Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The High-Wire Novelist, Part I by Beth White

Beth White
When I asked Beth White to join us again today on Seriously Write, she gave me so much great information to share that it needed to be two blog posts instead of one. But instead of breaking it up into two weeks (and make you wait to read it), we decided to put the first half of the post here and the second half on her personal blog. So be sure to look for the link, at the end of this post, to read Part II of The High-Wire Novelist.
~ Angie

As I write this, I’m at the end of a long day of teaching music to students in an inner-city high school in Mobile, Alabama. Someday I’m going to write a screenplay based on my adventures over the last six years. Oh, the lives that have intersected mine. The drama confronted, acted upon, and put behind me—or not. The happy tears shed for miracles of God’s provision and endless wonder at the creative gifts bestowed in unlikely place. But the telling of it, the figuring out of what it means, will come much later…maybe when I retire.

For now, any spare moments of the day are spent trying to wrestle six years of research into three historical romance novels—novels which go by the grand title “The Gulf Coast Chronicles.” Yes, my alter-ego is Author Beth White. Most writers, I suppose, have to juggle two jobs and can only dream of the day they’ll make enough money in royalties to quit the day job and write full-time. So I know I’m not alone in feeling this constant pull between doing the day job with excellence—and writing an excellent book. Letting either one slide is not an option.

Sometimes—okay, most of the time, I feel like I’m missing the mark. I’m constantly behind where I want to be in word count. When I do sit down to write, usually in late afternoon or early evening, my brain turns to sluggish jelly. Who are these characters lying limply on the computer screen, and why will they not get up and do something? I read back over what I wrote in the previous session and can’t remember where I was going with that half-finished sentence. Suddenly 18th Century Mobile feels like an alien planet in a faraway solar system. And I don’t do sci-fi.

So how does it get done? I’ve been repeating this process in various incarnations for more than fifteen years. Honestly, it doesn’t get any easier—if anything, my expectations ratchet higher for each successive book. I expect more from my prose-crafting, and I crave finer characters, more complex plot, deeper themes. Probably I should issue a warning here: Orderly Type A personalities will not like my messy methods. But maybe I can help a few writers out there who need reassurance that a busy life is not such a bad thing for a writer to have.

For one thing, aside from occasional physical weariness, I find that accomplishing challenging tasks energizes my spiritual life—which by definition energizes everything. Those of us who walk with Christ should find Jesus infusing everything we do. If the connection is deep, faith-filled, and rooted in scripture, we will hear the Holy Spirit whispering directions as to where to spend time, what’s worth investing our lives in. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t give up any of the commitments on my plate right now—and I’m very reluctant to take on anything else—because I’ve discovered that obedience is the height of joy.

One of the hardest elements of practicing the gift and responsibility of writing for publication is convincing others around one of the worthiness of the endeavor. I’ve discovered that being generous in using the gift in other ways besides writing fiction often wins the respect of friends and loves ones (and bosses and coworkers too!). For example, when some project at work or at church crops up where the gift of words would be useful, I volunteer. I figure, if I’m going to be there anyway, I might as well be doing something I enjoy, right? Of course that can get out of hand, but if people observe your ability to write in what they perceive as a “useful” application, they are more likely to take you seriously when you need to reserve time for the fiction.

Part II of the High Wire Novelist, http://www.bethwhite.net
About the Author
Beth White is a native Southerner, born on the Gulf Coast and reared in northwest Mississippi. Besides performing professionally as a singer and flutist, in the last thirteen years she has published (as Elizabeth White) four novellas and ten full-length novels with such publishers as Tyndale House, Zondervan, and Steeple Hill. Beth’s current and most ambitious writing project to date is the culmination of a decade’s research into the cultural, political and religious development of the American Gulf Coast. A lifelong passion for stories which chronicle the innate human drive for romance, faith, and adventure began when she was still a child. The Pelican Bride launches The Gulf Coast Chronicles with the adventures of a ship full of French mail order brides.

Beth and her husband Scott have two married adult children and one grandchild. Beth teaches piano and chorus at an urban high school in Mobile, Alabama, an occupation which will undoubtedly one day become a story thread in a novel.
The Pelican Bride
by Beth White

The Pelican Bride
She’s come to the New World to escape a perilous past. But has it followed her to these far shores?

It is 1704 when Frenchwoman Geneviève Gaillain and her sister board the frigate Pélican bound for the distant Louisiana colony. Both have promised to marry one of the rough men toiling in this strange new world in order to escape suffering in the old. Geneviève knows life won’t be easy, but at least here she can establish a home and family without fear of persecution for her outlawed religious beliefs.

When she falls in love with Tristan Lanier, an expatriate cartographer-turned-farmer whose checkered past is shrouded in mystery, Geneviève realizes that even in this land of liberty one is not guaranteed peace. Trouble is brewing outside the fort between the French colonists and the native people surrounding them. And an even more sinister enemy may lurk within. Could the secret Geneviève harbors mean the undoing of the colony itself?