Happy Monday, Everyone! It’s time for another BelleView Fishbowl day and this time I’ve invited the sweet, talented, and super-productive Colleen Coble. This woman actually told me she gets (and I quote) bored sometimes if she’s not writing two books per year! How’s that for someone with a serious head full of stories? Considering everything else she does, that’s amazing.
I know you’ll enjoy the visit with this “Wonder Woman” writer as much as I did!
Lisa: People often ask me, when did I start writing or when did I know I was a writer? Honestly, I can’t remember a time when my head wasn’t filled with stories. Back in the day, we spent our childhoods pretending every patch of woods was Sherwood Forest and every muddy Creek was the Amazon or the Nile. We ran around the neighborhood making up Let’s Pretend stories, largely because, if it wasn’t Saturday morning, there was nothing good on TV and we were bored. Colleen, where did your love of stories begin?
Colleen: From the time I first could hold a book, I’ve loved them. I wrote my first story in first grade about a horse that had twin colts. The teacher praised it and the seed was planted. My dream was just to have a book in the library! And even now, seeing my books in the library is a thrill. Your childhood sounds a lot like mine. There was a small pond in a woods at the fringes of our subdivision. My brother and I built a raft out of logs and rope and set out to sea. My parents would have been horrified if they knew!
Lisa: Colleen, you and I first met about ten years ago when several publishers sent their authors to a big grand opening signing at an H-E-B superstore in Central Texas. Back then, you were part of a fairly new group called American Christian Fiction Writers. Colleen, what inspired you to devote your time and energy to a group that would bring like-minded writers together? What do writers gain from community?
Colleen: I so well remember that signing, Lisa! It was such fun! When I first started writing, I didn’t know another soul with that same, seemingly silly, dream. I often felt I was wandering in a wilderness of confusion and heartache. It’s hard to get published. Hard to take the rejection. I read books on the craft of writing, but that wasn’t enough. I went on scholarship to my first writers conference, the Midwest Writers Workshop. I met others who were pursuing this crazy dream called writing, but I still longed for companions who wanted to write from a Christian worldview. I’ve found that with ACFW, and I want others to know the joy of knowing they are not alone. The training found at ACFW is second to none as well. The fun thing about writing is you never arrive. There is always more to be learned about our craft, and it’s fun to do it with friends!
Lisa: So, we’ve been hanging out in the “story universe” together (great minds think alike!) The Prayer Box and your Hope Beach books are all set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a place I absolutely love. In truth, though, the original setting of my story was the Texas coast. I always knew Iola Poole’s prayer boxes would be discovered in a hurricane ravaged house, but it was a reader friend who convinced me that the Outer Banks was the perfect setting for a book. Colleen, what caused you to choose this remote strip of islands and its hardy, friendly people as a backdrop for your Hope Beach novels? Did you know the place beforehand or discover its secrets as you worked?
Colleen: I did not know the place before I decided to write a series set there. I’d heard about it, of course. Then some friends from church went to the Outer Banks on vacation and came back raving. They said I should check it out for a setting. When I was noodling on the idea for my next series, I knew I wanted a beach location, something remote too. I did some research on the Outer Banks, then went out for a week and knew I’d found something special. I love Ocracoke, and I patterned my little Hope Island after it. I love the fact you can’t get there except by ferry. Perfect!
Lisa: For me, the Outer Banks was such a rich, unusual, mysterious setting, it became like another character in the story for me. There’s something about the idea of island life, about being close to the sea. I can’t sit by the water without coming both into myself and out of myself. When I study the complex colors and patterns of shells and sea life, the random treasures deposited by the tide, even the patterns in the sand, I’m reminded of God’s fingerprint on everything, of His ability to manage infinite details in incredible ways. Colleen, what does the sea say to you? What does it say to the characters in your stories? How did it influence the stories you’ve told in the Hope Beach books?
Colleen: I feel exactly the same, Lisa! Hawaii has always been another favorite of mine, and I’ve written 5 stores there soo far–and counting. The beauty is a glorious reminder of all God does for me every day. And since I write romantic mysteries, I really love a setting that is almost otherworldly. Beach settings do that for me. I can’t quite imagine living next to that kind of power every day. The ocean is mysterious and can change at a moment’s notice.
My Hope Beach stories have Coast Guard protagonists in them too, and I have such respect for those men and women. The more I have read about them, the more I realize they are the unsung heroes of our country. I also put my heroines on a remote island where they have to dig into their inner strength. That’s always fun. I love strong characters! Don’t give me some whiny heroine. I want a woman who is going to take whatever troubles come her way and let God help her turn them into something that strengthens her and ministers to others.
Lisa: The Tidewater Sisters novella will is coming in ebook in July, and The Story Keeper releases in September
Colleen: Seagrass Pier will be out in July, and I’m eager to hear what readers think! Rosemary Cottage was my first book to hit the USA Today bestseller list. Readers really seem to love that setting.
Colleen, thank you so much for joining us in the BelleView Fishbowl this week! We’ve loved every minute of it.
To celebrate this seaside time with Colleen, we’re having an Outer Banks giveaway. One lucky winner will receive autographed copies of Wildwood Creek and Rosemary Cottage AND a set of handmade Sea Glass Jewelry from Sandy’s Seashell Shop. To enter, leave a comment at the bottom of this post, answering the question of the day. The contest ends Friday, and we’ll announce the winner on Saturday. So that we can contact you (if you win) please leave an email address in your comment.
Question of the day: What’s your favorite memory of a childhood book and what was the book?
The Prayer Box — Selected as One of Booklist’s Top Ten of 2013!