How would folks ever believe that a righteous man like Hosea could love—and repeatedly forgive—an adulterous wife? No way! But God’s Word said it was true, so that’s what He gave me the ability to write. THAT was a total surprise!
5. When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
That’s sort of a funny story. I was valedictorian of my high school class with a 4.0 grade point average, and—much to my teachers’ disappointment—I only ever wanted to be a wife and mom. I tried accounting for my first year of college and hated it, so I got an associate’s degree in general business and got married, had babies, and loved being a full-time mommy. I worked as a part-time optometric/ophthalmic assistant for many years and did some administrative work in other capacities. Anything I know about writing came from my wonderful high school English teachers, and I’ve learned lots from the writers’ conferences I attend. The Lord pierced my heart with a hunger for His Word when my kids were young. I started studying the Bible voraciously—couldn’t get enough of it and seemed to remember everything I read. Bible Study Fellowship was a huge help, and I’ve had excellent pastors through the years who taught God’s Word with integrity. In 1998, I began speaking to women’s groups at retreats and conferences, but had to cut back on travel due to health issues in 2002. Since then, writing has become my voice and my passion. God fulfilled a desire in my heart that I didn’t even know existed. Now, I can’t imagine not writing. Isn’t our God amazing?
Thank you Mesu Andrews for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.
Mesu Andrews’s book releases this month from Revell. You can find out more about her and her books by going to her website. Stay tuned for my review of her book later this week.