My plans are to feature the faculty members of the October Novelist Retreat for the next few weeks. I’ll begin with me since Jim Callan has his interview up on his blog today: http://www.jamesrcallan.com/blog – the website for the Retreat is ridgecrestconferencecenter.org/event/novelist or contact me at email@example.com
Prolific Author & Conference Director
Posted on August 9, 2012 by James Callan
Today, Yvonne Lehman is visiting with us. She is not only a best-selling author of fifty books, she is also the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. She says that in each of her novels, she tries to integrate the important ingredient – hope. Sounds like a good person to spend some time with.
JRC: I understand you were the founder of the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference, and its director for 17 years. Now, you’re the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Is there a story behind those two conferences with a “mountain” between them?
Yvonne: The BRCWC was organized with that name. After sponsoring it myself and holding most of the conferences at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, I stopped holding the conference for a couple of years. When I started it up again under the sponsorship of LifeWay and held it at the Ridgecrest Conference Center they added the Mountains. The offerings are the same. After 25 years however, I turned it over to Alton Gansky. I founded and now direct the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat held at the Ridgecrest/LifeWay Conference Center. It’s for beginning and advanced novelists and is smaller and more intimate than the BRMCWC. It’s held annually in October. Visit: ridgecrestconferencecenter.org/event/novelist of yvonnelehman3@gmail for information.
JRC: My friend Donn Taylor is on the faculty for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, in the area of poetry. How large is the conference, and what does it cover?
Yvonne: I’m on the faculty too and that’s a little more relaxing for me than when I directed. Attendees average between 360-400. The May Blue Ridge Conference covers all genres of writing including devotionals, articles, non-fiction, fiction, and many categories of each for writers of all levels. It also offers contests, critiques, and editor/agent appointments. Donn Taylor wrote the poem that is in my Titanic novel as written by my character John. The acknowledgements of this book tells the wonderful way Donn went about writing it that made it perfect for my character.
JRC: I directed the Northeast Texas Writers’ Conference for about fourteen years. And it really takes a lot of time. What is your writing schedule like?
Yvonne: Yes, the BRMCWC took most of my time. It’s sort of a full-time endeavor. The Novel Retreat takes much less of my time. It’s smaller and I use fewer faculty and the focus is only on the novel. We do offer contests and critiques but do not have editor and agent appointments. The focus is on learning, improving, absorbing, and writing.
JRC: Your latest book Hearts that Survive: A Novel of the Titanic just came out in April. Can you tell us a little about it, and how you happened to select the Titanic as the background for your book?
Yvonne: The story covers 50 years, basically of one ship, two families, three generations. The story is divided into three parts. Before, during, and after the sinking. Lydia Beaumont and her new friend Caroline Chadwick plan Lydia’s wedding aboard the “grandest ship ever built.” Yet their lives take a tragic turn when the “unsinkable” Titanic goes down.
This epic tale of faith and perseverance follows their lives and the lives of their descendants as they struggle with all that was lost on that fateful night and what the future holds for those brave enough to face it.
Again, the acknowledgements give much of the story. My friend had visited Nova Scotia several years ago and became aware of the important role NS played in the aftermath of the sinking. She suggested the project. As the 100th anniversary of the sinking came near it seemed the time for me to write the book. Such disasters are memorable and the lessons learned from them are invaluable.
JRC: How many books do you have in print in print? What genres have you covered?
Yvonne: My Titanic novel was my 50th book. I’ve written historical and contemporary, romance, mystery, biblical, six young adult, women’s fiction, and mainstream.
JRC: Which is your favorite?
Yvonne: The Titanic book is my favorite because everything from the time of acceptance until I finished was different from the writing of any other book. I usually take three months to write a 50,000 word book. The proposal (three chapters) had gone to editors after most had already acquired Titanic books or didn’t want one (or mine).
At the May BRMCWC, though I knew it was too late for any company to publish it in time to be released for the 100th anniversary the following April, I asked Ramona Richards (Abingdon) if she had a Titanic book. She said, “No.” I said, “Do you want one?” She said, “Yes.” That was the beginning. By July 5, I had written 120,000 words.
JRC: You’ve won many awards. Which one are you most pleased about, and why?
Yvonne: The first one. When I attended the Billy Graham School of Christian Writing more than 30 years ago, I knew nothing about writing. Students could submit to win their top award and scholarship the following year. I won the Award of Excellence in Christian Literature for my short story. It’s my favorite because it gave me confirmation that I could become a published writer.
JRC: So, what’s next for Yvonne Lehman?
Yvonne: I’ve recently signed a contract for a three-book series of contemporary novels set in Savannah, GA called Secrets in Savannah series. The first one is The Caretaker’s Son. These will be in Harlequin’s Heartsong line. They’re schedule to be released in March, July, and November of 2013.
JRC: Any last word of advice for those readers who are struggling to get book number one published?
Yvonne: Writing and publishing is a business. Learn all you can about the craft. Practice all you can of your creativity which means… write and write again. Writing is really re-writing until you get it write. Read the craft books. Read what others write. Take courses, attend a writers group, attend workshops and conferences. Pray about where God wants your product to be used. When you’re ready and when your product is ready, there will be a place for it. Sometimes… the waiting and the returns are part of the learning process. Ohhh, did I have to say that? If it’s what you believe is your gift, develop it. Don’t give up.
JRC: Thanks for a great interview, Yvonne. And for some very good advice. You can find more about Yvonne’s books at: http://amzn.to/P2wq7V
And she’s given us plenty to comment about. Please leave her a comment if you have a moment. Thanks.