I had the priveledge of interviewing Lynnette Bonner, author of Rocky Mountain Oasis. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did!
Lynnette Bonner went from being the daughter of missionaries in Malawi, Africa, to the wife of a pastor in the Pacific Northwest. They have four children, ages 15 to 5. Her first novel, Rocky Mountain Oasis, the first of the historical romance The Shepherd Heart’s Series, debuts this August, with the second of the series, High Desert Haven due out in 2010.
Lynnette, congratulations on your new release, Rocky Mountain Oasis! It must be rewarding to have your hard work validated. How long have you been writing? Tell us about your road to publication.
Thank you! Yes, writing is hard work – but the hard work doesn’t stop once the book is accepted. After that the real fun of trying to write that next book while marketing your previous books begins. Ah! The life of a writer! What better life could there be? I LOVE it!
I’ve been writing since probably 1999 with the intention of one day getting published. Before that I dabbled. J I finished Rocky Mountain Oasis in 2000 and started shopping it around. If a publisher had a listing in the Christian Writer’s Market Guide and said they were even remotely interested in historical fiction I sent them a proposal. Then the rejections started rolling in….
Publishing houses said, “Unfortunately, we find we must decline the opportunity to publish this project.” Agents said, “With great regret, I must pass on this opportuni
ty….” And I began to realize the mountain I was attempting to climb.
Then in late 2001 a small e-book publisher said they wanted to publish the book! I was thrilled. The contract was good and didn’t require me to sign my first born away, so I signed with dollar signs dancing in my head – after all, the internet was booming! Surely my wonderful story would take off and I would soon be known world-wide, right? Well, ahem, I made about 90 cents before the company went out of business a couple months later, and those were sales to my neighbor down the street and my brother, I think.
When the e-book publisher went belly-up, I was back to square one. By that time, I was homeschooling my two oldest kids and had a toddler to boot. Writing got put on the back burner. 2003 ushered in the birth of our daughter and in 2004 we moved from Idaho to Washington. I was still homeschooling and not writing. But through all those years I just kept praying about Rocky Mountain Oasis. I told the Lord the book was in His hands (I’m pretty sure He already knew this.) And that if He had given it to me just to help me through those tough, stressful years, I would try to be content with that. But I kept asking Him to direct my steps where the book was concerned. I specifically remember praying that if the Lord wanted this book to be published He would need to “drop a publisher in my lap” because I didn’t have time to shop it around again.
My mom is also a writer and she called me up one day in early 2007 to tell me about a new publisher on the scene, OakTara. One of her critique partners, Linda Reinhardt, had just gotten a contract with them. I checked them out and they had super simple submission guidelines, so I zipped up my file and fired it off to them. (Problem – their guidelines didn’t call for zipped files.) By December I still hadn’t heard from them – and I thought, “Well, I’ll try sending it to them with the files unzipped. Duh! (Insert slap to forehead.) So at midnight on December 23rd, 2007 I fired off another cover letter with my now almost 8 year old baby attached. They were the only publisher I’d submitted to in 6 years.
I love to hear author’s stories of what is was like to get The Call. What was it like for you? Did you get an actual phone call or an email?
I got an email. Since OakTara’s guidelines at the time said to expect to hear from them within 8 weeks of submission, I pretty much gave up when I hadn’t heard anything by April. Then on June 9th, 2008 I was having trouble with my email program and couldn’t get it to download email from my provider. So I’d gone online to fix something on the provider end – I hadn’t had email for about a day. I wasn’t even trying to read emails, I’d just gone to the provider to see what the problem was, get the annoyance fixed and get on with my day, but I happened to glance at the new emails as I was looking for something else, and I saw “Rocky Mountain Oasis” in the subject line of one. My hands stilled. I stared at that email subject, and tried to swallow my heart back down into my chest, because I’d actually given up on OakTara getting back to me at that point. It had been so long since I’d submitted to them (6 months) and did I really want to read another rejection right now? Curiosity got the better of me. I opened the email right there online (of course) and the opening line was: “Rocky Mountain Oasis is precisely the type of novel OakTara is interested in – quality fiction, from a fresh perspective – and we’d like to offer you the opportunity to join OakTara’s growing stable of authors.” I’m not kidding when I say I had to read the email a couple times to get it to sink in.
Tell us a little bit about your book.
Rocky Mountain Oasis is a story about a young woman who’s lived with abuse her entire life. Sent west as a mail-order bride by her uncaring uncle, she meets, for the first time ever, a man whose religion is not just a show for Sundays. What is a girl to do with that kind of Love? Dare she trust it? Or is it simply another mirage in the desert of her life?
What led you to write in that setting and time period?
I’ve always loved historical fiction. There is something about being transported to a time where life was hard, people worked from sun-up to sun-down to scrape together a living, and communities were tight-knit families, that has always appealed to me.
You have a sequel coming out in 2010, High Desert Haven. Can you give us a peek into that book?
High Desert Haven, follows the life of Jason, a secondary character in Rocky Mountain Oasis. Here is a short synopsis:
When her husband is killed in a strange riding accident Nicki Trent is left with a toddler and a run-down ranch. Determined to bring her ranch back from the brink of death, Nicki hires handsome Jason Jordan as a ranch manager. But when her neighbor, William, starts pressing for her hand in marriage, the bank calls in a loan she didn’t even know about, bullets start flying, and a burlap dummy with a knife in its chest shows up on her doorstep, Nicki wonders if this ranch is really worth all the trouble.
To make matters worse, terrible things keep happening to her neighbors. When her friend’s homestead is burned to the ground and William lays the blame at Jason’s feet, Nicki wonders how well she knows her new hand.
Where is the God who promised to be a comfort in the Valley of Death? Does he even remember that Nicki exists? And can she believe Jason’s assurances that he had nothing to do with the fire?
Have you written in any other genres?
None that are published… yet. I’m one of those writers who has about 4 or 5 stories going at the same time. I’m currently working on book 3 in The Shepherd’s Heart series, writing two contemporary romances, a fantasy-type romance, and another historical romance set in Africa. I’m not letting myself start another one until at least one of those is finished!
Your blog has some great posts on marketing. What advice do you have for getting your name out there?
I think the best advice I could give to people would be, “Be bold.” Don’t be hesitant to ask for help with promotion. Generally, other writers are more than willing to help get your name out there, give you an endorsement, etc. Also, there is a plethora of great information available on the web about marketing. Be intentional about learning the best ways of marketing your works.
What has brought you the most joy in your writing? What has been the most difficult aspect of writing?
I think the most joy, for me, comes when someone tells me how much they liked my story.
I would have to say the most difficult aspect of writing is the inevitable rejection. There will be rejection by editors and publishing houses. There will be rejection from readers who think you’ve written a bunch of drivel. Rejection is part of a writer’s life. Developing a hard skin helps, but rejection still hurts.
What has God taught you on this writing journey?
I think one big thing I’m still learning (and probably will be for a long time to come) is that God’s opinion of me is the only one that I need to worry about. If I can take a rejection and then look to God and say, “Okay, Lord. I got another rejection. Help me to remember who I am in You,” that is a giant step in the right direction.
Do you have any advice for new and aspiring writers? Anything you would do differently?
I think it goes without saying that you need to make your writing the very best it can be. Some ways of doing that are: Attending writers conferences, reading writing books, reading writing blogs, participating in a critique group or groups, and learning to let go of your ‘precious’ words.
I think one thing I would do differently would be to keep writing even in the midst of rejection. I never completed my second novel until the first one was finally accepted, even though I started plenty of stories as ideas struck.
I have one last fun question for you. If you were granted three wishes, what would they be?
These are to be indulgent, guilt-free wishes! (Our family’s spiritual and physical health are always on the list. . .these are wishes just for you!)
Ha! Oh goody! Let’s see…
1. More money – I’d like to have a log cabin in the country, build an orphanage in Malawi, take mission’s trips, give my kids more fun things like summer camps etc. (That all counts as 1 right? Lol)
2. A Maid for my log cabin in the country – if she cooked too that would be awesome!
3. A lifetime supply of all types of Swiss Chocolate.
Lynnette has graciously offered a free download of Rocky Mountain Oasis today to a lucky commenter! I will do a random draw on August 1. You have a week to post a comment and please leave your email address, so Lynnette can contact you with instructions if you are the lucky winner!
To read an excerpt from Rocky Mountain Oasis, go HERE.
To purchase Rocky Mountain Oasis, go HERE
To follow Lynnette on Twitter, go HERE
To find Lynnette on Shoutlife, go HERE.
Good luck in the draw!!!