Kelly: Hi Voni! It's wonderful to have you on my blog my friend. In the short time we've known each other we've learned that we share an interest in the suspense genre and we have the same propensity for names and topical matter. How cool is that? Let's get right into it~ We learn in the writing industry that one of the best ways to publishing a full length novel is to get our feet wet through short stories and magazine articles. How has the process of creating one helped you with writing your novel?
Voni: You know, I have a copy of a short story I wrote when I was five. It's something about a red pony and is mostly legible. So short stories are something I've always done. Stepping up to novel-length has been the single hardest writing challenge for me. Spending two years in a college internship writing radio copy didn't help that any. But both the radio copywriting and the short stories taught me to get to the heart of the matter, to zoom in on the important things in the scene you're creating. Coordinating the flow and the details of plot throughout a whole novel takes some planning. I have three bulletin boards full of index cards detailing the all-important plot points. But it still comes back to finding the heart of each scene as I get ready to write it.
Besides the short stories you've published on your blog, you have had two others accepted for publication. Can you tell us a little about these projects?
V. I actually wrote "The Wedding," on the job. Fortunately, my Christian boss both understood and encouraged; we were having a slow day. The idea just came and a half-hour later, there it was. Several months later, I saw Linda Evans Shepherd's call for submissions for Heart-Stirring Tales of Romance, so I sent it in. It's about some jitters at the wedding altar, and, as I say, parts of it are autobiographical, but I'm not saying which parts.
"Flash Mob" is one of a series of short stories – I ought to write some more – that I wrote for my blog about a grandmother and her bucket list. The flash mob takes place in a nursing home, and it was just fun to write. I posted it on my blog, and Kim Bond saw it there and requested to publish it in Spiritual Citizens: A Christian Fiction Anthology. (It's free online). That was a fun way to get published, too.
K: I love the titles! How did you come up with them?
V: Titles are pretty natural to me. I mean, "The Wedding" about wedding jitters, and "Flash Mob" about a flash mob. Short and sweet and curiosity-raising, you know.
K: Of course I know the answer to this question, but for our reader's sake, can you talk about your current work in progress?
V: It's called Nothing Hidden, and it is the story of secrets coming back to haunt you. In this case, unless the main character, Ryan, is going to let the bad guys kill his best friend's widow, he must face all the dirty secrets in his life, and those of his politician father.
K: Voni, as crit partner and writer friends, we've grown to know each other a little and some of the tougher problems we've had to face in life. I know that you've dealt with and overcome some serious issues. How has that affected your writing?
V: It has given me courage to let my characters go into the dark places of life, to not shy away from those places. The dark places are where real, true story is found, and, not coincidentally, where Christ is found.
K: You have shared that your mom, also a writer, has been one of the greatest influences in your life. How has she done that and can you share a moment when you knew you would write a novel?
V: The short story about the red pony I mentioned above? She helped me write a query letter for it. On her special pink flower paper that I wasn't allowed to use for just anything! It's a pretty great letter for a 5-year-old. We never actually sent it to a publisher, but the thing is, she gave me the idea that writing is a dream for me, that I have the talent to be published.
That, and she bought me books. Lots of books.
She read and critiqued my writing. Constantly expecting more.
When she was the editor of a national religious magazine, she would occasionally pay me to proofread. One time I did so, and she handed it right back to me. "You can do better than this. Proof it again if you want paid." That was a powerful message of belief in me. Thanks, Mom.
I knew I'd write a novel one day when I first read Little Women. I so understood the character of Jo and the way stories flew around her head. I cried, still cry, at the scene where Amy throws Jo's manuscript into the fire. No computer back-ups, or even carbon copies, in those days! At least it turned out for the best, because the stories couldn't help but come out of Jo. Again. That's how story is for me, too.
V: Rich is the legal assistance attorney for the Coast Guard for the state of Alaska (yep, the whole state). We have seen bears and whales, seals and sea lions, in the wild. And buffalo. We walked up Pyramid Mountain. We've learned the joys of salmonberries and the midnight sun and bald eagles literally lining the trees outside the fish canneries. We fell in love with the extremely diverse population of Natives, Filipinos, Hispanics. Last, but not least, this is a literal rain forest, so we've learned the simple appreciation of sunshine, since we get so little. (By the way — Rich's salmonberry-jalapeno jelly is awesome!)
I, however, did decline the invitation to try muktuk — that's raw whale blubber! Do you blame me?
For my next writing project, I am going to take advantage of Rich's contacts in the Coast Guard to research and write a mystery set in Kodiak, involving the Coast Guard. I'm letting the plot ideas percolate while I finish Nothing Hidden.
K: Beautiful! You're the bomb Voni and a great crit partner to boot! Thanks for sharing on my blog today. :-D
V: You are, too, Kelly! Thanks for both the friendship and the wonderful critiques. Iron sharpens iron, yes? Thanks for having me.
Voni Harris has been writing stories practically since she learned to read. She holds a radio-TV degree from Drake University, and her short story “The Wedding” was published in Heart-Stirring Stories of Romance (edited by Linda Evans Shephard). Voni writes from her family’s home on the beautiful Alaskan island of Kodiak, and at just 4’6” tall, Voni considers herself the ultimate Short Story Lady. Nothing Hidden was titled “Next of Kin” when it won ACFW’s 2013 First Impressions contest in the suspense/mystery/thriller category
To learn more about Voni and her writing visit her on her blog Vonildawrites
To read Voni's short story The Wedding, you can purchase Linda Shepherd's book here
And for your FREE PDF copy of Flash Mob