Greetings from Colorado, where it snowed last week, the rivers are running high, and everything growing is green. Davalynn Spencer, here, and I’m thrilled today to welcome veteran author and storyteller, Janet Chester Bly who knows Western (historical and contemporary) inside and out. She claims not to corral cattle at her Idaho home, but she certainly knows how to corral words.
Janet, welcome. Tell us about your featured book, Beneath a Camperdown Elm, Book 3, Trails of Reba Cahill Series.
Cowgirl Reba’s scary stalker is locked up in jail. She finally snatches a rancher fiancé. Her runaway mother returns home. Reba has everything she ever wanted. Then Grandma Pearl disappears. Is she about to lose it all? Three generations of women travel separate journeys of the heart.
What inspired you to write this book?
The whole Trails of Reba Cahill series idea grew out of the crucible of my moving from a big city to living for a number of years in a mostly non-tribal small town, high on a mountain prairie, in the midst of the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. Observing up close and personal the simple, yet rugged country lifestyles, the various relational struggles, and the consequences of haunting past family secrets, stirred up these stories.
Is there something that you’ve put in this book with hopes of touching readers for the long-term?
To prepare each one’s heart to receive some special, divine truth, just for them.
Has God used this book’s message to touch your own life?
No matter how the main characters were raised or what foolish, even cruel decisions others made that impacted their lives, they come to realize how God brought something good, in spite of it. Though a fictional story, the intimate discovery of this truth, step by agonizing step, in the unfolding of this story’s events, seemed to me like watching God not only at work in them, but also in my own history.
In most of our endeavors, we face obstacles to our goals. What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
During the long process, to write it without the ongoing input, spot-on advice, and unerring insight of my long-time writing partner and now late husband. However, I am so grateful for all my editors and readers at the end of the final draft who gave me invaluable helps. It cannot be done alone. So need a team.
Please tell us what your writing spot is like. If it’s not your ideal place, what would the perfect location look like?
I must be able to look outside at a landscape of some sort. Ironically, my basement office has the worst view in the house, so I move my laptop around when I’m writing. I’ve found my favorite spot. At my dining room table, I’m able to look out at the forest and see the birds and weather. Even better, when conditions permit, anywhere outdoors rules as my favorite creating spot. The office is mainly for mundane duties such as business, email, social media, etc.
Amen, Janet. You’ve captured the writer’s heart of responding to the beauty around us as we create and saving the “mundane duties” for less-interesting spaces. So tell us, why do you love writing so much?
When I first begin a book, I have little idea what the characters will do or say and especially how it will all end. What a joy to keep the story going, to experience it happening as I type away. The unexpected twists and turns. The surprise of discovery. The ‘aha’ moments are priceless.
When did you first recognize God’s call on your life to write for Him?
Many years ago—back in 1975—at a Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference. Still remember the growing excitement of being around other writers and editors, attending classes on how to do the whole process, and the inspiration received in wanting to keep learning how to communicate better. This felt like my world, where I belonged.
I love that phrase, Janet – “This felt like my world, where I belonged.” Why do you write the genre you write today?
When I lost my husband, I knew that I could not write historical westerns without him. He had the expertise, the knowledge. He knew his era very well. I didn’t. So, I decided to keep with the western theme, but write about contemporary cowboys and cowgirls. And I love mysteries. And a touch of romance. So, I put all those things together, in hopes I could draw in as many of Stephen’s fans to be interested in these novels too.
What is one thing about writing that you wish non-writers knew?
How absolutely frustrating it can be that it takes months and years to write a book he or she can read within a day or two. Of course, I do the same thing. The redeeming factor can be that they will enjoy it so much to want to read it again sometime.
Are you involved in any other ministries, and if so, why have you chosen them?
Have always loved to sing. My main ministry outside writing centers around music. I help with my local church’s worship team and am also choir director, as well as in charge of any special music numbers.
You mentioned that you are a reader. What are you reading right now?
Have so many books on my shelf I’ve enjoyed over the years—mainly mysteries of some sort. Recently I’ve read novels by Anne Perry, John Grisham, and Dick Francis. And not so long ago—Brandilyn Collins, Colleen Coble, and James Scott Bell. Right now I’m reading a long, tedious novel, and yet somehow charming. It’s set in a 1300s Italian monastery about heretics, Aristotle logic, Aquinas theology, and the empirical insights of Roger Bacon. Oh, and seven bizarre deaths to be solved by a Monk detective. It’s The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Never would have picked it up on my own, but a book club I belong to recommended it.
It sounds intriguing, Janet, as I’m sure your next project does as well. Tell us what’s ahead for you and your laptop.
I’m taking a break to expend the time and effort to re-release a number of out-of-prints of my late husband’s, Christy Award-winning Western author, Stephen Bly. Readers keep asking about them. It’s my next task to do.
Thank you for sharing with us today, Janet. The longevity of your career is encouraging.
May all that you read be uplifting.