Anna Huckabee’s debut novel, Talents, hit the shelves earlier this year, and I know I’m not the only one excited to hear that she has more plans for her characters. The sequel to Talents will be released next year. In the meantime, check out our interview with this inspirational author.
For those of you who don’t know, Anna Huckabee’s books are based on her own experience learning how to use her talents to serve God. Anna and her husband currently serve as missionaries overseas.
1. In the past, you’ve talked about how your book was inspired by your own story of service and learning to use your God-given gifts. What I want to know is, specifically, how much of your books or characters are inspired by your own life?
I grew up in a neighborhood like Lincoln Square. It’s not very far from Ferguson, MO. When my husband and I got married, we bought a house in that neighborhood. Houses there have so much character! I love it there, even though it has changed so much in the last few years. It was hit hard when the housing bubble burst. At one point more than half the homes in the neighborhood were vacant.
What if someone had taken an interest? What if someone put forth the time, money, and energy to invest in that region? What if people cared? Those are things I ask myself about that neighborhood. That whole area of St. Louis struggles with the same things, but no one seems willing to do anything about it. I wish I had the time and energy to devote to it, but that’s not what God has for me at this time in my life.
A few of the character types were drawn from real life experience – like Ed and Pastor Conner. But I made most of them up when I was thinking through the story arc.
2. Wow, so this your way of telling your communities story. That’s great! Okay, so we know why you wrote Talents. It’s a wonderful testimony. Is there anything else you’d want your fans to know.
I feel like my readers need to know that I won’t be writing overtly Christian fiction in every book I write. I’m working on a fantasy series right now. It’s all clean fiction, but it all doesn’t have the same strong Biblical messages I try to bring into Lincoln Square.
3. And is there a question that you’re dying to answer, but no one has asked you?
Yes, I leave character descriptions out of the story on purpose. Sure, sometimes I’ll mention physical characteristics in passing. But I want my readers to know who the characters are, not just what they look like.
4. I’ve noticed that. That’s a great way to help your readers to connect with your characters on a deeper level. Now, you’re another author who started writing when you were young. When did you first feel like you were a “real” writer? What do you think of your childhood writings know?
I read a book a few years ago called “You Are a Writer (so start acting like one)” by Jeff Goins. That was the book that encouraged me to start writing again. I think I felt like a “real” writer when I finished my first novel in 2011.
A couple years ago, my grandma pulled out a story I wrote for her during church when I was about six years old. She’d found it when going through old papers she saved. I have a few of my childhood stories, and my mom has a few. They’re fun to read now. I can see my developing “voice” back then. Most of them are illustrated, and the pictures are hilarious!
5. I’ve heard you talk about how NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and how it helped you to stay committed to your writing and actually finish writing a book. Years later, are you still a champion for/participating in NaNoWriMo?
Yes! It starts in a few days, and I’m all geared up and ready to go for another round! My synopsis is waiting, and the story parts are banging around in my head eager to get out. Every year I worry I won’t finish, but I have every year since 2011.
(That’s happening writing now in the month of November for anyone interested in following our author’s journeys through this year’s NaNoWriMo competition.)
6. How do you handle writer’s block?
I’ll let you know when I have trouble with it. The only time I’ve ever struggled was when I was writing a scene that had stuff happening to my characters that was horrible. It’s not fun to write those. So I know what I need to write, but I don’t always want to write it.
7. No writer’s block? I bet a lot of people are jealous right now. Do you think of writing as a second job?
I’m not quite to the place of viewing writing as a second job. It might be headed that way in the future. There are so many other things I need to focus on first – my husband and kids and our ministry.
Writing energizes me! I love doing it. It’s fun when I get the chance to write every single day. I’ve been doing more of it lately, and I really enjoy it!
8. Let’s talk some more about your personal writing experiences. Do you have any writing habits? Are you a paper or a computer person?
I’m a computer person all the way. I can type much faster than I can hand write. I do most of my writing at our dining room table or in our office. I have to claim the office desk early, or one of my kids gets it first and uses it for school.
My writing space is anywhere I can focus on my writing project. I’ve written all over the place – airports, hotels, in the car while we travel, at a desk, on the couch, at the dining room table (or kitchen table, depending on what is available), sitting on my bed, and even on our front porch.
9. Inspiration can hit anywhere. I can imagine you carrying a journal everywhere you go just to make sure you get everything down. What was the hardest part about the writing/editing/publishing experience? What part was surprisingly easy?
The editing is the hardest by far. Editing is my nemesis, my antagonist. Hah! I read “On Writing” by Stephen King, and that book helped me know where to go. Then I researched it online. I don’t like reading the same book over and over again. Once I’ve been through my books three or four times, I have to take a break from it. But even with all this, I still reach a point where I feel I can’t take it any further myself. I comfort myself with the fact that anything is better than the first draft.
The irony is that I can edit other people’s work with no trouble. I worked my way through college typing and editing document for my instructors. Even today I’ll do editing for friends and family. So it isn’t that I can’t edit, it’s that I struggle to edit my own work.
10. I’ve heard that so much! Editing is always the worst part. That’s why we’re here to help! Now I’m curious what part of the process you considered easiest in comparison.
Easiest? I’m not sure. Probably writing the first draft. (Which always feels like a masterpiece when I’m done with it! Then I come back to edit, and I’m convinced it’s the worst book ever written.)
11. Well just keep writing those first drafts! It always gets better! What’s one shocking thing that an editor asked you to change or you decided yourself to talk out of a manuscript? Do you wish now that you’d hadn’t taken it out?
So far this hasn’t happened to me. That said, I had to go back and take out half of what I wrote on my first novel (as yet unpublished) because it wasn’t working. Only about half of the 60,000 words I have now are the same ones I wrote in the first draft.
12. What’s one moment during the entire writing and publishing process that you will never forget?
When I saw my published book for the first time. Wow! That was an amazing feeling! It was a dream come true!
13. Yep! That moment is unforgettable. Can we take a peek at your bookshelf? What books could you never part with?
Jane Eyre. My L.M. Montgomery books. Chronicles of Narnia. Those are old, dear friends from my childhood.
14. Has a book ever made you cry or laugh at loud? Do you enjoy eliciting the same emotions from your readers?
I love when books move me emotionally. I bawled at the end of “Harry Potter.” Like ugly crying. I had to stop reading and get myself under control and come back to it. “Unbroken” was another book that moved me to the point of tears.
It’s hard to write like that because the story you are writing has to move you as you write it. There were times when I was writing Talents (and its sequels) that I walked away from my writing feeling like I was in an emotional fog. I’d been so engrossed in the story I was telling and the emotions I was writing that I had to work to get back into the real world!
15. That is the telltale sign of an amazing book – when the emotions in it become real. I’m so glad that you pour so much of your own emotions into your writing. Do your favorite authors and books reflect what you write?
I read a LOT of fantasy and contemporary fiction and I tend to write both of those, so I guess the answer is yes. My favorite authors, books, and genres reflect what I write.
16. I love hearing about all the different ways that our authors joined our publishing family. How did you choose to publish your work with TouchPoint Press? How involved were you in the publishing process?
I found TPP in the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market and then researched them online. Talents was my first published novel, so it’s my only experience with it, but I was involved in most parts of the publishing process – from editing to giving input on the cover art (which turned out exactly how I’d imagined it!) to final copy edits and reviewing it before it was published. I’ve been pleased with the experience!
17. I’m so excited that I got to be the first one here at TouchPoint Press to read the sequel to Talents. Can you tell the readers about your plans for the rest of the series?
The next book in the series is Door of Hope. Melody and I (mostly Melody!) just finished the final round of edits on it. I have two other books written. One continues the story begun in Door of Hope. The book after that is called If These Walls Could Talk, written from the perspective of a house and continues the story of Collin and Shondra from Talents. I have an idea for another book but haven’t developed it very much. It would include both Jackson and Ed from Talents and be set about eight years in the future.
There are several (four?) other novels on my computer. They are all finished to one degree or another, but most of them aren’t edited yet.
18. I can’t wait to see what else you have in store for Shondra, Jackson, and all of their friends. How much, if any, time do you spend researching for your books? I know that you travel for work, but did you do any traveling for research or go on a “writing/reading pilgrimage”?
My books consist of fiction. I do research things I need to know but don’t – like what kind of cancer treatment Jackson would have received. Sometimes I write about places we’ve visited in our travels but I haven’t ever traveled for my writing.
19. It’s so much easier when you don’t have to stop writing to check a lot of facts. Believe me, I know! As you move forward and continue to write and publish books, what do you find different about the whole process? What valuable lessons have you learned?
I’d like to think I’m learning to be a better editor. You’ll have to ask Melody about that, though. Hah! It’s also comforting to know what to expect in the process. The first time everything was so new. Now I have a frame of reference.
20. You are a big help when it comes to editing your manuscripts. There’s no doubt about that. What’s the hardest thing about writing characters? If you don’t struggle with characters, what is your “writing kryptonite”?
Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but editing is my writing kryptonite. As for characters, so far those have come easily. It’s fun imagining interesting people for my books.
21. Just curious…What did you do with your first royalty check?
I’ll probably put it in savings. You know, save up for that retirement house by the beach in Hawaii. Seriously, though, we have several big projects here in Uganda that we need to take care of. It may go to help with those.
22. I can’t tell you how much that answer makes me smile. We’re lucky to have you on our team. Finally, I’d like to ask you if you have a favorite verse or passage from the Bible or one that has really spoken to where you are in your life right now?
John 15:5 – I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit. For without me ye can do nothing.
Everything I really accomplish is through Christ. I just need to rest in Him and let Him work.
Thank you, Anna, for taking the time to complete this interview! I had great time learning about your writing and your life. Hopefully, we’ll be hearing more from you soon.
Follow our blog to learn more about Anna Huckabee and her books and our other authors. Don’t forget to order your copy of Talents before we the sequel releases: https://www.amazon.com/Talents-Lincoln-Square-Anna-Huckabee/dp/1946920169