Interview with Virginia Smith – Author of Sincerely Mayla

Originally Posted at Bibliophile’s Retreat by Melissa Meeks

Readers today please welcome Virginia Smith to Bibliophile’s Retreat. We enjoyed a visit via email that I am now sharing with you readers. There’s some fun trivia as well as more topical information about her writing and the Mayla Books in particular.

1. Who do you want to meet and why?
I’d like to meet Billy Graham. I’ve never actually heard the man speak, and I really didn’t know much about him until recently I heard Jerry Jenkins, who assisted Dr. Graham in writing his autobiography. That Dr. Graham made a profound impact on Mr. Jenkins was obvious. He was speaking to a group of Christian writers, so you’d think he might mention the books he’s most famous for, the Left Behind series. If he mentioned them at all, it was in passing. No, he spent most of his time talking about his experience talking to this amazingly humble man of God. It made me want to sit down with him and get to know him.

2. What’s your favorite comfort food?
Ah, chicken and dumplings the way my mama cooks them. The broth thick and savory, chunks of fresh chicken, dumplings bite-sized and chewy and flavored with a blend of seasonings I can’t duplicate no matter how hard I try. Mom has showed me how she does it, and even let me help, but they don’t taste the same when I attempt them on my own. When I was a girl, we had chicken and dumplings rarely, only on special occasions, so I associate them with happy family times.

3. What would be your dream vacation?
My husband and I are avid scuba divers, so our dream vacation includes tropical beaches, warm, crystal clear waters, mature coral reefs with lots of large, colorful wildlife. But no sharks. I’m not into sharks. The few encounters I’ve had with them have turned out okay, but I don’t want to take chances.

4. Is there anyone who has influenced / encouraged you to write other than God who ultimately gives us any talents including creativity? Who and how / why?
You’re so right – God is the giver of all gifts and talents worth having. And He also gives us encouragement, and places people in our lives to encourage us. He used my mom to influence me. She has been a writer, so she modeled that for me when I was younger. I remember her stories were always wonderful and inventive. When I wrote the first scene of Just As I Am, I let her read it. Then I got busy at work and I put it down and didn’t work on it again for a long time. She not only encouraged me, she practically badgered me to “finish that book!” Well, when I did, that turned out to be my debut novel. I owe her a lot.

5. Can you give a brief synopsis of your journey to publication with your first book?
Well, it took over twenty years of painful rejection, so it wasn’t a brief journey. But I believe the Lord held onto the story that would be my first novel until He knew I was ready. I couldn’t have written Just As I Am back when I started, even though I thought I was ready to be published.

I knew deep inside that Just As I Am was going to be the book that broke the publication barrier for me. For one thing, it was the first thing I’d written solely and completely for God. Prior to that, all my writing was done for selfish reasons. This was my first book of true obedience.

6. What else have you written / are you currently writing (including unpublished works)?
I write in two genres – contemporary and mystery/suspense. In the mystery area, I’ve got a couple of books out (Murder by Mushroom and Bluegrass Peril), and three more coming. The upcoming series is about a classical music trio who play at weddings. Everywhere these girls go, somebody dies and they get sucked into the situation. The series tagline is “When Murder Comes to Town.” The first, A Taste of Murder, comes out in October. Then Murder at Eagle Summit is April 2009 and Scent of Murder will be released in June 2009.

I am really excited about my new Sister-to-Sister Series. The idea for this series came straight from my own life – my relationship with my sisters. They are amazing women, fun and energetic and creative and lively. I wanted to write a story that relays the depth of our feelings for each other, and that lets readers get a peek of just how much fun we have together Book one, Stuck in the Middle, came out in February, and the second book, Age before Beauty, comes out February 2009. That book is finished, and I’m working on the third, Last but Not Least.

7. What first gave you the idea for the books about Mayla?
A visiting singer who came to my church. She wore a labret stud (that’s a stud mid-way between her lower lip and her chin.) I was fascinated. I’d never seen an outspoken Christian wear facial jewelry. Had she gotten the piercing before or after she became a Christian? How did her friends and family and home church react to her looks? The more I thought about her, I realized that she was about as contemporary as I could imagine! So I decided to create a character modeled after her. And if I was going to write a contemporary book, I wanted to make it as contemporary as I could – I gave my character purple hair, and a roommate who was a bartender, and a couple of gay friends. I wanted my character to be real, and to face issues that young people really do face in today’s society. As I started writing, the Lord just took over. He really did guide me through every word in Just As I Am.

So naturally I was eager to write a second Mayla book. For one thing, I wanted to see if the Lord would repeat the process. (He did!) And also, I wanted to find out what happened next.

8. What else would you like to share with readers about yourself or Sincerely Mayla?
Sincerely, Mayla is a book straight from my heart because in it Mayla encounters a few issues that have affected me personally. (SPOILER WARNING!) Pregnancy Resource Centers have always held a special place in my heart, and I wanted to show what a life-changing impact they can have in the lives of women who often are at a low point in their lives. And I firmly believe that God loves each of us no matter what. His love is immense and without boundaries because of who He is, not because of who we are. I hope that comes through in Sincerely, Mayla.

9. Share with us one of the craziest things you’ve done or that’s happened to you?
My life is remarkably un-crazy. I guess the craziest thing I’ve ever done (at least some people think I’m nuts) is put on a life support device and venture into an alien environment. That’s how my scuba diving instructor described it. You’re wearing a bunch of equipment—some of it made out of cheap plastic—and carrying your own air on your back. You dive down to depths in which humans were not meant to survive. I went down 120 feet once. And loved every minute of it.

10. What five books would you take with you to a desert island?
The Bible.
The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. Can I take the whole set? If not, I’d have to pick Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
The Restorer’s Son, by Sharon Hinck.
The Dragonriders of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey.
Survive on a Desert Island, by Claire Llewellyn. (No, I’ve never read it, but it seems like a good one to have in that situation!)

11. What concept or scripture is God revealing more deeply to you in this season of your life? And how is that revelation influencing your life?
I’m doing a Bible study right now by Beth Moore called “To Live is Christ” about the life and ministry of Paul. I’m learning how God can take even the worst of us – or the worst in us – and redeem it to glorify Himself. It’s making me look inside myself and identify the areas that I need to ask Him to transform.

12. Why did you start writing and when?
I started writing back in my early twenties, and it wasn’t for a very noble reason. I’d read a short story in a magazine that had a major plot hole and wasn’t very well written. I thought, “I could do better than that!” so I set out to prove it. I was about to learn a very painful lesson, that writing well is harder than it looks.

13. How do you choose names and get to know your characters?
I choose names from a Baby Name book, and from various online sites that list popular baby names by year of birth. And I occasionally choose names from my past, only I scramble them. For instance, I have a couple of former singing partners named Audrey Roberts and Faye Coates. There’s a character in Murder by Mushroom named Audrey Coates.

I get to know my main characters by interviewing them. I formulate a list of interview questions, very much like you’ve done with this interview, and then I answer them from the viewpoint of the character. I learn a lot of really interesting stuff about them, and only a fraction of it ever shows up in book.

14. What’s your favorite character / scene from the Mayla Books (so far)?
In Just As I Am, I love the scene toward the end where we discover why Sylvia is so bitter about Christians. And in Sincerely, Mayla I love the scene where Mayla and Lindsey tour the Pregnancy Resource Center. Both of those scenes have very personal meaning to me, and I can’t read them without tearing up.

15.Do you have any teasers you can share for your next book about Mayla if one is planned or your next project if this is the last Mayla Book?
Oh, I have lots of plans! But let me share the teaser for my next release. A Taste of Murder will hit bookstore shelves in October.

Jasmine Delaney and her classical music trio travel to a small Kentucky town during a weekend Bar-B-Q Festival in order to get a peek at a handsome musician she met online. When she arrives, Jazzy is in for a few unpleasant surprises. Her hotel is overflowing with pint-sized beauty pageant contestants and their fanatical mothers. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she discovers that Derrick Rogers is tone deaf. But those discoveries pale to insignificance when she unlocks her room and finds a dead body in the bathtub–and it’s covered in barbeque sauce. Not even the soothing strains of Haydn can still her jangled nerves–especially when the killer seems intent on making her the next victim.

16. Are there any closing remarks you’d like to share?
If you read Sincerely, Mayla, I hope you’ll let me know what you think. I love to hear from readers. You can send me a comment through my website. And be sure to check out the “Fun Stuff” page, because I’m constantly giving away books and other fun stuff.

Thank you for taking the time to share with my readers.

Thank you for having me! I enjoyed the chat.

Don’t forget to check out the other bloggers on this tour there are links here. My review is here. You can read reviews at Amazon by clicking the book cover and don’t forget the author’s website use the link in her closing comments or click her picture.

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