07 June 2013

Billy Coffey on writing and a giveaway!!!

I have been moved, inspired and encouraged by the words of Billy Coffey since I first started reading his blog years ago.  He is a writer's writer and a down to earth, God fearing, sit awhile on the front porch Virginia man.  With his latest novel When Mockingbirds Sing releasing next week, Billy was gracious enough to take time to answer a few questions for us.

Billy, with three books published and another on the way, I believe you’re qualified to speak a bit about the art and craft of fiction writing.

Do you feel like you design your characters or do they develop a life of their own as you begin to put words to paper?
I usually begin with a name, a problem, and how that problem gets solved. Novels aren’t about events as much as they’re about people and how they change between the first chapter and the last. Those three things are all I allow myself to think of at the beginning. After that, they sort of come alive on their own. By and large, though, I think every character in every story is in some ways a reflection of the writer. At least, that’s true for me. 
Do the paths your stories wind down ever take you by surprise?
Occasionally, yes. I've always been better at characters than plot, so I have to approach plotting carefully. It’s a balancing act. If you sit down and try to outline every single moment of your story, there’s a good chance it will grow stale. I have in mind where I want to start, where things need to be at the middle, and a rough idea of how it all ends. I let the rest take me by surprise.  
How much have your characters taught you, or changed the way you look at this life?
I think they've taught me much more about myself. All the characters in When Mockingbirds Sing are segments of my own personality—Leah’s shyness, Allie’s belief in life’s magic, Reverend Goggins’s sense of entitlement. They’re all me. Seeing me laid out on the page wasn’t very comfortable, but it made me see my own strengths and weaknesses.
I know we have talked about how much courage it takes to pour your self into words.  Where do you turn when that courage begins to fade?  How do you keep yourself going?
To me, writing is a huge blessing. It’s also a huge responsibility. Readers don’t owe writers anything, and to pretend otherwise is only to court disaster. But writers owe readers plenty, and chief among that is honesty. You have to give the very best of yourself to the page, even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts. That responsibility is what I most often turn to when the courage begins to fade.
Any other words of wisdom or encouragement for those of us still working on our first novels?
Write every day. For every hour you spend on social media, spend three on your work. 
Read every day. Not just the genre you’re writing for, either. Read anything. Everything. The broader your knowledge, the better you’re writing will be.
Kill your darlings. 
Polish, submit, wait. And when those rejections come (they will, and often), always try one more time. I cannot stress that rule enough. Always, always. Just once more.
I hope this peaks your interest in Billy's work.  If you haven't already, you really should read Snow Day, Paper Angels and next week his latest becomes available When Mockingbirds Sing.  Here's a little peek into this new novel:

Thomas Nelson Publishers has been kind enough to make a copy of When Mockingbirds Sing available for me to give away to one lucky reader.  All you need to do is leave a comment below telling me what gives you courage and you'll be entered into a random drawing.  To earn extra entries, share this via Facebook, or Twitter or Google+ and come back and leave me another comment for each shout-out.

Keep watching here. Winner will be announced next week when I post my review of this wonderful story!



katdish said...

What a great interview, Karin. Billy's right. You've got to be honest in your writing. Which is exactly why I'll most probably never attempt to write a book. It's too terrifying.

BeckeyZ said...

My faith gives me courage. I am nothing, and can accomplish nothing without Jesus in my life.

Love Billy and his way with words.

Anonymous said...

Oh I am definitely a Billy fan! Read the first two, can't wait for the third! Thank you for highlighting his work....

Tamarshope said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tamarshope said...

Sorry Karin, I deleted my first post because it had too many spelling mistakes~I should have proof read it first!!

Great article....Jesus gives me courage...it sounds so simplistic doesn't it? But in reality it isn't....there are many layers to courage...just as there are many layers in our healing, in our journey with our Abba Father.

I have always loved this quote by Dan Allender regarding courage and it pretty much sums it up for me: "The more we are freed by the LOVE of God from the tentacles of shame and blame, the less likely we will give into fear during a crisis. It is BROKENNESS that increases a heart's capacity to live with COURAGE!"

Anonymous said...

I like that recommendation to read all genres....thanks for posting Karen.

Sheila said...

Such good words for me right now. I'm taking a break from working on a painful-naked-where-can-I-hide shameful passage from my past.

I draw courage from others who've seen that their redemption glorifies God and helps others when they're brave enough to share.

Thank you, Karin, for this. And thank you, Billy, for the wise words.

Sheila said...

Shared on facebook. ;)

Carol J. Garvin said...

I like your description of Billy as "a writer's writer." I read his blog and marvel at how his use of simple words can have such a huge impact on me. There's no apparently formula to how he writes his novels, too, and I love their fresh approach to life's depth. I'm really looking forward to this new release.

Holly A Grantham said...

What gives me courage is hearing other folks' stories. To know that someone else in the big wide world has braved something hard and challenging and lived to tell about it--well, it infuses me with strength I didn't have before. Vulnerability begets vulnerability and vulnerability is fueled by courage.

Holly A Grantham said...

Shared on Facebook!

S. Etole said...

This sounds like an excellent book. Courage? "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee."

Shelly Miller said...

Karin, thanks for this interview. I love hearing about the writing process for other writers and would love to have this book. The title and cover alone have my curiosity peaked. I shared it on Twitter.

Jody Lee Collins said...

Karin, thanks for this review. Glynn Young featured this book, too, and it sounds intriguing.

What gives me courage to write? Inspiration from writers like Ann Voskamp and Laura Barkat, and many others.

Just. Keep. Going

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