Monday, January 12, 2009

The Tenacity Interviews - Roxanne Henke

Finding hope in the inspiring stories of successful authors, we continue with the Tenacity Interviews: 7 questions about how the tough got going!

Roxanne Henke is the author of the popular Coming Home to Brewster series...After Anne, Finding Ruth, Becoming Olivia, Always Jan, and, With Love, Libby. Also available...The Secret of Us! And her newest release: Learning to Fly.

Check out her website at:

1) How long did you write before your first sale?
I’ve written (with my left hand) since I learned letters could turn into ‘words.’ My mom says she remembers me making lists since I’ve been a little girl. My lists later turned into sappy poems, tragic love stories, term papers for college, and a seven-year stint as a newspaper humor columnist. I wrote in-some-form-or-another for thirty YEARS before my first novel was published. I learned that any kind of writing is “practice.” Writing makes you a better writer.

2) Did you have a motto/saying/scripture that helped you through the tough times? What was it, and how did you use it?
When I finally sat down and started writing my first novel, I got about halfway through when doubts started to assail me. What if it never got published? What if readers didn’t like it? What if an editor couldn’t get through it? What if an agent rejected me? I was almost paralyzed by fear and doubt. I finally ended up writing out a reminder on a recipe card and keeping it smack-dab in front of my computer as I worked. What I wrote to myself was:
I’m not writing to please an editor.
I’m not writing to please an agent.
I am writing to please God.

I still have that recipe card by my computer.

3) When did you have to push hardest for your dream? How did you reach for the stars?
Oh, there were lots of “hard-push” times. The first one was to actually SIT DOWN and start writing. It’s much easier to dream about writing than to actually write.

The next hard-push came about halfway through my first novel…was I simply wasting time by pursuing my pipe-dream? (See question number two.)

Once my novel was written I started sending out queries. I got some great rejections, but they were still a “No.” I had nowhere else to send it. I prayed hard and pleaded with God for direction. I finally got up my nerve and attended a writer’s conference all by myself, I didn’t know a soul. I’d sort of made a “deal” with God. I would go to the conference and give it my all, trying to pitch this story. If nothing came of that conference I would take that as a sign that I was to do something else besides write.

I traveled from my home in rural North Dakota all the way to California. I was shaking in my little-town shoes, but I was determined to keep up my end of the bargain.

I made my pitches. Collected business cards. Got home and sent out some sample chapters as requested. Within three months of that conference I was signing a two-book contract with Harvest House. I’ve since written eight novels. When I think back on it all, it still seems like a minor miracle that I stuck it out.

4) Who believed in you the most? What role did they play in your ability to keep going?
My family has always been a strong source of support, encouraging my writing dreams. But for day-to-day encouragement while I was writing that first novel, my English-teacher friend prodded me on. Each month I would hand over the pages I’d written to her (about 50 pages at a crack). She was the one who read my story hot-off-the-computer. She was the one who kept saying, “I want to read MORE.” And then, when my novel was done, she was the one who kept saying, “This book HAS to get published.” Thank you, Debbie!!

5) Did you find it difficult to get an agent? Did things go smoothly once you had an agent?
Actually, finding an agent was not difficult. I signed my first contract without an agent. I had met agent, Janet Kobobel Grant, at that same writer’s conference I’d attended in California and she had been very encouraging of my work. When it came time to sign my second contract (a three book deal) I asked Janet if she’d represent me, and she said, “Yes.”
There was a bit of a learning-curve for me in how to “work” with an agent. Since I’d worked on my own for years, I wasn’t sure how much input I needed, or how much to expect. Janet and I seem to have found what works best for both of us.

6) At what point in your writing journey did you begin to think of yourself as “successful”?
Well, to be perfectly honest, I still don’t think of myself as “having made it.” Not in the ways we typically define success: money, fame, etc…
But I do know that I have achieved my dream…and more. I dreamt of writing ONE book. I’ve now written eight. I found out God had a bigger dream than I did. So, in the fact that I’ve surpassed my initial dreams and expectations, I guess I’ve succeeded.

7) What encouragement do you have for a writer who just received a “no” from a publisher/agent?
Keep writing. Writers write. And then remember:

I’m not writing to please an editor.
I’m not writing to please an agent.
I am writing to please God.


Thanks for being here today, Roxanne! And for sharing your tenacity with us!

I bid you good writing.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I love that line - "I am writing to please God!"
I think in a time when so many compromise just to please others, that is a fine motto by which to stand!

L. Diane Wolfe

lynnrush said...

I LOVE THIS: "I’m not writing to please an editor.
I’m not writing to please an agent.
I am writing to please God."

Amen to that.

Great interview. THANKS.

Seeking God's Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada said...

Wonderful interview. Just what I needed to hear this morning. I was pondering whether I should even keep trying - but asked God for a sign. I went to your blog, Bonnie and voila
"I am writing to please God".
Thank you.

Joanna Mallory said...

Thank you, Roxanne and Bonnie, for the encouragement. Sometimes a bit of perspective is all we need to keep going.

Bonnie said...

I agree with all these comments! It truly is inspiring - I loved this interview. I was able to go into my Monday encouraged!

Krishna Chaitanya P.N.V said...

Thanks for the great interview.

I can imagine myself in the author's boots before her first novel.

I too dream more than writing.

I love the 3 line adage "I am writing...."

Thank you for collecting such inspiring interviews.