This month we have the pleasure of meeting Davalyn Spencer. Her new book, As You Are at Christmas is in bookstores this month.
Davalynn Spencer is an award-winning journalist whose writing has taken her from the city crime beat and national rodeo circuit to adjunct professorship and inspirational publication. Her work has appeared in The Upper Room, Power for Living, The Quiet Hour, Chicken Soup for the Soul, American Cowboy, Western Horseman, and Prorodeo Sports News. She speaks and leads worship at women’s retreats and writes an inspirational column for The Line Rider, a publication of the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Authors Network, and The Christian PEN, and her inspirational romance is represented by Linda Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency. Davalynn makes her home on Colorado’s Front Range with her husband, Mike, and their Queensland heeler, Blue.Visit Davalyn: www.davalynnspencer.com www.davalynnspencer.blogspot.com
Angela Murphy’s plans for a cozy Colorado Christmas shatter when she finds her fellow-teacher boyfriend entangled with another woman. But she goes home anyway—to the Berthoud Boarding House where her grandmother Mollie needs help with tasks requiring both Angela’s aid and that of a handsome new boarder, Matt Dawson. Temporarily rooming at the boarding house until his new furnace arrives, Matt sees through Mollie’s manipulations. But he can’t complain about spending time with the beautiful gray-eyed school teacher and the mangy stray dog they pick up on their way home from cutting a Christmas tree. In the company of both a beauty and a beast, Matt remembers the encouragement of a long-forgotten youth minister. Will those words draw him back to a long-forgotten God? And will Angela find that home lies not in the Victorian house of her childhood, but in the arms of the man she’s grown to love?
1) As writers, we choose names for our characters to bring deeper meaning to the story. You have an unusual name. Is there a story behind your name, Davalynn?
My father’s name was David and he wanted to call me Davy Lee. After my mother threatened to leave him for such a choice, she came up with the name Davalynn. It’s definitely been a conversation starter all these years.
2) Your new book, As You Are at Christmas, is out this month. Tell us more about the book and what inspired the story.
My agent encouraged me to try a novella just for fun. Christmas is my favorite time of year, so I jumped in with a protagonist loosely based on a fellow teacher who suffered the fallout of an unfaithful spouse. From there, the characters told me their story and I wrote it down. (Some of you out there will understand such craziness.) Fifteen days later, I had a Colorado Christmas romance set in the fictional Berthoud Boarding House. The theme of God’s unconditional love wove itself through the story as I wrote.
3) What is your favorite Christmas memory?
My favorite Christmas memory has to be the year our Jack Russell terrier anointed the “living” tree before we could get it into the house. Trouble was, we didn’t know about Rocco’s christening until the little tree and its burlap-wrapped dirt ball warmed up in the front room and filled our house with a pungent perfume. I think it’s the closest our family has ever come to a barn-scented Christmas resembling what Mary and Joseph probably encountered.
4) You teach writing to college students. What do you feel is the most important lesson a beginning writer can learn?
The most important lesson a writer can learn is to write. “Just put your brain on paper,” I tell my students. They fear the blank page. They are afraid their thoughts are not good enough, and at the beginning of the semester, they don’t yet understand the value of editing and rewriting. It’s all about the rewriting, according to Robert Lewis Stevenson, Leo Tolstoy, and every other soul who has ever tried to affix black letters to white paper.
5) Who are some of your favorite authors? Why?
Choosing my favorite author is like choosing my favorite Bible verse—it depends on where I am at the moment. I like Randy Ingermanson and Frank Peretti, Lauraine Snelling and Jeanette Windle, C.S. Lewis, M.M. Kay, and Mark Twain plus a host of others. However, the author I go back to and re-read the most often is Gary D. Schmidt. I discovered his books while teaching middle school. Yes, they’re great stories for kids, and no, his is not the genre in which I write, but I want to absorb the way he uses words. They breathe. I can hear them, taste them, smell them. His settings reflect the inner conflicts of his characters and I love that.
6) Tinsel or no tinsel on your Christmas tree?
No tinsel. We’re a bit unconventional (see question number 3 above). Our wreath is an old team-roping rope of my husband’s with a pine bough and barbed-wire star tied on with a red bandana.
7) When did you first know that God was calling you to be a writer?
I wrote my first story in sixth grade. The teacher asked me to read it at a science campout and I’ve been writing ever since. Confirmation came over the years as I instinctively pulled toward journalism, freelancing, editing, and creative writing. My next book comes out this summer from Heartsong Presents, another is out there looking for a home, and I have four more rolling around in my head.
8) Seat of the pants writer or outliner? If you were to have to try to convince someone to use your method, what would you tell them to persuade them?
I’m definitely a SOTP writer, at least when I start out. About half way through I plot a few details so I know where I’m going. I keep notes on my characters and also a “calendar” of events. Even during my other life as a crime-beat reporter, I just sat down and wrote what I had. But in spite of all that, I have to teach my college students how to use an outline for their major research papers. They’d get lost without one. If I can just get students to put their thoughts on paper, then I can teach them how to move them around later. Part of the fun in writing is the discovery process along the way.