Story of the Writer
with Abby Jones
Howdy all, welcome back to the Train. Today we have another special guest…They’re all special right? Everybody please welcome Abby Jones! She’s actually a friend of the first interviewee of this series, Bethany A. Jennings. Thanks for joining us today Abby.
Here we go folks, let’s learn a bit more about Abby….
Are you married with children?
I’m happily married to a man who is Licensed Teacher (Recognized Gifted Brother) in our church, with a desire for the eldership. We haven’t been blessed with any of our own children, but we have 11 nieces and nephews. I often write children’s stories for them, which I hope to publish as picture books someday. You can read some of them on my blog.
That’s awesome you already have an audience!
Where are you located?
I live in the great state of Texas near Fort Worth.
Sweet. I’m in Buckeye country. I love Texas though.
Where did you go to school? Major?
After high school, I attended a local junior college where I got an Associate’s Degree and swore off college.
I have an Associate’s as well. Think about going back, but it’s much TOO expensive.
You said you switched genres a few times, can you take us through your experiences, journey with these?
Well, the first switches were due to my desire to spend more time writing and less time doing research. My older brother is an amateur historian, and I’m an armchair historian, so even writing Swords and Sorcery type fantasy required lots of research for fear my brother would call me out on an incorrect detail. Moving closer to a time frame I loved—Victorian—didn’t solve the problem. Funny enough, I still needed to do research. Confounded, I switched to Urban Fantasy. At least I’m familiar with what types of clothing we wear. Here I discovered my voice: action flick meets thriller meets fantasy with smatterings of beautiful prose.
For several years I settled down nice and snug in my world of serial killers, saved vampires, and broken hunters. While I was researching how to torture people (researching serial killers didn’t bother me as much as researching corsets or halberds), my husband and I sold our business so we could focus more on our church. I had several books under my belt by then, finished, and in various stages of editing.
My husband started preaching for our church on almost weekly basis. That’s when I realized that if I continued, I’d be going down one path and he’d be going down another. After talking to him and some close friends, praying, and crying a lot, I switched genres to something that lines up better with his plans: Faerie Stories and Children’s Stories.
Before anyone freaks out, my decision wasn’t forced on me, nor do we believe a hopefully-future-pastor’s wife couldn’t write vampire serial killer stories. Not at all. We both believe I had the total freedom to do that. It was me asking myself if those stories were serving my church at all. The answer was no. About three or four people total would even read them. Most people shied away from them. And, I didn’t feel comfortable talking about them with my church family.
Switching that last time to something I could actually share with my church was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I switched blogs, set aside stories I loved, and packed away very dear characters. But, I didn’t want to go down a path that would lead me away from my husband’s hopes for the future, and I didn’t want to be unable to share the writing side of me with my church. If I’m not using my gift to encourage Christ’s bride, what’s the point of having it? (This is by no means meant to guilt anyone, just me being honest about my choices.)
God is amazing. He’s graciously blessed my work. My church family has been encouraged by my blog. I’ve connected with other churches via my writing that I never would have met otherwise. I’m closer to being published than I’ve ever been before with my children’s books. And, I’ve figured out how to tie my new YA Faerie Stories into my beloved Urban Fantasies minus the violence and language. God has been so gentle and kind to me through this time.
That’s a very touching story, thanks for sharing! I’m sure it wasn’t easy. At least you’re still writing!
Below you’ll find an image that has inspired Abby in her writing endeavors. Check it out, there’s some pretty cool artwork.
1. You’re a writer; so what’s your story, or what inspired you?
I discovered my love of writing back in 2000. My husband (then boyfriend) had just read Lord of the Rings, and was inspired to try his hand at writing. Wanting to be engaged in his interests, I started piddling around with writing as well. All my life, I’ve been a reader and a lover of stories, but I hate all things grammar-related. My mom even put me through remedial English as a home schooler. I longed for a way to artistically express myself, but couldn’t imagine dealing with commas and spelling and such. Don’t even get me started on homonyms. Everything changed when I finally gave in and put pen to paper. I discovered my form of self-expression. The stories in my head have been escaping ever since. Even with 16 years under my belt, I require editors (friends). I still can’t sort out where commas are supposed to go.
It always begins with reading doesn’t it? I talked to so many people that’ve been inspired by the Lord of the Rings. I’ve seen the movies but haven’t read the books!
2. What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
My original goal was to express myself. I’ve always felt the need or the longing to do creative things. I tried music, painting, drawing (which I still dabble in), photography, fashion (still something I love), and crafts. I was never satisfied with what poured out. I could never get anything to match what was in my head. Discovering writing was like discovering magic, though it should have come as no surprise based on the way I devour books.
Once I found my voice, my goal became, and still is, to tell warrior stories that don’t mince on the hardships of life but are flooded with beauty, light, and hope, from a Christian worldview. I love the concept of the man who sacrifices a normal life to hunt things that go bump in the night, and the woman at his side…with magic thrown in. I also love the idea of the Undeserved Rescue. I always have at least one villain being shown grace.
There you go, sounds good. Even the villains need mercy. That’s probably why I like Darth Vader so much.
3. What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
The first thing that has hindered me is just the learning curve. My first few projects fell by the wayside because I wrote myself into a plot corner that I couldn’t see a way out of. I’m also determined to publish a well-written story. I love books with excellent prose, and refuse to add to the slush pile of poorly written literature. This means years spent honing my craft and wordsmithing. I’m also a pantser and can’t publish one part of a series until the whole thing is done because it takes me that long to make sure I don’t need to make changes.
Second, I’ve changed my focus several times. I started out pretty traditional Sword and Sorcery, switched to Victorian Historical Fantasy, then to Urban Fantasy with a strong Criminal Thriller feel where I found my voice, and finally to YA Dark Faerie Stories. Each time I’ve changed focus, I’ve set myself back and created a new learning curve.
Last, writing is not my main focus in life. I love it. I write every day. I hope to be published someday, but all that is secondary to serving my church, my husband, and my family. Those three things are far more important to me than my stories. I’m unwilling to sacrifice them for the sake of my writing. This can be a real struggle. In our culture, we’re pushed to give up everything for the sake of art. I constantly battle the voices that tell me I should abandon everything to be a published writer. The voices lie. The stories are important, but they aren’t everything.
Yeah, I guess changing focus would definitely slow you down. Suppose it’s part of the journey of being a writer.
- What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
I love stories. I love telling stories. I love this story and my Worlds before the Door (my name for them) specifically. Even if I can only write for ten minutes a day, I’ll take it. Even if I couldn’t write, I’d still be making stories up in my head. I’ve been doing that since I was six. It’s part of who I am, and who God made me. Besides…I’m really rough on my characters and even if I’m the only one reading the story, I can’t leave them until they reach the light.
I can relate! I love creating things and being creative. So storytelling is an outlet of that for me. The possibilities are endless! Honing or craft is learning how to take those ideas and shape them into a compelling story. Keep at it!
5. What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
My main antagonist is probably being a pantser. I have to discover the story first, while I’m writing it. Then I have to do major edits and rewrites. It seems to me that outlining is very useful because it cuts down on rewriting entire plot points or just having to yet again change the time of day. But, outlining doesn’t work for me. I am trying to learn how to outline, but thorough outlining drives me away from the story.
I’m a panster, or tweener, kind of. It’s good knowing what doesn’t work for you though. It’s part of the process!
6. Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
Learning to write well takes a long time, a lot of focus, and dedication. You can’t just sit down and peck out the next Great American Novel. It can take years to hone your craft. That’s intimidating. It can be a long time before you can share your work. That can be lonely. Every book you read seems to be better than anything you can produce. That can be discouraging. These are the reasons I’ve been tempted to give up.
It’s 100% intimidating, but also liberating and fun! Jerry Jenkins said something simple that lifted alot of weight off my shoulders. “Give yourself time to learn the craft first”. EPIC. Simple yet full of wisdom. So I gave myself permission and time to learn. The fact that it’s a life-long learning with dedication involved is very appealing to me on many fronts. One, being a life long learner! I’m probably a polymath of some sort. A lover of learning. Just take the process as it comes. Day by day.
7. What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
Find your core. What was it that first excited you about writing? Why did you start writing? Getting back to your roots can help you regain some perspective. Also, make sure you’re doing some fun writing, whether it’s fan fiction, word doodles, or poetry, do something playful. Last, write what you want to read.
Anytime I feel like I’ve lost my desire, I return to the concept of the Undeserved Rescue, war movies, and friendship stories. (Think Band of Brothers and Firefly.) These concepts fuel my mind and inspire me. You have to find that thing that keeps you going.
Absolutely, I love it. That’s very inspiring. “Find your core” I adore that statement. Those are some really good ideas, I’m going to have to play with some of those. Thanks for sharing.
Can you tell us a little about your writing time in homeschooling? (Sounds like fun).
Most of the writing I did while in school was English/Grammar related, like parts of a sentence and such. At one point, my mom did tell me I could write sentences that didn’t include a black stallion. Good luck with that one. I manage to work a black stallion into just about every major story I’ve ever written.
One time my Mom gave me a ‘free-writing’ type of assignment. I wrote an anthropomorphic story about my cat. My mom loved it and suggested I try my hand at writing beyond the required homework. I ran screaming in terror and didn’t try writing for fun again until several years later.
The great gift home schooling gave me was books. My Mom encouraged me to read, and read with discernment, filling me up with beautiful stories. I’m so thankful for the books she constantly put before me.
Books, books and more books! Wonderful aren’t they?
Can you say a little about how you run your writing time in your group?
Due to some health issues, I’ve had to step back from our group for over a year now. But, when I ran it, we would start by going over our goals, then I had a ‘Being Brave’ question which forced all of us to share something about our work. The bulk of the time was spent reading aloud a 1000 word excerpt from a project of your choice. After each reading, we would go in circle and offer remarks. I used a timer (3 minutes per person) and we had a no repeat rule: if it’s been said, either say something new or pass.
I’d like to say we kept things organized, but the group could get very long-winded. I have a love/hate fascination with Writing Groups.
Thanks for sharing your story and joining us on the Train Abby!
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