Are you a plotter or a pantster?
You know how show dogs are trained to parade around beside their master, heeling and posing all proper and pretty? Take any of those dogs off leash, throw a bone, and off they’ll go, all frisky and slobbery, revealing their true nature. That’s me. I’ve been trained to be a plotter. I think I’m supposed to be a plotter, and indeed, plot I do. But, my characters are in the habit of throwing me a bone and off I go, all excited about where they’re leading me. By the second chapter, my outline is already useless. I throw up my hands and go for the ride in true pantster fashion.
What’s more important: characters or plot?
An interesting plot, alone, will not carry a reader to the end of a novel. Have you ever read a book that totally enthralled you, but when a friend asked what it was about, it sounded really lame, like, “It’s about a middle-aged woman with writer’s block.”? (Insert friend’s yawn here.) The thing is, you fell in love with that middle-aged woman. You cried when she cried, you laughed when she laughed, and you heaved a sigh of relief when she finally overcame her writer’s block. Right? It’s the characters who steal our hearts and make a story unforgettable.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
We writers share a terrifying vulnerability. Before we pass out drafts of our work to our writers’ group, we stand before them wringing our hands and apologizing. “It’s still rough.” “It’s an early draft.” “It’s not much.” We behave like peasants trembling before a king who is sure to find us wanting. Multiply this fear a hundredfold at the idea of submitting to a publisher. We drag our feet, bite our nails, brace ourselves for certain rejection. Sadly, many writers can’t summon the courage to do it. My advice is to stop apologizing and stop wringing your hands. Be brave and bold. Be quick to send submissions. Editors are just people. People who love relatable characters and a good story. Just tell them one.
How did you get the idea for your book?
One way that I remain rooted to the source of my inspiration is to go on annual silent retreats. This isn’t easy for me because of my social, extroverted nature. The first time I went, I’m not certain what I expected, but I spent a whole day storming around tight-fisted and miffed at God for tricking me into coming. More than once, I hid behind a tree to call friends for some conversation. Eventually, I ran out of friends to call and surrendered to the idea that God might have a good reason for dragging me there. Once I heard the quiet promptings in the silence, I was hooked. One year, before one of these retreats, I was up to my eyeballs in a ministry for middle grade girls, and the idea for the “I Am Girl” series blossomed in the silence. I love the openness of children’s minds, hearts, and souls. I want to write engaging books that might encourage faith and virtue to take shape within that openness.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
If I do say so myself, I’m an excellent procrastinator when it comes to all domestic chores. You name it, laundry, cleaning, cooking — I’m a pro at dodging it until it grabs me by the hair and screams to be done. I’d rather spend my time with the people I’ve been gifted for a season, since I can’t know how long the season will last. Some of these people I encounter at my part-time “church lady” job directing children’s ministries. But, my super-favorites still live under my roof, and I know for a fact that this priceless season is ending soon. So, I’m savoring these days of having a back yard pool full of teenagers, a front yard that resembles a used car lot, and nights trying to stay awake until they get in (I’m a spectacular failure at this). In short, if I’m not writing, I’m with the people I love.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?
Yes! Please visit me online. I want to get to know you! Send me a message and tell me about the quirky, funny, or hard things that make your life, well… YOUR life. I’m always looking for inspiration for the next “I Am Girl” character. Book Two, VIOLET, is in the works! Subscribe at www.reneelichtenhan.com for the latest “I Am Girl” news.
Twelve-year-old Carabelle can’t wait to spend the summer with her best friend, Gracie, swimming all day and watching movies all night. While Carabelle’s single mom works, the pair of BFFs dive into their adventures. But when a tragic accident tears Carabelle from her home and everyone she loves, she no longer knows where she belongs.
Carabelle finds herself trapped in a foster home with the school bully, Drake Duff, and becomes a prisoner to her own bitterness and anger. The only thing that can set her free is the power of forgiveness. And the only way to find it is by exploring some hard, painful truths that will tie her to Drake forever.