Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A “town girl” born and raised in Mississippi, Diane has worked more than twenty years for the House of Representatives. She rediscovered a thirst for writing while caring for her ailing mother and was led to a class taught by Aaron McCarver on writing novels from an outline. After the class ended, she became a founding member of the Bards of Faith. Her first publication was a finalist in the Book of the Year Contest. She and Aaron have collaborated on four books so far and are working hard to produce fiction which glorifies Christ. Visit her at

Aaron McCarver is a transplanted Mississippian who was raised in the mountains near Dunlap, Tennessee. He loves his jobs of teaching English at two Christian colleges and editing for Barbour Publishing. A member of ACFW, he is the co-author of the best-selling series, “The Spirit of Appalachia” and is currently co-authoring, with Diane Ashley, a second series for Heartsong Presents.

When did you decide to be a writer?

He said: I first thought this when I was around 8 years old. I have always loved books. My mother used to say that if she had not been there she would have thought I was born with a book in my hands, so it wasn’t a great stretch to dream of writing my own. As I grew up, God led me to teaching and I put the writing dream aside. God brought it back to me like a precious gift when I met Gilbert Morris at a CBA convention (now ICRS). He encouraged me and eventually asked me to write a series with him. That was “The Spirit of Appalachia.” I have unfortunately allowed other bumps to get in the way at times, but God has always been faithful to lead me back to writing for Him...with a lot of help!

She said: I started writing for publication while taking care of my mother, who was terminally ill. It gave me something to while away the hours spent in the hospital and a temporary escape from the grief of watching her illness progress.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)? .
He said: I really got into writing through editing. I even did this for Gilbert before we wrote together, so that really helped me. Also, Gilbert is a great teacher and taught me to trust what God has given me while still listening to others to make the work better. I try to always follow this. I hope my editors agree...

She said: Tomorrow??

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?

He said: I am pretty disciplined, but not as disciplined as Diane. Her time management and commitment to her craft is truly inspiring. And Gilbert is one of the most disciplined writers ever! He can and does write a book in a month. I remember one time he dictated a young adult novel in a 24 hour period!

She said: I’m fairly disciplined. God has blessed us with several contracts and I have to work pretty hard to meet our deadlines.

What kind of activities do you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

He said: Work on my editing deadlines! Seriously, reading a Christian historical novel, going to bookstores to look for books, or watching old movies or episodes of classic TV shows.

She said: Puzzles on my computer. I have a special few on that I can do while a part of my brain is considering either the next scene or the one just completed.

What is your favorite novel and what made it special?

He said: So many books, so little time... I would have to say Gilbert Morris’s The Honorable Imposter. I was reading secular historical fiction, which was my favorite, at the time this book came out. I was thrilled to find my favorite type of story from a Christian worldview! Gilbert’s books opened me up to a whole new world. I am so thankful God led me this way because of the many wonderful books and equally wonderful author-friends I have made. I have honestly read very little secular fiction since as Christian fiction is so much better!!!

She said: Someone loaned me a copy of This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti which forever changed my view of Christian Fiction.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

He said: Knowing Christian novels, especially Gilbert’s books, opened so many doors for me that otherwise would have been closed. Also, other Christian novels inspire me to live better for God which in turn makes me write better for Him.

She said: It helps me keep up with the market. When I read a book now, I am always looking for the progression of characters and plot.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

She said: The Mockingbird’s Call is set in Knoxville, Tennessee, during the Civil War. It is a glimpse of some of the tough decisions Christians had to make during a difficult time in our history.

He said: This is the third book in a three-book series chronicling three generations of one family through 50 years of Tennessee history.

Where did you get your inspiration for The Mockingbird’s Call?

She said: Aaron is the idea man for our writing partnership. He comes up with all of our plots.

He said: Believe it or not, the symbol of the mockingbird came first. When we were planning and plotting the proposal for this series, we talked about doing three generations during the 1800s in Tennessee. I wanted the titles to represent symbols of the state so we used the state tree, flower, and bird—Under the Tulip Poplar, A Bouquet for Iris, and The Mockingbird’s Call. The third book was to take place during the Civil War period. The mockingbird is able to sound like other birds, disguise itself really, so I thought of a spy of sorts. This led to someone working for the Underground Railroad. The rest of the story was built around this.

What special challenges did the two of you face by co-authoring this book?

He said: We are so blessed in our writing partnership that we have never had trouble co-authoring. We actually prefer it to writing alone.

She said: Trying to write a story about the South during the Civil War that does not necessarily match everyone’s preconceptions. (Our book is not Gone with the Wind.)

Can you give some advice to people considering co-authoring?
She said: Aaron and I have been friends for years. I respect him and trust his judgment without question. I cannot imagine trying to co-write with anyone I didn’t know and like as well as I do him.

He said: Only choose someone with the same goals as you. And I think your writing approach should be similar—we are both heavy plotters. Most importantly, be ready to give up the idea that it is YOUR baby. I think this actually makes my writing stronger as it reminds me that the work should never be mine anyway if I am truly writing it for God to use as He wills.

Which character is most like you?

She said: Aunt Laura. She is a nice lady who wants everything to stay the same and all problems to magically disappear.

He said: I know Diane is getting a big kick out of this one! I conceived Jared Stuart, the hero, as a beta male, as Myra Johnson referred to this type of hero in a recent post on the Heartsong Connections blog. I wanted him to be more cerebral than rugged, more sensitive than dashing, wear glasses, and still get the girl. (Alas, this almost never really happens.) Diane said, “You mean he is like you.” I disagreed strongly, but she told me that while writing the character of Jared, she always asked herself what I would do in the situation. So, I guess Jared is most like me, although as the disclaimer always says, “Any similarity between these characters and real people is intentional...I mean UN-intentional!” :-)

Who is your favorite character and why?

He said: I like Jared, and not because he may or may not be me. I like that he stands up for his beliefs without wavering and that he follows God’s calling for his writing to have purpose for Him. I hope and pray that I am like this!

She said: I like Amelia because she eventually turns to God for the answers to her dilemma.

Did you know how The Mockingbird’s Call would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?

She said: Although both Aaron and I are plotters, I was happy to add a twist to one of the minor characters who will have to remain unnamed so the readers won’t catch on until the right time.

He said: We are definitely diehard outline plotters. However, the last one-fourth or so of this book just didn’t work after we wrote it. We had to scrap it, re-plot that part of the book, and rewrite it. The new ending works so much better!

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?

He said: That God has a special calling for each of us and this calling must be done with honor and integrity before Him, being willing to sacrifice everything for His work to be fulfilled.

She said: To search for God’s guidance all the time.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?
He said: I find getting to do interviews on the blogs of other wonderful writers who happen to also be wonderful friends works great!

She said: I’m not good at marketing our books—give me a computer and a plot, and I’m happy. Aaron generally handles all the stuff after the writing part.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
She said: We just finished edits on the first book of a new series for Heartsong Presents, titled Across the Cotton Fields. We plan to begin on the second book by the end of March. I am also working on a historical novella for Barbour which I hope to finish in a couple of weeks.

He said: This new series is set in our home state of Mississippi. (I grew up in Tennessee, though.) The second book has just been titled Among the Magnolias. Each of the three books will actually feature a character from one of the three books of our Tennessee series.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

He said: You have probably heard it before but sit at a computer and write, write, write. Gilbert always told me that many people actually talk a lot ABOUT writing without ever really writing. Also, learn the market (Sally Stuart’s guide is great), read books in your genre, and attend Christian writing conferences. Do this for the teaching, yes, but do it more for the networking. This is so important and often overlooked.

She said: Writing with a partner is wonderful, and I would recommend it to anyone who has as talented a friend as I do...but sorry, Aaron’s already taken.

He added: Aw, thanks Diane. But she would never tell you that she is a much better writer than I am and brings life to all of the plots floating around in my head all of the time.
Want more? Stop by The Borrowed Book tomorrow for an excerpt from The Mockingbird's Call by Diane Ashley and Aaron McCarver.


  1. What a great interview! I loved the he-said/she-said format. Great way to start my morning! Congrats, Diane and Aaron!

  2. Wonderful, inspiring, educational interview! Aaron is so right about attending conferences. That's how I met both of them (and dear Jacqueline!). They are both as heartwarming and gracious as they present here. I'll just say I wish I could borrow a bit of Aaron's plotting instinct and Diane's gift for characterization, etc. What a winning combo! I hope to see you all at ACFW Indy. Bless you for sharing your heart and writing here.

  3. Thanks so much, Deb. It was fun to do it this way. And, Laura, thank you, too. The Bards are already making plans to head to Indy in Sep. I am so looking forward to seeing you again! And, please, we hope to write as well as you someday!

  4. Diane and Aaron, thank you so much for agreeing to an interview on The Borrowed Book. You were both so gracious. Best wishes for a long, successful partnership!

  5. Great interview! Great questions, Lisa and great answers, Aaron and Diane! I love the he said/she said format, too. It was really fun to read :) Thanks so much for this interview!

  6. This interview was delightful and it makes me anxious to read not only this book, but the next three as well.

    Blessings to you, Diane and Aaron!

  7. Thanks Deb and Janet Lee...Lisa had such great questions for us, and we wanted to answer them fully, so the he said/she said seemed like a fun thing to do. Laura, I'm so looking forward to seeing you again in Indy. And by the way, you have so many talents you don't need any of ours. Lisa, thank you so much for hosting us and for those good questions. Erica, thanks so much. I love your books, also, and can't wait for the next one.

  8. Lisa, thanks so much for having us and featuring the book. You have a really good interview. Thanks so much, Erica. You've done a great job with the HC blog this week. And, Janet, one of my favorite people in the entire world, I love you bunches!

  9. Great interview! I have been a fan of Aaron's for many years. I am proud to call this awesome man of God a dear friend. His books are an encouragement to me as well as great entertainment. Thank you Aaron! I look forward to getting and reading the new book.

  10. Thanks so much, Lulu. Blessings to you, too.

  11. This is a GREAT interview. I'm sorry I didn't get to the computer yesterday to read it faster!! I love what Aaron says he'd like the reader to take from the story and I"m happy to say that since I've read this book already, they did a great job in helping the reader do just that! You two are a great writing team! Keep writing, I want to keep reading long after the book is finished.


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