Best Selling Christian Author Shares Recipe for Success in Writing
Teresa Neumann : Oct 3, 2011
A BCN Exclusive
"Don't give up! God is still in the business of blessing His children." -Sandra Byrd
(Seattle, WA)—I have long been a fan of Sandra Byrd's writing. A prolific author, she has three dozen published books to her credit and seems to have just as many more waiting up her sleeve for publication. Her teen/adult series, "French Twist," has won her critical acclaim, but it is her current book, "To Die For," about the life of Anne Boleyn, that is, well—excuse the hyperbole—to die for! Sandra is currently working on the next two books of her Tudor-themed "Ladies in Waiting Series" and was kind enough to grant us an interview. (For more information on the book "To Die For" click on the photo to view it in the webstore)
You're the best-selling author of nearly three dozen books. Is there a recipe for such a remarkable accomplishment?
Hard work + Passion + Time + Gifting + Calling + Perseverance. I believe that any career or ministry is going to require all of these elements, and all can have difficult moments fraught with places to get stuck in the slough of despond. So make sure you love what you're doing and whom you're working for and serving. In my case, that would be both the Lord and my beloved readers. You know that old saying, do what you love and it won't be work anymore? It's wrong. LOL! But if you do what you love, the work will be worth it.
To Die For is your most recent book. I loved it, but it seems to be a departure from some of your previous teen/young adult books. Can you tell us what inspired you to take a new direction?
I've always wanted to write what I read. I started out with tween books (and am writing a tween devotional right now for Tyndale House) because I was greatly influenced as a girl by reading. I believe those years are critical in shaping a girl into a young woman. And my French Twist books grew out of my love for baking and for France. My true passion as a reader, though, has always been historical books. I've adored them my entire life and I am thrilled to be writing them now. I am writing the genre that I love to read, which makes all the research, plotting, and writing even more rewarding.
There is a unique perspective of Anne Boleyn in To Die For. You don't portray her as the heartless, ambitious woman so many others have presented her as. What was your reason for doing so?
I think the heartless portrayal of her is patently untrue. As someone once said to me, it seems like all fiction about Anne was written by her rivals or her enemies. Which of us would want that? She was definitely a strong person—ambitious, yes, witty, and able to make her point and use her influence. But she used it mostly for good. Her principle biographer, Eric Ives, says that in that Anne, "would remain a remarkable woman in a century that produced many of great note. There were few others who rose from such beginnings to a crown and none contributed to a revolution as far reaching as the English Reformation." In the end, her final argument with Henry's principle counselor was over the use of the funds England had just received from decommissioning property once owned by the Roman Catholic Church. Anne wanted it to be used charitably. Henry and Cromwell wanted it to go into Henry's coffers.
As a Christian, I felt called to help set the record straight. I believe I will see Anne one day and account for how I handled her life, and I take that seriously. I have not sugar coated her, but I have tried to bring into fiction more of what nonfiction shows us, a complex woman who was also loyal, loving, and intelligent enough to manage Henry for a very long time. I use a line in the book, that the Lord does not always use the gentlest beast to plow the hardest field, but rather the strongest.
I'm stunned by your productivity and vision for future novels. How do you do it? Can you describe an average day for you (such as writing habits, goals, etc.?)
I'm a highly structured and scheduled person, by design and by necessity, I think. Social media has made the author's job more exciting, by providing the ability to connect with colleagues and readers, but also more time consuming. I probably spend an hour a day on social media, perhaps an hour a day on other kinds of marketing outreach, an hour a day on business issues, and then 4-5 hours a day writing or editing. When I am researching, I spend another 3-4 hours a day on top of that.
Working writers have many spoons in the pot at once. I am finishing up the promotional launch for To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn right now. I am also collaborating on the cover for Book Two, The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, and writing/researching Book 3. It's always feast or famine for writers!
I do take time to dream on future books, and to read. Those hours are pure bliss.
How do you juggle family responsibilities and writing?
My husband is a chaplain and we've always shared household duties, childrearing responsibilities, and everything else. We're a team. I do wish that I'd had more down time with my kids, when they were little, but they did get to go on some exciting trips for research, among them: To Catalina Island, for a stay on the Navajo reservation, and to London. Being wired via phone, iPad, Kindle, computer, etc., makes it harder to have downtime with kids and husband. I think we all have to work harder at that, now.
I understand the compunction to write that underscores every writer's life, but on a spiritual level, did you ever get a confirming word, or impression from God that it was your "calling?"
I have always, always wanted to be a writer, since the age of about 6. But when my husband was in seminary, and I was working as an editor, I told the Lord one day, I'd really just like to be writing full time. Maybe when hubby graduates. And I felt Him say back to me, "Why wait?" And so I didn't, and I began writing my first tween novel. That was my call! I felt Him one time, when I was thinking about how hard it was to be published, tell me to stop looking at the odds and start looking at God. There have been times when the going was really hard, and I have thought, well, I'll do something else. But I do not feel released from that call, either. So I press on, like everyone with a ministry, and wait upon God for strength and insight, which He always brings.
The publishing industry has changed drastically in the last few years. What do you see for the future of publishing as it pertains to writers?
It's the wild west and I don't think anyone knows what is going to happen. Certainly self and e-publishing opportunities abound where they had not before, which I think is wonderful. Traditional publishers are learning to become more nimble, too, so that will bring changes that I think we don't even see yet. E-readers have actually made it possible to read many more books by many more authors and for good authors to publish books that might not otherwise have been picked up. I have edited all of my out-of-print tween books for today's readers, commissioned new covers, and they will be up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble soon. I think that's delightful.
For all the novice writers pursuing publication out there, what would your advice be to them?
Although the market is changing, the requirements of the craft have not. Study, learn, get a coach and/or take a course, read writing books. Experienced, working, published writers still do all of the above and new writers must too. Hard work + Passion + Time + Gifting + Calling + Perseverance is still the equation. And don't give up! God is still in the business of blessing His children.