interview by Nancy
Missy Tippens is two-time Maggie winner and 2006 Golden Heart finalist who sold her first full-length novel to Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Her Unlikely Family (Formerly titled Michael’s Surrender in contests) was a February 2008 release. She sold her second book just last week. Welcome, Missy!
We love call stories here in the lair. Would you like to share yours?
I’d love to share it! On January 30, 2007, I came home from the grocery store, put everything away, then made my lunch. As I was walking by the phone with my plate in hand, I decided to check for calls. And I nearly fell over when I saw Harlequin Books on caller ID!
I listened to the message, knowing it could only be good news. They don’t call for rejections! The Steeple Hill senior editor asked me to call her when I got in.
About that time, my husband came home for lunch, so he got to be there when I made the call. (I was so nervous, though, I closed myself in the bedroom!) The editor said she loved the book, told me what she loved about it, and said they wanted to offer me a contract. She told me the terms, and was nice enough to tell me she knew I would probably want to call her back after thinking about it. Since I was in shock, I knew it would be a good idea (even though I wanted to say YES! immediately). I was stunned. My husband was more excited than I was at the time. I called my critique partner, Lindi Peterson, and she just laughed at me because she could tell I was in shock. She said to call her back later to celebrate.
I did call some published friends to get advice on contract negotiating. Then a couple of hours later I called the editor back to accept. Once I had accepted, it finally hit me. I don’t think my feet touched the floor the rest of the day. :)
You do a program on enduring the long road to publication. Are there any tips you'd like to give the AYU banditas and our visitors?
#1 Keep writing! You’ll only get better and better, plus you’ll have something else to immediately offer them once you make that first sale. Also, don’t give up! I stayed on the journey for over 10 years, but never would quit (even though I thought of quitting numerous times). So stubbornness is a good thing! Also, go ahead and build your web presence—website, blogging, etc. And attend conferences, network, and enter contests. You’ll make connections and will get valuable feedback.
Tell us a little about Her Unlikely Family.
Here’s a blurb: Take responsibility for his orphaned niece, yes. Raise her himself, no. A good boarding school was what the girl needed, not an uncle who was never home. But then Michael Throckmorton's niece ran away. And the big-hearted, beautiful diner waitress who'd taken her in wasn't letting her go so easily. Josie Miller had a few conditions for Michael. Oddly enough, he was willing to listen. Yet days later, why wasn't he hauling the teen back to school and himself back to the city? Could it be that an unlikely family was forming?
I loved the quirky bits with the characters--pink and green hair, homemade jewelry, etc. Did anything in particular inspire you to add these things?
Well, I was inspired by Flo on Mel’s Diner (the old show—giving away my age here). In fact, my editor asked me to take the Flo joke out because young readers wouldn’t get it. LOL Still, I pictured this floozy waitress and this very stuffy banker. The other stuff just happened as I was writing—those fun things that come, I believe, as gifts from God as I’m creating the story.
I don't read a lot of inspirational romance. While the religious element in Her Unlikely Family was prominent, as I expected it would be, I didn't find it preachy. Is that a fair description of most inspirationals? Are there any common misconceptions about this subgenre you'd like to correct?
Great question! I think a lot of people are scared of inspirational books. They don’t want to be hit over the head with the Bible. But one of the things the editors will say is that they don’t want preachy. It is a tough balance, because there is supposed to be a plot thread running throughout that involves faith issues. But first and foremost, Steeple Hill Love Inspired wants books that are a good story, are romance and are entertaining.
For me, I write inspirationals because I write what I know, and my faith, going to church, praying, is all part of who I am. So some of my characters are going to be that way. They’re definitely not perfect, though. There’s always going to be some way that my characters will grow closer to God in the story, but so far, that hasn’t involved major plot points. Still, I’m amazed at the reader mail I get that talks about how the story brought them closer to God. It wasn’t necessarily something I intended, but God used it. What a blessing to be part of that!
You've recently gotten over another big hurdle and sold your second book. Congratulations on that! It's due out in June of 2009, isn't it? What are you working on now?
I'm beginning work on the second book that I'm hoping will be in a series with the recent sale. I'm in the midst of characters study using the Rasley workbook (see below). I'm also working on the Art Fact Sheet for the new sale and will be receiving a revision letter in the next couple of weeks.
What are your favorite sources of writing tips?
Oh, goodness. I’ve learned so much from so many sources! Books, conference workshops, critiquing. I guess I’ll just share two or three of my favorite how-to books/workbooks.
1. Alicia Rasley’s The Story Within Guidebook.
2. Carolyn Greene’s Prescription for Plotting notebook.
3. Deb Dixon’s GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict.
All three have really helped me learn to plot better so I don’t spend years revising. (No, I’m not exaggerating!) And yes, I’m learning to be a plotter. I spend a lot of time learning my characters first, then come up with plot ideas and possible scene ideas. I generally know my beginning and my ending. I just have to figure out how to get from one to the other!
Thanks for inviting me, Nancy! I’ve enjoyed the interview. Also, I’d love to give away a copy of Her Unlikely Family. Just leave a comment to be entered in the drawing!
To learn more about Missy and her books, visit her website: http://www.missytippens.com/.
Was there a person who particularly inspired you? A quirky character you met, in a book or in your life, who stays with you? Do you have a favorite writing handbook?