FAQs: Bly Books Answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions by Stephen Bly (1944-2011) and Janet Chester Bly
1.) FAQs: Did you always want to be a writer?
Stephen: Nope. I always wanted to be a rancher. Worked with my dad and uncle in the early years.
Janet: I was a music major in my initial college days. At one time I aspired to be a high school choir director.
2.) FAQs: How did you get started writing?
Stephen: My wife got me interested in writing magazine articles when I was 32-yrs-old.
Janet: After Steve graduated from seminary in 1974 and became pastor of his first church, I got restless about finding what it was God wanted me to do. What he had gifted me to do when he created me. I tried all sorts of things. I started a youth group. Took piano lessons. Attended bookkeeping and cooking and sewing classes. Joined singing groups. Then a friend handed me a brochure for a writers conference at Mount Hermon, California. That stirred up the writing fires.
3.) FAQs: How long does it take to write a book?
Stephen: How long is the book? How much research needs to be done ahead of time? After all that is settled, I can spend 2 to 6 months of actual writing.
Janet: After research, and taking into consideration the duties and distractions of life happening, I’ve discovered I can complete most any book within 4 months. BTW, Steve has been forced to complete a few of his books within 4-6 weeks!
4.) FAQs: Do you do your own artwork?
Stephen: Are you kidding? I’m lucky to draw my hat on my signature.
5.) FAQs: Where do you get your ideas?
Stephen: History books. Pioneer journals. Traveling through every city and down every dirt road trail in the West. And out of my imagination.
Janet: Steve and I get very creative on the road. Being alone together in a rig gets our talkative juices going. Interaction with people is my primary idea resource. My book, Awakening Your Sense of Wonder, grew out of a walk with my 4-year-old granddaughter. The books Hope Lives Here and God Is Good All The Time developed from the stories I heard from women at retreats where I spoke. Inspiration also comes from all kinds and varieties of reading. I don’t relate to
writers who say they never read other authors.
6.) FAQs: What kind of doors has being a writer opened for you?
Stephen: Travel. Speaking. Friendships around the world. Radio and TV interviews.
Janet: The most incredible opportunity that writing provides is ministry and outreach outside the confines of our tiny village. Also, to make our living doing a ministry and creating process we dearly love.
7.) FAQs: What’s the most fun things about being a writer?
Stephen: Reading the fan mail and getting to know the readers.
Janet: Yes, the precious and provocative e-mails and letters. And the times we get positive reviews. Also seeing my name on a book cover and my name on a check. 🙂
8.) FAQs: If someone writes to you, do you write back?
Stephen: Always. But it might take a while.
Janet: We’ve had a few problems when the address isn’t very legible. Or the reply to the e-mail gets returned because the addy isn’t typed in right. Or because of SPAM blockers. That’s a sore disappointment for both ends. But we always try to reply to everyone who sends us a note.
9.) FAQs: How do you decide on titles for your books?
Stephen: It’s a joint effort with the publisher. We try to find something that explains the story, attracts the reader, and has a practical and/or poetic feel about it.
Janet: Coming up with good titles takes almost as much effort as writing the article, poem, short story or book. We sometimes come up with dozens of choices before we get that ping of “this is the one that works.” It might still get changed. But that working title is important for focus in staying with the key theme while working on the manuscript.
10.) FAQs: What’s the hardest part about being a writer?
Stephen: Discipline. Discipline. Discipline.
Janet: Meeting a deadline and letting go of the process. Especially when you have that feeling that there’s more perfecting that could be done. Another difficulty is reading the stuff we’ve finished and has been published. It’s out in the public in hard copy, chiseled in stone, so to speak. Yet we realize we would do it differently today.
11.) FAQs: What could a person do to help prepare to be a writer?
Stephen: Read good writing. Keep writing something every day. In a journal. Through a story. Roughing out an article or idea for a book. Composing a poem. Attend a writers’ conference where you can take classes. Interact with editors, publishers and other writers.
Janet: Take a college writing class or sign up for a correspondence course. Steve and I have mentored beginning writers for Jerry B. Jenkins
Christian Writers Guild. Check it out at http://www.christianwritersguild.com/.
12.) FAQs: How many times do you re-write your stories?
Stephen: About 6 or 7 times, but who counts?
Janet: It takes me several drafts before the material perks enough. That I know I’ve got my key kernel message. That the tone and style for this piece pops out or zings. After that, it’s the tweaking of the parts, rather than the whole. Unless of course an editor suggests otherwise.
13.) FAQs: Who pays for getting a book published?
Stephen: The publishers. I get an advance (against royalties) then a percentage (of the royalty after that) of each book sold.
Janet: Self-publishing and POD (print on demand) venues are becoming more popular and common. In that case, the author bears the brunt of the costs. Also the main marketing and distribution burden.
14.) FAQs: How could I find a list of publishers?
Stephen: Look for Writers’ Market books in your library or bookstore. I recommend the most recent The Christian Writers Market Guide.
Janet: Attending a writers’ conference provides all kinds of these resources.
15.) FAQs: How could I submit a book to a publisher?
Stephen: Send them a book proposal package. Two or three sample chapters. A synopsis of the story or outline of the message. A cover letter about your book. Who’s your target reader. How soon you could complete the manuscript. Facts about yourself, including any writing and professional credits.
Janet: Never send an entire book manuscript, unless requested. Meanwhile, again, attending a writers’ conference where you can have face-to-face contact. This will step up the averages a bit. Otherwise, you’re bound to have your anonymous packet land on a pile of a bazillion other proposals.
16.) FAQs: Can a person actually make a living being a full-time writer?
Stephen: Yep, we’ve done it.
Janet: But it’s not easy. It often requires stages of transition in which your main income comes from other sources. Meanwhile, we down-sized our lifestyle. For one thing, we moved from S. California to N. Idaho, where cost of living’s lower.
17.) FAQs: What are the most important elements in a good novel?
Stephen: Good descriptions. Good characters. Conflict and intensity. Focus on a theme. Good plot. And great dialogue. The only unimportant part of a book is the author’s bio blurb. Except if your name is Louis L’Amour, Larry McMurtry or Elmer Kelton.
Janet: Really knowing your characters inside-out. Until you can relate every mole and secret and thought pattern. You know what they’ll do and when they’ll do it. They come so alive they talk to you. But even then, they can surprise you and take over when you least expect it.
18.) FAQs: Do you think anyone who works at it can become a good writer?
Stephen: Nope, but then we can’t all play in the NBA either.
Janet: Anyone can always become a better writer. Or develop the best that they can be to accomplish what they need to do. Through communicating their their words, their way. That can happen via a wide variety of venues.
19.) FAQs: Have you published anything that shows what the writer’s life is like?
Stephen: I thought you’d never ask. Check out my novel, Paperback Writer.
Janet: We’ve also co-authored The Hidden West Series—3 cozy mysteries about a husband and wife writing team. Folks we know claim that Tony and Price Shadowbrook seem a lot like us. Only younger, I would add.
20.) FAQs: Which of your books is your personal favorite?
Janet: My book, Awakening Your Sense of Wonder. It’s also my most requested speaking topic for women’s retreats.
Along with The Heart of a Runaway … defining and understanding a woman’s temptation or need to run. However, I have to add the most satisfying writing project was when my 3 sons and I helped Stephen finish Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot. It turned out to be his last novel. Now I’m at work on Wind in the Wires, Book 1 The Trails of Reba Cahill Series. It’s a contemporary western mystery, a road adventure with a touch of romance. Some would call it Cowgirl Lit. It’s scheduled to be released November 2014.
If you have other questions, feel free to email Janet on the Contact Page: http://www.blybooks.com/contact/
FAQs: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for authors Stephen & Janet Bly: http://clicktotweet.com/KFv3y
Bly Books FAQs: What are the hardest & funnest things about being a writer?: http://clicktotweet.com/YsaBc
What could a person do to best prepare to be a writer?: http://clicktotweet.com/jDF06
Speaker Author Janet Chester Bly YouTube video on “Getting The Call To Write”:
Fifteen different YouTube videos by Janet Chester Bly on the writing of various Bly Books. Check it out here: