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Monday, March 27, 2006

Author Interview ~ Sharon Hinck

Sharon is a wife and mother of four children who generously provide her with fodder for her books. She earned an M.A. in Communication from Regent University in 1986 and spent ten years as the artistic director of a Christian performing arts group, CrossCurrent. That ministry included three short-term mission trips to Hong Kong. She has been a church youth worker, a choreographer and ballet teacher, a home-school mom, a church organist, and a freelance writer. One day she’ll figure out what to be when she grows up.

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

The secret is out! THE SECRET LIFE OF BECKY MILLER, published by Bethany House, will hit stores the end of May, 2006. Becky’s rich fantasy life helps her cope with the pressure to be a Wonderful Wife and Marvelous Mom. But she keeps hearing the inner tape play: "Your mission, should you choose to accept it: support your husband when he loses his job, nurture an eccentric circle of friends, raise perfect Christian children, live a life full of Grand Purpose, all while standing on your head and whistling the national anthem. Your fantasy will self-destruct in five seconds." Can she turn off the tape and hear God’s voice before she implodes?

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I did some writing for periodicals over the years, mostly dabbling. I was busy with raising children, running a Christian arts ministry, and other endeavors. Several years ago, when seeking God for direction, I felt His single word call, “Write.” But I waited years for further direction, and nothing I tried had any spark. Then in 2002, I found a Christian writers group. Others in the group were working on novels and it seemed so fun that I decided to give it a try.

I finished my first novel (a mom-lit fantasy about a soccer mom pulled into an alternate world where she fulfills a role like Deborah from the book of Judges) in March of 2003, and was told that a writer’s conference was a good way to see if any editors might be interested. I browsed the internet and stumbled upon Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference (only a few weeks away!). Two of my favorite authors were keynote speakers, so it seemed like a terrific fit. (Except that it was scary to fly across the country, spend all that money, and show my fledgling work to editors and agents for the first time). Truthfully, I expected to be told I didn’t have the chops, and that I needed to go home and learn how to write.

Instead, an agent offered representation. That was enough encouragement to continue writing.

I wrote two more books in the fantasy series, and when no contract came in, tried a new genre and wrote a historical based on the life of my Granny in Russia and Latvia during the Russian Revolution and World War II. In the meantime, I switched agents, and he recommended I focus on contemporary work.

So that year I wrote the first chapter of a mom-lit, THE SECRET LIFE OF BECKY MILLER, on the airplane, while flying home from the Mount Hermon conference. I finished the book over the summer. I met an editor from Bethany House at a small local writer’s conference and had an appointment for him to give me feedback on my work. I told him, “I know Bethany doesn’t publish this genre, so I just want you to tell me what I need to work on as a writer.” (I didn’t want him thinking I was uninformed and trying to submit something that didn’t fit their house). He scanned the first chapter and said, “The writing is fine. Have your agent send this.” What I didn’t know was that Bethany House was planning to explore the chick-lit, mom-lit genres and were looking for a book like mine. It was a total “God thing.”

I got the phone call right before Thanksgiving about the contract offer (for two books) and after I hung up the phone, I wanted to call my agent back right away to be sure he had actual called me, and I hadn’t dreamed it all.

So, if you’re keeping track, that was my fifth complete novel, and the contract came after two years of writing VERY full time, attending several conferences, being active in a local critique group and exchanging work with several online critique partners.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Incessantly. I’m a true tortured artist. My active imagination may help me write, but sadly it also helps me imagine that I can’t write worth beans, and that my agent, editor, and publishing house are all just being nice when they trust me to write a book. I still wait for the letter telling me, “Whoops. We made a mistake. We didn’t mean to send a contract to THAT Sharon Hinck.”

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

Not knowing how to pitch a book and babbling like at idiot at ALL the writer’s conferences I’ve attended. Wasting a LOT of energy on novelist neurosis and angst.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Being published doesn’t validate you. Write from your passion and joy and calling and leave the rest to God.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

Write magazine articles instead of novels because you reach more people that way. (That is great if you are called to write for magazines. But if you are clearly called to write novels, ignore that advice. Even if less people read a book than a magazine article, those folks who read a book enter the world you’ve created for hundreds of pages. You’re able to go much deeper. And I believe storytelling has tremendous power).

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

God is able to bring wonderful, supportive, wise people across our paths exactly when we need them.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

Galatians 1:10. We work not to win approval of man, but of God. And the cool thing is, we already have God’s approval and love, so we don’t have to EARN it. We write because He’s invited us to join the grand adventure of bringing grace to hurting people.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

Rejections on the “book of my heart” that praised the strength of the story and the writing, but said the market wasn’t buying that genre. It feels very frustrating. But I’m trusting that in God’s time, that book will find a home and an audience.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

I always hate that question, because books are really like friends to me, and I hate picking favorites. I love everything from Shakespeare to Austen to Twain to Tolkien, Lawhead, absolutely everything by C.S. Lewis (fiction and nonfiction). I read sci-fi, mysteries, mom-lit, romance, historicals, thrillers, women’s fiction…the works. And I also enjoy many current CBA authors.

A few favorite books:

C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra
Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories
Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair
Madeleine L’engle (most anything, fiction or nonfiction)
I spent a blissful summer in Mitford immersed in Jan Karon. I better stop, because now I want to go curl up and read.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

The fantasy series. Because the first book in the series was my first completed novel, and because those who’ve read the manuscript say it has changed their way of thinking and impacted their lives, and because it’s completely unique.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Writing proposals. Ugh.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

Wake up, hear the crows flapping around my head telling me I’m a lousy writer, shoo them away, get up, get the kids off to school, devotions, grab my laptop and go somewhere (anywhere that I can’t see my piles of laundry, emails, or phone). Write until noon. Come home and edit and/or critique for friends. I’ll spare you the details of all the head-banging and hair-pulling of those hours. Wait for husband to get home so I can force him to read my latest pages, then over-react when he suggests improvements. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

Kristin Heinzman’s ability to make my stomach knot up in empathy for her character.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

When I began writing, I moved a tiny empty bookshelf into my office, ready to receive books I might publish one day. My dream is to need a bigger bookshelf. I also dream that in the miraculous way that God has, my stories will bear “fruit that will last” (as Jesus describes in John 15).

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Try every ten minutes all day!

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Least favorite is when I really can’t see past the fog of self-doubt and feel like I’m slogging through oatmeal. Favorite? The amazing people I’ve gotten to know – authors, editors, agents, marketing folk, readers, crit buddies, etc. And those rare and beautiful days when I write a scene, collapse back in my chair and say, “Wow!” because I uncovered a new understanding of God’s wonder in that moment of writing.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

My publisher kindly (and wisely) said, “Do what you enjoy.” I’m still sorting that out. I’m sending out personal cards and letters to everyone I can think of to let them know about my debut novel, and will be doing a follow-up postcard to that database when the book hits the stores. Also running a website and blog. Guest blogging on Faithchicks and anywhere else I’m invited. I’ve already done some press interviews, and plan on some local television and radio appearances.

Parting words?

Thanks for inviting me to share about my adventure. For something that LOOKS sedate on the outside (a person sitting on a chair, clicking computer keys) this writing life has higher highs and lower lows than most other experiences of my life. Writing a novel means investing so much that you deeply care about the story, which means that you want others to have access to it, which means when those doors don’t open, you feel very real pain. Writing requires as much risk-taking and courage as being a paratrooper or deep-sea diver. The true treasure is found in those moments when I learn something new because of my characters and their stories, and I feel God’s smile.

Please visit my website at for fun info and some helpful tips on the writing life.


  1. Great interview, ladies.

    Sharon, I hope it was okay to laugh at the creative descriptions of your angst.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Very fun interview with a very fun novelist. Sharon, I received your book this weekend and look forward to diving in!

  3. I enjoyed this interview, Gina. Sharon has a wonderful sense of humor which comes through. What I want to know is when do I get the book to review for Novel Reviews? Sharon?

  4. Great interview. I had to smile when I read her favorite books list (I love Fforde's EYRE AFFAIR too!).

  5. Kelly, of COURSE you can laugh. I laugh at my neurosis every day.

    Mary, I'm biting my nails, hoping you'll like the book. Is it normal to feel PANIC now that the Advanced Reader Copies have started going out?

    Ane, I'll check my "influencer list" and if you aren't already on it,(or the BHP reviewer list) I'll be sure to get you a copy.

    YEAH, Ruth! so many people I've recommended Fforde's books to think they are TOO weird. For me they are JUST weird enough. :-)

  6. If Fforde's books are weird, I'll definitely check 'em out! Thanks for sharing with us Sharon. I share your insecurities unfortunatley and love your ability to laugh at yourself. It brought a smile to my lips as I read it this morning.

  7. Thanks, Gina!
    I really enjoyed the ask great questions.

    Ane - could you send me your snail mail address so I can get a book to you for review?


  8. Sharon, I feel like I just spent ten minutes with a good friend. I can't wait to read the book!

  9. YAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!! Great interview! Thanks, Gina and Sharon!


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