Greetings from Sarah Sundin in chilly-for-us California! Today I have the joy of interviewing one of our newest CAN members, novelist Peggy Blann Phifer. Although Peggy never planned to become a writer and didn’t start until she was in her fifties, she has definitely made up for it since then!
Peggy, please tell us about your book, Somehow, Christmas Will Come.
Molly Dugan sets aside her life in St. Paul and flies to Las Vegas to help her brother Patrick deal with the loss of his wife in a boating accident. But once there, things are not what Molly expected, especially with Patrick’s motherless six-year-old daughter who fears Christmas won’t come with her mommy gone.
What inspired you to write this book?
It was originally intended to be a historical. I was living in Las Vegas at the time of its Centennial in 2005. Several books were printed about the town’s beginnings and I was captivated. So I wrote a short-short story called “Dugan’s Deed” for a now non-existent newsletter, intending to turn it into a full-length book. But that’s as far as I got. Nothing happened.
After my husband passed away in 2012, I returned to Wisconsin and was approached by an editor about writing a Christmas story for them and I jumped at the chance. But instead of historical, I changed the genre to contemporary women’s fiction.
What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
After changing the genre and getting into the ‘meat’ of the story, I wrote myself into a situation I had no clue about . . . Intestate Law and Probate. In Nevada. And here I was in Wisconsin. But I had written too much and gotten too far, and was now too vested in the story to start over. That research took time and patience. Whenever I found a promising resource it turned out to be a law firm that wanted real details and a real location. Sigh. But I refused to give up and eventually found some information I could use.
Oh yes—the joys of research! How do you share Christ in your writing?
Overall, my Christian message is covert. Never in-your-face. I rarely cite Scripture and have never written a dramatic salvation scene. Nor do I intend to. That’s just not me. I hope and pray that by the content and context of my words and writing, the Christian message is understood. That’s a lot like my own walk with Christ, that my demeanor and life actions show Christ in me. You know, “let your light so shine…” It seemed to be effective in my workplace where I was often thrown into contact with the rough side of the construction industry. It didn’t take too long before those men were apologizing when a curse word escaped, and they realized I was around.
When did you first recognize God’s call to write for Him?
I honestly don’t think I ever did. And unlike most writers, I didn’t always want to be a writer. But once back in early 1980, I impulsively took a writing aptitude test through the Institute of Children’s Literature. Their analysis and feedback was positive, so I enrolled. All the lessons I sent came back with high praise. I was thrilled. But about halfway through the course, I realized I wasn’t meant to write children’s lit. I was well past middle-aged and out of touch with the younger generation, so I dropped out.
Then, one day at lunch at work several years later, I finished the book I’d brought to read saying something dumb like “I can write better than that,” and my friend said, “Then why don’t you?” And I never looked back, though it took over twenty years to get my first book published.
Good for you! Persistence is one of the most vital traits in an author. Now that you’re published, do you still have an unfulfilled dream?
Oh, yes. I’ve always wanted to visit Great Britain and my ancestral roots. I’m told I’m descended from Mary, Queen of Scots, but my mother was never able to prove it. Isn’t that always the case? History was my second ‘major’ in high school and I keep thinking about how fun and awesome it would be to see those places my ancestors trod and captured my imagination. Alas, that dream will remain unfulfilled.
What ministries are you involved in, and why?
Having grown up in the church—both my maternal and paternal grandfathers were ministers, and my parents were deeply involved in church ministry—I, too, was very active and involved in church and Sunday school. I also played the piano for worship services both morning and evening and Wednesday night prayer meeting. I’ve been missionary society president, church treasurer, soloist, young people’s director, often bringing teens home for dinner and games after church . . . just about anything in church service at any given time. Until having children of my own.
But those days are gone. My ministry now, if you will, is my blog promoting writers and introducing them and their books to new readers.
You’ve certainly served in a wide variety of areas—that’s fantastic! In your spare time, what do you read for pleasure?
My reading tastes are rather eclectic. But I really enjoy romantic suspense (which is what I write), political thrillers, some historical fiction (I’m choosy), and, occasionally, romance.
I’m currently between books, trying to decide what I want to read next.
Tell us about your next project.
I’ll be working on a sequel to Somehow, Christmas Will Come tentatively titled The Call of the Mockingbird or something similar. It will have mockingbird in it, anyway.
Sounds like fun! Thank you for sharing with us, Peggy!
To learn more about Peggy’s books, please visit Peggy’s website.
Writing for Him,