Lynn: In 2000, while researching for a non-fiction project, I came across a footnote that piqued my interest--a terrible crime committed in my hometown and a riot in support of the men accused rather than the victim.
If story is conflict, then history is full of such stories. Following the Civil War, there was so much conflict as our country struggled to reunify and settle the western frontier. Man against man. Pioneers pitting their strength against untamed lands. And always, like a scarlet thread, God revealing Himself in the affairs of men.
Of course, story ideas always start with "what if?" What it would be like to live amid deeply engrained hatred. What if you suffered great loss due to violence you had no part in? How would you forgive? To explore those questions I created Eliza, a war-weary spinster who heads west during the New Mexican gold rush to escape her grief and runs headlong into the man who caused it.
Anne: Wannabe authors (like me) are always curious about how long it takes to publish. How long did this, your first novel, take (from completion of the first draft prior to landing a publisher to book release)?
Lynn: I enjoyed creative writing in school, but most of my adult writing has been non-fiction. When our last child began his senior year, my wise husband suggested that I start preparing for the "empty nest" phase. (We home schooled, so my life changed radically with that last graduation!) I dove back into fiction by attending a writers' conference in a nearby city.
Not entirely sure of what I was getting myself into, I pitched my story idea to an editor who requested that I send her three chapters. I hadn't written a word of the story yet! Time to get to work. It took me one year to write and polish the manuscript. I sent it off and waited...and waited. The wheels of traditional publishing grind slowly. In the meantime, I began to work on other story ideas. Two years after that first meeting, I received the nicest rejection you could ever imagine.
The editor was encouraging, but their house only planned to publish one western that year. I met her the following year at another writers' conference, and she asked if I had sold the story yet. When I said no, she asked if I would submit it again. Oh, yes! Again the board's response was encouraging. Some of the most valuable advice I ever received came from those two rejections, and I am very grateful. I honed my manuscript to incorporate their suggestions, and the story is much stronger for it.
At about this same time Kindle readers hit the market, revolutionizing self-publishing. As my first serious foray into fiction, I have always viewed More Precious Than Gold as "one to grow on." I decided to expand my original goals and wade into self-publishing as well. The e-book released in July 2011, four years after I conceived of the storyline. It's done very well, and I released a paperback version in May 2012.
Anne: You mentioned a second book in the series--can you give us a sneak peek at what it's about?
Lynn: The second story takes place fifteen years later and focuses on Zeke and Millie, who were important characters in the first book. As health issues and financial setbacks threaten, Zeke works hard to keep from losing his land, but it takes a crisis to make him realize that he is in danger of losing something even more important--his family--unless he can win back the love of his wife.
Anne: Do you have any projects on the back burner?
Lynn: Check my Facebook page around Thanksgiving for announcements about a special project for Christmas--a collection of flash fiction and short stories to gift as e-cards. I'm feverishly working to have the stories and artwork ready in time to send to friends on your email list. Some will be free, and all will be under $1, so way less expensive than mailing a traditional card.
Anne: Wow--I will definitely do that, Lynn. Why do you choose to write Christian novels, and why historical fiction?
Lynn: Jesus often taught important truths by using stories that his listeners could relate to. Isn't it so much easier to see answers to the problems in someone else's life? Christian fiction gives us the opportunity to tell modern parables--non-threatening stories with truths the reader can ponder.
As for my choice of historical fiction, they say you should "write what you know." More than once I've been told I was born 100 years too late. :) As I researched for Discover Texas (a state history program I wrote thirteen years ago for private and parochial schools), I discovered enough ideas to keep me busy for a long time. I gravitate toward historical fiction because history is what I know.
Anne: Do you picture any particular person when you picture Jake? How about Eliza?
Lynn: My image for Jake came from an archived Civil War photo. Ironically, the soldier in the picture fought for the Confederacy while Jake fought for the Union, but his face and build were exactly what I had in mind as I wrote.
My model for Eliza is a dear friend's daughter. She fit my image of a wholesome, unaffected young woman who might not be aware of her own beauty. My daughter, a photographer, did the photo shoot. Tons of fun!
Anne: Have you ever experienced anything similar to one of the adventures in More Precious?
Lynn: Perhaps not one of the adventures, but I think we all have times in our life when it's hard to accept difficult circumstances as "God's will." Grief comes to us through no fault of our own, and it seems impossible that God could ever cause such tragedy to work for our good. But He can, and He does, and He will.
Readers can find me on Facebook at Wordsworth Publishing/Lynn Dean.
I blog with a team of Christian writers at www.aNOVELWritingSite.com.
You can check out my non-fiction project at www.discovertexasonline.com.