My guest today is debut novelist Becky Lyles whose romantic suspense novel I had the pleasure of reading pre-publication. My verdict:
Winds of Wyoming is an uplifting story and charming romance with the authentic flavor of life on a Wyoming guest ranch and an unforgettable heroine that you love cheering for, showing beautifully that God does give us second chances. Rebecca Lyles has produced a winner with her very first novel.
Now, Becky, tell us about your journey writing The Winds of Wyoming:
Becky: When I set out to write a novel about Wyoming fifteen years ago, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. The extent of my plot was to have a young woman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania tire of city life and move to a Wyoming ranch. Pathetic, huh. Certainly not a book destined to be a page-turner.
After writing a few paragraphs about endless rain and traffic in Pittsburgh and another few praising the beauty of prairies and mountains (I love the West!), I ran out of words. So I threw in a boyfriend who’d just dumped the heroine. And added a mysterious Wyoming cowboy to fill the boyfriend gap. Not exactly deep stuff.
Thank God for writers’ conference and contests. I learned much from workshops and keynote speakers at conferences and even more from the feedback I received from contest judges. Their input was often painful, but most judges softened their negative comments with encouragement. Looking back at early versions of the story, I’m surprised they could think of anything positive to say. Yuck! But their kind words kept me writing and moving forward.
I also joined a book club specifically designed for writers. Those books, which arrived monthly in our mailbox, guided my baby steps as I toddled toward a greater understanding of character, plot, tension, scene, viewpoint, and so much more. Plus, I took writing classes at the local community college, by correspondence, and through the Internet.
My husband’s job transfers moved me out of a dead-end writers’ group (dead-end in the sense few members were concerned about improving their writing or polishing their work for publication) to vibrant writing communities in other states. In addition to joining fiction-writing groups wherever we landed, I volunteered with different service organizations, including a prison ministry, where I facilitated once-a-week Bible studies for female residents.
It was there I experienced my “aha” moment. Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of it earlier? The heroine would be a young woman who leaves prison hoping to escape her past and better her life. All I had to do was come up with barriers and conflicts to block her struggle to reach her goal. Prison ministry also inspired a purpose for the book—to encourage women to walk with God, including incarcerated and previously incarcerated women.
Each writing group helped me focus and hone my story, chapter by chapter. Through my current group, I’ve connected with professional writers, agents, editors, publishers and marketers. Most importantly, I’ve been motivated by the group to stick with it, to not give up, to keep writing. That’s the hard part—to actually write, not just dream about writing. But I did it, day after day, year after year.
As a result, “Winds of Wyoming–A Kate Neilson Novel” (contemporary Christian romance set in
the West and salted with suspense) debuted with StoneHouse, Ink on January 2, 2012. Yes, it’s about a young woman from Pennsylvania. And, yes, the book has a cowboy hero. But there’s more to the story, I promise. Here’s the back-cover blurb:
Fresh out of a Pennsylvania penitentiary armed with a marketing degree, Kate Neilson heads to Wyoming anticipating an anonymous new beginning as a guest-ranch employee. A typical twenty-five-year-old woman might be looking to lasso a cowboy, but her only desire is to get on with life on the outside—despite her growing interest in the ranch owner. When she discovers a violent ex-lover followed her west, she fears the past she hoped to hide will trail as close as a shadow and imprison her once again.
The moral of my story? Actually, I think we could find several morals here: persevere; learn from the experts; believe in yourself and in your story; keep striving for improvement; and never stop writing. As they say, seat in chair plus hands on keyboard day in and day out equals words, lots of words.
One more thing—writing the second novel has been much easier and faster than writing the first one. I’m nearly finished with the sequel to Winds of Wyoming, which I started a year ago. Everything I learned on the journey to publishing book one is making book two, Winds of Freedom, less daunting, though I would never say writing it easy. A person has to love the craft to write an entire book—or be a lunatic. Please don’t tell me which category I belong in. I’m having too much fun, now that I have half a clue what it takes to write a novel.
Debut novelist Rebecca Carey Lyles grew up in Wyoming. Her nonfiction titles, It's a God Thing! Inspiring Stories of Life-Changing Friendships
and On a Wing and a Prayer–Stories from Freedom Fellowship, a Prison Ministry,
are now available online in eBook as well as paper format and can be ordered through bookstores. Winds of Wyoming–A Kate Neilson Novel is currently available on Amazon as an eBook and will soon be available in print. She and her husband, Steve, live in Idaho, where she enjoys the creativity and beauty that abound throughout her adopted state as well as opportunities to hike, camp and cross-country ski in the midst of God’s grandeur. http://www.beckylyles.com
Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.