Please welcome this weeks guest Ane Mulligan for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She’s a novelist, playwright, and humor columnist. Her debut book, Chapel Springs Revival, releases Sept 8th. She lives in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, their chef son, and two very large dogs.
I’m not one of those authors who knew they wanted to write from the moment they discovered blank paper and Crayons. I was ADHD long before they knew what it was, and they called me disruptive. Who knew the stories I told (back then they called it lying) and played out for weeks with my dolls, would someday become books about women and their friendships?
I was still working full time, but in 2002, I started looking for a new job. For some reason, I was always in the last three to be considered, but never hired. I was a forever-bridesmaid in the job market. I should have realized God was whispering to me.
Finally, in December, the hubs told me to quit looking for a job and write a book.
I quickly realized that was God’s call though, because as soon as Hubs said those words, it was as if God turned on a light bulb, and an idea for a story dropped into my otherwise empty mind.
January 1st, 2003, I sat down and started my first novel. I quickly learned being a novelist is a far cry from being a playwright. Plays are all dialogue, after all. After writing most of that first manuscript, I found an online Christian critique group and a few mentors, who became close friends, ones who told me plainly I had a lot to learn.
What an understatement. POV? Never heard the term. Omniscient? That’s what God was. Show don’t tell? How do I tell a story without telling? Yikes! Yet, with each critique, I absorbed a new concept. I bought all the books on the craft of fiction writing they recommended. I read them and absorbed more.
Soon, I discovered another new writer, Jessica Dotta, whose story I fell in love with. We became close friends and critique partners.
When I attended my first writer’s conference in 2003, I met a writer who would become my other critique partner and dear friend, Gina Holmes. That first year, though, she thought I was … well frankly, a freak. You’ll have to ask her about that.
Gina, Jessica, and I bonded online. We believe God brought the three of us together. The next year, we went to a writers conference—the wonderful Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC) and joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers).
In 2005, Gina started to blog her first novel journey. She quickly discovered she had three readers … and she and I were two of them. We spent a lot of time online looking for author interviews. Back then, no one was interviewing authors online. I suggested she ask Deb Raney, whom we’d met and taken classes from at the Blue Ridge. Deb accepted and became the first author interviewed on Novel Journey, now Novel Rocket.
After about a year, Gina brought Jessica and me onboard to help. Over the past eight years, we’ve featured new interviews and teaching articles every single day, 365 days a year. Today, Novel Rocket has thirty terrific contributors.
In 2005, two more critique partners entered my life, Lisa Ludwig and Michelle Griep. We formed our own online group, the Penwrights, and being serious about publishing, we were tough on one another. So tough, we all earned nicknames: Attila the Holmes, Hannibal Dotta, Genghis Griep, and Ludwig von Frankenpen. Me? Oh, I’m Ane of Mean Gables. And so the legend was born.
Through my Penwrights, I learn more every day, and through conferences, I’ve always gleaned a golden nugget from each one—something that takes my writing to a new level. And each time, I see God’s hand directing me this way and that.
In 2006, an editor took my manuscript to committee. While I waited for the result, expecting a contract of course, I got an agent. However … sigh …the editorial committee said no. Then, God called my agent into ministry, and we parted friends.
But I was discouraged. I cried out to God, asking … okay, whining … why wasn’t I getting anywhere? I had been so sure God called me to write. From the moment Hubs first said those words, stories bubbled in my mind all the time. I needed a sign.
And God gave me the one. An editor, (now an agent) gave me the encouragement to keep on keeping on. After reading a manuscript, she affirmed that I’d learned the craft. That carried me for months.
At the next conference I attended, I connected with my second agent. She put my work in front of numerous publishers, and more committees, and finally, in 2010, she called to say my manuscript had passed editorial committee and was going to pub board!
This was it! Whoopee! Pub board loved it, but their slate was filled, so the editor was going to hold it for their next quarter. Only she retired before the next quarter, and her computer hard drive was wiped clean. I was lost in cyber oblivion.
Then my agent retired. Do you see a pattern here? I did and it looked like a rollercoaster. Once again, I whined, “Lord, what is going on?”
And He said, “Wait. Trust me.” He didn’t offer me another choice, so I chose to trust.
The ACFW conference was approaching, so I contacted some agents I’d love to work with. We set up meetings. Then I got all my prayer partners, my critique partners, my church, and family praying.
I had a very specific prayer request. This would be my third agent. I wanted the one God wanted for me. So I asked everyone to pray that the Lord would seal the lips of those not planned for me, and loose the lips of only the agent He had chosen for me.
And He did. Boy, did He. One never saw me. One missed our appointment. The third had a blood sugar drop and didn’t recognize me. And the one God planned for me, Sandra Bishop with MacGregor Literary, offered representation.
I have to admit, I didn’t know whether to cheer or feel sorry for her, given my track record. While at the conference, we received an offer for a 2-book contract. But once again, God said no and we turned it down.
By this time, I began to wonder if I’d ever publish. Yes, that was my goal, but if God had something different for me, I was fine with it. I just felt bad for Sandra. She worked so hard for me.
And my heart quickened. All right, God! This was it. This time, He said, “Yes.”
I’m so glad I didn’t push but listened to my agent’s advice. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this journey, it’s this: God must be part of the equation. Though I’d learned the craft earlier in my journey, He wasn’t ready for me to publish. I won’t know why this side of Heaven, but I’m okay with that.
I believe people let down their guard when they think they’re being entertained. Through fiction, I can entertain readers. Through fiction, I can present seeds of God’s truth. Then when they least expect it, the story can reach out, touch their hearts, and change them. And isn’t that why we write?
With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.
Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It’s impossible not to, what with Claire’s zany antics and Patsy’s self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is personal.
With their marriages in as much disarray as the town, Claire and Patsy embark on a mission of mishaps and miscommunication, determined to restore warmth to Chapel Springs —and their lives. That is if they can convince their husbands and the town council, led by two curmudgeons who would prefer to see Chapel Springs left in the fifties and closed to traffic.