Longtime readers of my blog may have an inkling of how long I’ve been on this writing journey, but here’s a quick recap. I started writing in 2005, beginning with non-fiction articles and two book manuscripts before turning my attention to fiction. My first attempt at a novel in 2008 was truly awful but the rewrite in 2009 actually went on to be Runner-Up in ACFW’s Genesis contest. That same year I started blogging…and connected with the critique partner I still have today as I’m working on my seventh fiction manuscript. Laura Hilton is the first person to see my stories now and it’s a pleasure to share a bit of her amazing journey with you as well.
What do you remember about us becoming critique partners? What were you looking for?
I discovered you in Scribes (just one of the many benefits as a member of ACFW), I think, when it started … I read some of your chapters and loved your style of writing and you reciprocated by critiquing my chapters and you were exactly what I was looking for in a critique partner without my even knowing what I was looking for! I just knew I was sick of the “Yes crowd” who found nothing wrong. I needed someone who stretched me.
Where were you at that point in your writing journey?
I was at the point where all I heard was “no” from agents and publishers, and … Dee Henderson offered a free writing evaluation that one of my friends told me about it. My friend was at the same stage as me then and she was told that her writing was good enough to be published. I wondered what Dee Henderson would say about my writing. So I submitted the chapter for the evaluation, and waited on pins and needles for a commentary on what was wrong.
What I got back was the same thing she told my friend. My writing was good enough to be published. I wondered if she even read it and if that was her standard answer to everyone. (It wasn’t. She was truthful. I didn’t ask her, but I heard from several others who did get detailed reports about what was wrong and why.)
How many manuscripts had you finished at that point or before you got an agent?
Ha. Well, I don’t exactly know. Shadows of the Past, First Love, one that I can’t remember the title of (I have lost that manuscript somewhere over the course of time), Hot Chocolate, First Class Wrong Flight, Presque Isle, Love Offering… I think I actually acquired my agent with Love Offering, but she refused to represent that book because it was a “Hosea/bad girl” type story. And then there was On The Run.
After my first two books (Shadows of the Past and Hot Chocolate) were published with a small press, I went to a conference. I met with a couple big name agents, sure I’d wow them. Instead I got comments like “you need a platform.” I asked what a platform was (I was new) and was told “If you have to ask, you don’t have one.” Okay then. So I was afraid to approach the agent who had expressed some interest in me until some time later. She was the one who eventually referred me to my current agent (who was at that time part of her agency and in charge of ‘romance’).
When we met and started doing critiques for each other, I remember seeing assorted chapters of Hot Chocolate, Presque Island, and actually found an early chapter from On the Run on my computer. But what I remember most was you getting your first three-book contract with Whitaker House and our starting to work through that first Amish book Patchwork Dreams. How many books have you written since then?
Again, I don’t know how many you’ve helped me with. There were several proposals in there that never went anywhere. They might, someday. Maybe. I know you critiqued some of the books I wrote before I was agented as I attempted to clean them up for various publishers. And then of course there were the ones that were published. Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts, Promised to Another, Healing Love, Surrendered Love, Awakened Love, A White Christmas in Webster County (all with Whitaker House), followed by Swept Away (Abingdon Press), then The Snow Globe, The Postcard, The Birdhouse, The Amish Firefighter, The Amish Wanderer, One without a title yet coming in 2018, The Christmas Admirer (all for Whitaker House) and Married by Mistake (Barbour Books).
That’s a lot of books and a bunch of characters to have had rambling around inside your head. Oh, and I also remember Christmas Mittens, which you published independently in there too. You’ve become quite the book machine. How many did you write and/or release last year? And what does the schedule look like for 2017?
I wrote about 4 or 5 stories last year. One was released. So far in 2017, I have The Amish Wanderer releasing in February by Whitaker House; a novella, The Kissing Bridge releasing in April with Celebrate Lit; a novella, Married by Mistake releasing in August with Barbour; The Christmas Admirer releasing in September by Whitaker House; a novella, Silver Bells releasing in October in an Indie collection; and maybe another Indie book, First Class, Wrong Flight. That one was supposed to be in a collection released in November of last year but it was delayed due to a few unforeseen problems with a few of the other authors. And then in February 2018 I have the book with the title yet unknown releasing with Whitaker House. Hopefully, there will be more after that.
I’m exhausted just thinking about writing that much but also excited to see new stories arriving in my inbox. I count it a privilege to do my part with a critique now and then to help stretch your stories to new heights. So, what can you tell us about February’s release, The Amish Wanderer?
Bethany Weiss has been fascinated by Silas Beiler since he spent a couple of years in Jamesport, Missouri, before he and his family moved to another Amish community. They hadn’t kept in touch, but she hasn’t forgotten the friendly young man who brought her lemonade and took her home once from a Singing years ago. When she finds a man sleeping in her family’s barn, like Jesus sleeping in the hay, she is stunned to recognize Silas. He’s left the Amish and is backpacking across the country. She talks him into staying, at least until after Christmas.
Silas’ family has never been happy living in one area for long, and their vagabond ways are wearing on him. He’s lived in Amish communities all over the nation, moving whenever his daed became disgruntled with the leaders, and he’s looking for some sense of stability. His intentions are to make it back to Pennsylvania and stay with his Englisch onkle and his family—and pursue an education. Will Bethany be the one to bring Silas in from the cold? Or will he continue on his way to his extended family and become Englisch?
I personally can’t wait to read the finished product, especially since your books aren’t the typical Amish stories. I love how your characters face more modern challenges and discover a true faith in God through the struggles. Laura, thanks for sharing a glimpse into your writing journey as evidence that perseverance pays off. And readers, you won’t be disappointed in a Laura Hilton book, so check them out at these links:
Find her books: http://www.amazon.com/Laura-V.-Hilton/e/B004IRSM5Q