Glowing Author Interview #6
Joining us today is Kathi Macias, award-winning author of thirty books, and also a popular speaker. Lots of credentials, new books out, and an all-around fun gal. So, without further ado…
Thirty books, eh? So how did you begin this long and illustrious writing career?
This is definitely a case of “beginning at the beginning,” as I can’t remember a time when I wanted to be anything other than a writer. I have been in love with words since long before I started school and was busy reading the funny papers when I was three. In third grade I wrote a story as an assignment, and the teacher liked it so much she showed it to the principal. They decided to put it on as a play for the entire PTA, and I was hooked! I formally declared my intentions when I was about 14. My husband and I (then boyfriend/girlfriend) were walking home from school one day when I announced, “I’m going to be a writer some day.” (He reminds me of that when I become frustrated or stressed over the many demands that go with such a fulfilling but difficult career/ministry.) I eventually began garnering bylines as a newspaper string reporter and weekly “about town” columnist, plus submitting articles and short stories and poems to newsletters and magazines. I published my first book (A Moment A Day, a bestselling devotional from Regal Books) in 1988. That was 30 books ago, plus scores more I’ve written/edited/ghosted for other people. What a journey—and it’s not over yet!
Not by a long shot! Not many people fit into the small circle of full-time writer, but it sounds as if you do.
Yes, I’m a full-time writer/speaker/editor, though I juggle that with being the primary caretaker for my almost 89-year-old mother who lives with us. I’ve had a handful of other jobs in the past (pre-school teacher, newspaper columnist/reporter, secretary/bookkeeper, bank teller, pastoral team member/biblical counselor), all of which play into my writing in one way or another, though the pastoral team member/biblical counselor job most of all. It really taught me to observe and listen to people. As a result I discovered that though cultures and countries and centuries may change, human nature does not. That understanding helps me develop believable characters and realistic dialogue, which is how my stories unfold. The biblical training/schooling required for the job also helped me in writing biblical nonfiction/studies.
I just received a copy of your latest book. Tell us a bit about it.
No Greater Love is the first of the four-book “Extreme Devotion” fiction series from new Hope Publishers, their first-ever venture into fiction and my first attempt at international fiction. No Greater Love is a novel based in South Africa during the violent upheaval just before Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and his ascendance to the Presidency and the overthrow of Apartheid. The idea originally began niggling at my creative thoughts when the events were unfolding in the late 1980s, and I knew I would one day write something about it. As a result I saved every newspaper clipping and magazine article I could find on the subject, not realizing that something called the Internet would simplify my research by the time I was ready to actually write the book.
Who is your favorite character?
I suppose that has to be the obvious: Chioma, the beautiful 16-year-old Black girl who is the primary character whose story runs throughout the book and ties it all together. She is headstrong but courageous, angry yet ultimately open to making peace when the possibility presents itself—though the price is mind-boggling.
Do you see anything of yourself in her?
To some extent. I too was quite headstrong in my youth, though possibly not so noble or selfless in my pursuits as she.
I’m especially drawn to this book because I too have a book set in Africa. What special research did you do to make No Greater Love come to life?
In addition to saving every clipping I could find at the time the events were actually taking place, I did a lot of Internet research while developing my basic plot and outline nearly twenty years later. However, the research that brought the story/characters to life was the personal feedback I got from a couple of readers who not only live in the area now but lived there during the time the book is set. These readers, one pastor in particular, graciously offered their time and expertise to give me even the minutest details that now make readers say, “Wow, it’s like I was really there!” Considering I myself have never set foot in this lovely country, that must mean the research worked!
When it comes to new writers, what do you think is the most important thing for them to know about submitting their work?
The competition is fierce, and publishers have to keep the lights on. Translation? New writers must not only come up with a compelling proposal, but they must convince the publisher that they will partner with them in marketing the book. This is no small task, and it entails a lot more than saying, “I’d be willing to go on Oprah.” (Umm…so would I, but I’ve never been invited.) Be creative and open. Talk to successful authors who have “been there, done that.” Don’t know any? Join online writers’ loops that are open to newbies and attend writers’ conferences. There’s no better way to get your feet wet and begin to rub elbows with those who are a little farther along in their journey. As my journalism professor at USC used to say, “Whether you want to be a writer or a plumber or a mechanic, find someone who’s already good at it and hang around ’em!”
Great advice! Is there any such thing as paying too much attention to a particular area?
Marketing and publicity are so important, but we can become obsessed with it, to the point of neglecting the development of top notch writing. All the glitzy marketing in the world won’t make up for not having a first-rate product. Being willing to spend as much time as necessary to make your writing shine is the one thing writers sometimes neglect, and that can be deadly. Concentrate on writing first, marketing second. It really is possible to do both well, if we keep it all in perspective.
Which writer and/or book made the biggest impact on your life?
There are many. I love the Thoenes and Francine Rivers for fiction, Brennan Manning and Max Lucado for nonfiction. But I suppose my all-time favorite has to be Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. It absolutely changed my life/heart, and gave me a passion for South Africa, which fed my existing desire to write about the overthrow of Apartheid.
I know you are a blogger. What are advantages and/or disadvantages do you see in blogging?
The only disadvantage is if it, like social networking, takes over your life. Trust me, it can happen! I have to discipline myself to spend only so much time at these pursuits and much more time at actually developing my manuscripts.
I hear you! That’s a real temptation for me.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t blog, of course. In fact, if you love to write, you should have a blog, period. This is true, whether you’re published or not. But find a focus that fits you and attracts readers/followers, and make it as original as possible. Having an established blog with faithful followers can go a long way in convincing a publisher to take you on.
Kathi, tell us something about you that would surprise us.
My nickname (“road name,” actually) is Easy Writer. My husband and I ride a Harley (as in ONE Harley—he’s on the front and I’m on the back). I’m a biker grandma, and I love it!
Oh, I would love to have you zip over for a cup of tea! Since we’re getting personal here, if we peeked at your nightstand, what book would we see?
Jesus Freaks and Extreme Devotion (a collection of true stories about people around the world who are persecuted for their faith). Both are from Voice of the Martyrs, which is my number-one ministry passion. In fact, the ministry and their resources were influential in inspiring me to move from one book (No Greater Love) to a series of books about modern-day martyrs of the faith. Voice of the Martyrs’ updated version of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs also inspired my stand-alone historical novel, Valeria’s Cross, co-authored with Susan Wales and releasing in October from Abingdon Press.
Can’t wait to see that one! You certainly do share my writing passions. It sounds as though your writing plate is full (to mix metaphors!) and that we will be seeing much more from you!
http://kathieasywritermacias.blogspot.com (Easy Writer blog)
www.blogtalkradio.com/communicatethevision (blogtalkradio show)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOx8FRSEheA (video trailer for No Greater Love)
“Be sure God has called you to write—and then do it. Remember, all you have to do to be successful is to be obedient to God’s voice today. If you happen to publish/sell a few books along the way, that’s a bonus.”