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Good day to you from Sarah Sundin!

CAN Windle

Today I have the honor of interviewing award-winning author, Jeanette Windle. Her most recent novel, Freedom’s Stand, was nominated for the Golden Scroll Novel of the Year, and her novel Veiled Freedom was a finalist for the Christian Book Award and the Christy in 2010.

 

CAN Windle Freedom's Stand

SS: Jeanette, how did you get into writing?

JW: Writing has always been such a part of my life, I can’t remember ever consciously wanting to write. The missionary kid boarding school I attended in the Venezuelan Andes put great emphasis on proper composition (we were doing term papers with footnotes in junior high), and we spent far too much time writing to ever daydream about it. I was newspaper editor and yearbook copy editor in high school. In college I did some short stories, then as a young missionary, my writing was mainly prayer letters and ministry material.


I can say wrote my first book literally out of boredom. My husband and I were the only expatriates at the time in the southern Bolivia city where we were living, working with a Christian ministry organization. While my husband was on traveling through the Andes mountains for two weeks at a time. I was stuck at home with three preschoolers, no car, TV, radio. Once my preschoolers were in bed, I had only the handful of English-language books I’d read dozens of times. I finally decided if I had nothing to read, I’d write a book instead.

That became Kathy and the Redhead, a children’s novel based on my growing-up years at boarding school. The book was published by TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission), my parents’ mission that ran the boarding school. Writing it rekindled my love of creative writing, and I’ve never really stopped since.

SS: How many books do you have published? What are a few of your recent titles?

JW: To this point, I have had 15 titles published, among them the six books of the YA international mystery Parker Twins Adventure Series, and six adult political-suspense novels. Most recent are the two contemporary Afghanistan titles, Veiled Freedom, a 2010 Christian Book Award and Christy Award finalist, and Freedom’s Stand, a 2011 Golden Scroll Novel of the Year finalist, both published by Tyndale House.

SS: How did you get your first book contract?

JW: Like much in my writing career, my start as a Christian novelist hardly fits any CBA norm. I’d written Kathy and the Redhead and gone on to finish the first three books of The Parker Twins Adventures. while on furlough from Bolivia, I’d purchased my first Sally Stuart Christian Writers Market Guide and begun working my way through publishers (no email then, so hardcopy sent stateside with travelers). I’d received some encouragement and far more rejections when our family came stateside again for a three-month. By then I’d gone through every publisher on the list and was ready to give up. I prayed, asking God to either open a door or close it completely if my writing was not His will so I would not waste more time that could go into other ministry.

Shortly before heading back to Bolivia, we were at a missions conference in Wenatchee, WA, when I was informed I had a call. To my astonishment, it was the editor of a new YA department for Multnomah (then Questar) Press. Multnomah had already sent me a rejection, saying they didn’t publish juvenile, but would be interested if I ever wrote a teen novel (which became my one teen novel, Jana’s Journal). The editor informed me that when Questar had merged with Multnomah, they’d found some wonderful
children’s mystery chapters tucked away in a drawer. My in-laws’ phone number was on the proposal as our USA contact. They’d passed on our current location at the conference. Would I possibly still have the books available for publishing?

Would I! The manuscript was in the mail the next day, the contract arriving just as we headed back to Bolivia, the first of six mysteries in that series and the beginning of my CBA career. That out-of-the-blue phone call at a missions conference would be too improbable for fiction. Which simply goes to show that one can follow every guideline, jump through every hoop, but in the end, delightfully, unexpectedly, there is always the ‘But God’ factor that turns all our own plans and efforts on end.

SS: What has helped you promote your books the most?

JW: Initially, being involved in international missions was an advantage for promoting, as I had a platform with all the churches and
individuals of our ministry support team as well as the international missions network. They were definitely the first major readers of my books and remain an avid fan club.

SS: What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book? Did those mistakes cause you to change? If so, how?

JW: I published my first books while on the mission field, knowing nothing of the Christian publishing world nor having communication then by email, internet, Skype or I somehow assumed that once the publishing house got those titles into their catalog, they would take care of the marketing. My only contribution was mentioning the books in a ministry prayer letter. Of course sales were dismal. When I came stateside, I began to learn the hard reality of how much an author has to invest in marketing, not just writing good stories. It is still my least favorite aspect of writing, but I’ve learned to be relatively competent at doing my part.

SS: Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?

JW: One thing my publisher (Tyndale House) did for which I am now grateful was to drag me kicking and screaming into the modern computer tech/social networking age. They encouraged me (nicely, but firmly) to bring my website up-to-date, start a blog, set up FaceBook, Twitter. I would never have done so on my own, but am thankful now for that push because it has not only been an asset to marketing, but brought me back into contact with countless friends from the past and around the planet. Fellow missionary kids. College classmates. Children I once taught God’s Word in Latin America, now pastors and ministry leaders themselves. Writers I’ve mentored on five continents. And so much more. That social network has in turn become a major fan club for my books.

SS: Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?

JW: E-books have definitely widened the reach of my titles. It is such a delight to receive fan letters from places like Surinam, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Indonesia, India, Philippines, Kuwait and other places where people, both expatriate humanitarian and ministry leaders and local e-readers are able to download my books where they could never get a paper copy. And since various titles are now out in Spanish, Dutch, and German as well as English, it is fun to get letters (sometimes with very broken English) for other-language readers.

SS: Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?

JW: I follow the ‘kitchen sink’ method. Anything my publisher asks of me, any opportunities that come my way, tips from fellow authors, I simply do all I have time for (like this CAN profile). Print interviews. Radio. Book table at my speaking events. Proactively scheduling speaking events. Professional networking like AWSA, CAN, ICFW, ACFW. Giveaways. Posting relevant info/links on FaceBook and Twitter. Whatever comes my way. The general principle is to sow one’s marketing seeds as widely, because you really don’t know just where a seed may sprout.

SS: What are your top tips for aspiring writers with their first book contract?

JW: Don’t do what I did. Proactively prepare and create a buzz for your title before it releases.

SS: Thank you, Jeanette, for sharing with us today! What a fascinating story you have! Readers, to learn more about Jeanette and her books, please visit her website at

I encourage you to go to Jeanette’s website for more information!

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