Author Interview ~ Trish Perry

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Award-winning novelist Trish Perry has written The Perfect Blend (2010), Sunset Beach (2009), Beach Dreams (2008), Too Good to Be True (2007), and The Guy I’m Not Dating (2006), all for Harvest House Publishers. Her monthly column, “Real Life is Stranger,” appeared in Christian Fiction Online Magazine during its inaugural year. She was editor of Ink and the Spirit, the newsletter of Washington D.C.’s Capital Christian Writers organization (CCW), for seven years. Before her novels, Perry published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media. She will release several new books in 2011.

Perry holds a B.A. in Psychology, was a 1980s stockbroker, and held positions at the Securities and Exchange Commission and in several Washington law firms. She serves on the Board of Directors of CCW and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She invites you to visit her at http://www.trishperry.com/.

When did you decide to be a writer?

About 14 years ago, after I had been writing for a few years (but not submitting much), I had to decide whether to continue my pursuit of a doctorate in Psychology or to attempt a writing career. I had been certain for years that the Lord wanted me counseling people. But one afternoon while He and I were having a “chat” while I made the bed. He gave me profound peace about His plan for me to write. I focused on the writing more seriously at that point, and the effort eventually let to publication and terrific blessings. I’ll do this until He leads me otherwise.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?

That’s such a good question, Lisa. I had forgotten about that struggle—when you aren’t yet getting contracts, you tend to fiddle with your book manuscript with each rejection and nearly every critique. But you get to the point that you might be hurting the story, rather than improving upon it, especially since this is such a subjective business. I learned to honestly weigh suggestions by my critique partners and then submit the best book I could. Once publishers showed serious interest, I expressed a willingness to adapt the book to their needs (as long as the story didn’t suffer). That led to my first contract, and since then I’ve worked closely with my editors to hone my manuscripts well. I dedicate my writing to God every day—that helps me trust myself as a writer.

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

The greatest tool I’ve found in my never-ending quest for greater discipline is a deadline. I love writing, but I’m easily distracted. So it’s always best for me not to be able to afford to write “when I feel like it.” There’s no way I could meet my deadlines working that way.

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

I’m a total fiction addict, so when I’m not writing, I love to read novels and watch films. Getting together with friends—just talking, laughing, and dining—is another one of my favorite methods of relaxation.

What is your favorite novel and what made it special?

I don’t really have a favorite novel. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel more than once—I always feel there are too many good ones out there, and I want to experience them all! But there are many I’ve loved. Cold Mountain was stunningly written. P.G. Woodhouse books always make me laugh. Experimental books, like The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Confessions of Max Tivoli, keep me engrossed. And I love a funny, light romance in-between the more serious ones.

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

I’m not as easily influenced by other writers’ styles as I was when I first started writing, but if I need to get in a particular mood, I’ll often do it by letting another author get me there. So if I don’t feel particularly funny but need to write that way, I’ll read something in a funny vein. My brain tilts in the right direction after that exercise.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Steph Vandergrift left everything to elope with Middleburg attorney Rick Manfred, who then stood her up at the altar. Too embarrassed to return home, Steph hopes to earn enough to get by until she can decide what to do next. Tea Shop owner Milly Jewel hires her and appreciates the extra help at the tea shop.

Also appreciative of Steph is Kendall James, one of the kindest, most eligible bachelors in the area. But by the time Steph feels able to consider dating again, her run-away fiancé returns and tries to win her back. Steph is wary, but she and Rick always blended so well.

Christie Burnham, the frank-talking equestrian from whom Steph rents a room, and her frillier sister Liz become fast friends and confidantes to Steph. Between the two sisters, there isn't much any man is going to pull over on Middleburg's newest bachelorette and tea shop employee.

Where did you get your inspiration for The Perfect Blend?

More than a year ago, I had a brainstorming session on the phone with my editor at Harvest House. Among other ideas, she mentioned the popularity of nonfiction tea books and wondered if I would enjoy centering a novel series on a tea shop, with each installment focusing on a different set of characters, all of whom were tied in with the tea shop in some way. I loved the idea and immediately envisioned the series being set in a lovely historical town not too far from where I live.

Which character is most like you?

The character common to all of the books, tea shop owner Milly Jewell, is my age, but she’s actually very much like my mother was at that age. They’re both vibrant Brits with good hearts, twinkles in their eyes, and a fun, romantic streak to their personalities. I suppose there’s often a little of me in most of my heroines, but I know more than they do. At least I like to think I do!

Who is your favorite character and why?

Steph, my heroine, touches my heart. She’s young and has her heart in the clouds at the beginning of the novel. She learns a lot about trust, real love, and her own strength through God as the novel progresses. There was no way I wasn’t going to give her a happily ever after.

Did you know how The Perfect Blend would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?

I knew about the happily ever after, yes. I just wasn’t sure how it would come about. I’ve gotten to the point that I map out the first ten chapters or so and then just make note of some plot points I want to include along the way toward the end. Then I begin writing, and after getting through a few chapters, far more of the outline falls into place. But yes, there was one particular little twist I didn’t see coming until it was right there on the scene. I love when that happens.

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

I hope they’ll consider how wonderful it is that God accepts us as we are. We all fall into the trap of trying to gain acceptance from other people. That can make you crazy and hold you down. There is great strength in remembering that God accepts us so enthusiastically that He made a sacrifice for us that no one else would ever have made.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?

Marketing and promotion are my weaknesses! I love opportunities like this, to tell potential readers about the book, and I post about the book on my own site. I have a number of speaking engagements coming up and may do a book signing or two. I lean very heavily on prayer to get the word out about my books. Prayer and God’s will! As a marketing scaredy cat, I defy anyone to downplay the effectiveness of prayer and God’s will.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I’ve just finished my contribution to a fun new devotional called Delight Yourself in the Lord . . . Even on Bad Hair Days (Summerside Press), which I co-authored with Kristin Billerbeck, Sandra Bricker, Diane Hunt, and Debby Mayne. I think it’s going to be a cute but extremely inspiring book.

And I’m currently writing a 1950s romantic comedy called Unforgettable for Summerside Press’ new When I Fall in Love line. Unforgettable is about a young ballroom dance instructor whose life becomes entangled with a former fighter pilot, who is now a newspaper reporter. Their paths entwine and bring them from Arlington, Virginia (outside Washington) to Manhattan.

Both of these books will release in 2011.

I’ve also written the second installment in The Tea House Series, Tea for Two, which will release in April 2011. Tea for Two involves a psychological counselor who brings her women’s group to the tea shop and becomes involved (thanks to owner Milly) with a handsome young produce farmer, the father of two troubled teens. I had such fun writing their story.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

I repeat this advice all the time, because it’s my driving force every single day. Commit your work—whatever it is—to God every morning, and then lean on His guidance as you accomplish the tasks of the day. If you do that you can be sure you will follow His path for you, even if you don’t see it at any given moment. He will always reward our efforts to follow His will.
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Trish is giving away a copy of her book The Perfect Blend. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!

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