John: What made you want to write Christian fiction?
Sharon: Fiction tells the truth in ways that non-fiction can’t. When I read a powerful novel, I experience what the character is experiencing. That’s different than reading a non-fiction book that tells me "10 Tips to Have a Better Marriage" or "20 Ways to Get Closer to God." When I read a story, then I live with that character and it has such an impact. I felt that from the novels that I’ve read. I wanted to provide that kind of experience.
John: What is the "Sharon Hinck" writing process? Outline first? Fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants?
Sharon: Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method? It gave me nightmares! I kept waking up with nightmares of blizzards.
I’m a discovery writer. I have a scene, a character, a concept that makes me curious and makes me wonder, "what next?" I begin to write to uncover it. It’s fun and thrilling and also kind of dumb because when you work that way, you can paint yourself into a corner that you don’t know you can get out of. I know where it’s aiming but I really don’t know how I’m going to get there. It’s kind of exhilarating and kind of terrifying.
I read a quote by Steven King that went something like this: "It’s like you’ve got this dark hole and some writers like to shine the light into the hole and make sure they see everything. He just reaches down in there and doesn’t know what he’s going to grab and pulls it out ."
I would love to use Randy’s approach. It would feel much safer to have it outlined and laid out. But then it feels like work. It’s like writing a research paper! My characters never do what I expect them to. I learn secrets about them about halfway through the book that colors everything.
John: What books and/or courses influenced your writing the most?
Sharon: There’re the standard writing books, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Writing the Break-Out Novel. Those are all helpful. As far as courses, I had a professor, John Lawing in my grad school classes. I learned so much from him. I also took a poetry class that influenced me a lot. You learn to focus on every syllable. I recently heard David Mamet on Charlie Rose. He said his job as a playwright is to shave syllables. I loved that.
I don’t normally admit this publicly, I do write a little bit of poetry. That actually comes into the style or the flavor of the writing in how I approach it. Some of the poetry classes and the grad school writing classes had more of an impact than the writing books. Some of the conferences I’ve gone to like Mount Hermon and the writing critique groups I’ve belonged to have had a big impact as well.
John: I've heard that Kathy Tyers, when she wrote Firebird, worked on it for a long time. Karen Hancock did the same with Legends of the Guardian King. How long have you been working on "The Restorer?"
Sharon: The seed of the idea came when I was working with the dance company about 20 years ago. The concept was for a theatrical work, so more of a script than a novel. It involved a mom trying to get away from the craziness of her day-to-day life for quiet time with God by sneaking up into attic. Then the characters of the stories in her Bible study would come out of the rafters to interact with her. And that actually formed the seed that germinated for years.
Then I played with some scenes for other things that ended up coming together. The actual novel was started four and a half years ago. I joined a writers group and I was listening to the fun they were having adding on to their novels. I took those concepts that had been kind of mulling in my head and started putting it together.
John: Did publishing a book in another genre (Becky Miller) help sell "The Restorer?"
Sharon: Yes. It absolutely did. The Restorer was the first book I had written and passed around. I kept hearing publishing houses saying they’d look at every genre except sci-fi and fantasy. I continued to write those books because I cared about them so much and hoped one day a door would open.
Then I decided to move on and try some other things. I think the fact that I had begun to build a readership helped overcome those objections that all publishing houses are nervous about sci-fi and fantasy just because it doesn’t pay off. I don’t want a publishing house to lose money.
The other thing I did with The Restorer was target it to core CBA readers. A lot of sci-fi/fantasy isn’t read by the core readership, the women age 20 to 60 in Middle America who go to the Christian bookstores. Mine is purposefully targeted towards those readers because I think those are a lot of women who would love the genre if they got over thinking of it as nerdy Star Trek convention people. The popularity of Lord of the Rings shows that. People love this kind of story if it’s presented in a way that they can identify with.
John: What kind of audience do you hope to gain by having a "soccer mom" as the hero of "The Restorer?"
Sharon: That was very deliberate. I really hoped to woo some readers who might not have tried the genre before. I think it’s such a rich genre but I know a lot of my friends don’t read fantasy. If you say, "This book is a fantasy," they say, "No. I’ll read Karen Kingsbury, I’ll read Francine Rivers, I won’t read fantasy."
After I wrote the manuscript, I passed it around to the gals in my Beth Moore Bible study. And they loved it. That was an important test, to see if I could break through that barrier. Whether that will work in a wider audience, I don’t know. There’s the core fantasy readership, that niche, and then there’s the younger readership that seem to love fantasy. Those will be nice secondary audiences. But I hope the primary audience will be the same women who read Becky Miller books.
We'll put a bookmark in there and save the rest for tomorrow. That's when we'll see what Sharon has to say about speculative Christian fiction.
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