I spoke with Julia Colquitt Allen author of “New Mercies”. In our exclusive interview with she talks about her inner geek, her doctoral studies, her book, and more!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a bit on the quirky side. I’m a little geeky; in fact, “The Big Bang Theory” is one of my favorite television sitcoms, mainly because I relate so well to the characters.
I’m married to my best friend and biggest supporter. We’ve been together nearly 30 years. We have 6 children, four of which still live at home, and two grandchildren. My son and daughter-in-law just rented the house next door to ours, so we’ll be seeing a lot more of our grandchildren shortly.
I’m a technophile. I work at the local university as a learning technologist, and the faculty there is convinced that there is nothing about technology I don’t know. They call me the guru.
I’m also working on a Ph.D. in learning technologies.
When did you get bit by the ‘writing’ bug? Tell us a bit about your journey as a doctoral student and an author.
I was 7 when I started writing. I remember sitting on my front porch enjoying the sunshine, and I scribbled down this stupid little poem about the sun. My parents didn’t believe I’d written it. They thought it was too good. So to prove my authorship, I sat in front of them and wrote another one.
I’ve always loved writing. I read voraciously as a teenager and I appreciated the way a good author could turn a phrase or paint with words. I worked hard to learn to use words like that. I took a lot of writing classes in college and since. Now when I go back and read things I’ve written, I sometimes surprise myself with what I’ve accomplished.
Being a doctoral student has been an entirely different sort of challenge. I thought my writing skills would make it easier, but it made it harder. I had to learn to write in an entirely different way for academia. I remember one of the first papers I submitted came back so redlined, it made me question whether I had any skills as a writer at all. But once I learned the genre and what was expected, my papers came back with fewer red marks.
Other authors who have inspired your work?
Well, I grew up reading Grace Livingstone Hill, so obviously she had a huge influence on my writing style. About 10 years ago I discovered the Love Inspired books by Steeple Hill and started filling my library with those. I owe a lot to Margaret Daley, Gail Gaymer Martin, and Nike Chillemi. Margaret and Gail have both published with Steeple Hill. I posted to Margaret on a discussion board in response to one of her books thanking her for the topic she’d written about, and in my post I mentioned that I knew I had a novel in me and one day I would write it. She encouraged me not to wait, but to start writing now, even if it were just a little every day. It was because of her encouragement that I started and eventually finished this novel.
Gail was a speaker at the first writing conference I attended. She offered free meetings with attendees to consult with them on their works in progress. At that point I had written about 4 chapters of my novel and I was struggling with pacing, I didn’t have a good hook, and my hero and heroine didn’t meet until the 3rd chapter. Gail’s short session helped me change the direction of my story. After I’d completed the first draft of the book, Gail agreed to read it again and gave me some great advice that was hard to hear at the time, but which made the final product a much better story.
Nike was my critique partner. We read each other’s works in progress and helped each other tighten our story, caught errors, rearranged plot lines, and gave each other the push we needed to finish the book. Nike published her first novel about three years ago.
How has your family’s reaction been to to your writing?
When I gave my kids each their own copy of the book, I expected them to roll their eyes, but my daughters, at least, acted impressed. They all wanted me to autograph their copy. My 12 year old came home the other day and said, “Mom, I’ve been reading your book, and it’s AWESOME!” So, that made me feel pretty good. My parents and brothers were pretty excited too. My sons, not so much. But it is a romance novel. When I write an action adventure book they might be more impressed.
It’s an inspirational romantic fiction novel that deals with the stigma that Christians face following a divorce, particularly should they consider remarriage. My heroine, Dolores Hansen, discovers the mercy and forgiveness of God in the face of her own guilt over her divorce and the gossip her friendship with the new pastor of her church, Christopher Tanner, stirs among the parishioners. It’s a story about new beginnings and second chances.
I think it will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good romance. This is a sweet romance, and because it was written for the inspirational market, it’s clean, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t passionate. There are a lot of strong feelings expressed throughout the story.
What inspired you to write a character like Dolores Hansen and share her journey?
Dolores and I have a lot in common. I am also on my second marriage. As a Christian, I hung on to my first marriage much longer than I should have, and once it was over I beat myself up over it. I was ready to cloister myself at a very young age so I could be a “good Christian”, whatever that means. Then I met Ron, and I knew I was falling for him, and when I realized the feeling was mutual, I really didn’t know what to do. We ended up leaving our church when we got married and going somewhere no one knew us so that we wouldn’t cause problems for others in the church, but our pastor came after us and told us he would have been proud to marry us and that he believed God was the God of second chances. I think the church needs more shepherds like that.
I still believe that in God’s perfect will, marriage is meant to be forever. Ron and I will be together forever. But we live in a fallen world and sometimes things don’t work the way God intended them to work. God isn’t broken, but the world is and people are, and in a broken world with broken people, you have broken and bad relationships. Fortunately, we have a loving; merciful God Who wants us to know Him and wants us to find His perfect way for our lives. He’s not out to punish us. He’s waiting to forgive us and give us a fresh start. I wanted to share that message with others, so I told it through Dolores and Chris and their love story.
Would you like to share your thoughts about self and traditional publishing?
I didn’t set out to self-publish. I had initially written this story with a publisher in mind, but life got in the way. Between the time that I started this novel and when I finished it, I lost a child, suffered a heart attack, went through personal bankruptcy, had my laptop with the only complete copy of the manuscript stolen, sold our family business, uprooted my family and moved half-way across the country with only one income between myself and my husband to support us, sold almost everything we owned to tide us over while I worked part-time as a substitute teacher, and went back to school full-time to earn my master’s degree. The book was completely rewritten four times and took 10 years to complete. By the time it was finished, I told myself it wasn’t meant to be published and I was just content to have it done, but every time I told someone I’d written a novel, a little part of me ached that it wasn’t published anywhere. So I finally decided to self-publish.
As far as the process of self-publishing, I’m thrilled that I had complete creative control over my story, from the title to the design of the cover. And of course, there is no pressure to come out with another book right away. I’m on my own timeline. I wish I had a little more expertise in marketing, but I’m learning as I go, and I’ll be an expert by the time my next story comes out.
Are there any upcoming works we should know about?
In all honesty, the next long published work with my name on it had better be my dissertation. I can’t afford to spare any time right now for fiction writing. But I do have two other romances outlined and one started.
Then next one to watch for has a working title of “Building Love”. Contractor Andrew Gunderson hasn’t been the same since an accident claimed the life of his wife and tarnished his career. Feeling his work is unwanted in the states, Andrew has moved to Nuevo Leon, Mexico, where he is overseeing construction of a new school addition, medical clinic, church repairs, and several homes for people in the town. Here he meets the fiery Chandra Fenimore, who has come to teach in the school.
Chandra has little use for Andrew, who speaks almost no Spanish and doesn’t seem to have any respect for the townspeople or the workers in his employ. Chandra stirs up painful memories for Andrew due to her strong resemblance to his dead wife. When an argument sends Andrew storming out into the desert and he fails to return, Chandra hears the whole story and is drawn to the hurting man. Will Andrew make it back before the monsoons start or will he die alone in the desert?
I just hope my readers can be patient a few years!
Have you read New Mercies? What did you think of it? Let us know!
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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