Bonjour, comment ça va?
How y’all doing?
How did a Southern girl from
Atlanta, Georgia, end up in Lyon, France?
I’m a missionary. And
I have the kind of jobs that aren’t listed in any of the choices on
those school forms my sons have to fill out under “parent’s
profession.” For twenty years my husband I have lived in France, and
for twenty years we’ve heard comments like “Wow, France. It must be
nice. Tough life.”
And we smile and nod and then
explain, if the person cares to listen, that France is a rather tough
mission field. Really. Despite the history and culture and pastries and
cheeses and, gasp, wines, a great spiritual apathy is in this beautiful
and beautifully diverse country. We knew when we signed up for career
missions that to be effective in France we’d need to stay for the long
haul. By God’s grace we have.
But that has presented
challenges for me in my other job as a Christian fiction writer. For
the past fourteen years, I have penned stories in English to send back
to my American publisher.
It used to be quite expensive,
bundling up that precious manuscript and sending it via UPS. Over $100.
Once, I confided my “baby” to a teenage boy in our youth group who was
traveling to New York and asked him to mail my manuscript from there,
where the postage would cost me only $20. The only problem was that he
had a changeover in London and accidentally left my packaged manuscript
on a bus that took him between airports. What was I thinking? A teenage
boy! And this was in the ’90s when London police were blowing up any
unclaimed, suspicious-looking luggage.
Let’s just say I paid big bucks
to learn my lesson.
Happily now, I can zip my
manuscript through cyberspace, and my editor receives it at his desk in
America in no time at all. And the postage is free!
How have I gotten published and
marketed my novels while living in France? Writer’s conferences have
been lifesavers for me. I have attended three in the past fifteen
years, working them in when I am home in the States. At my first
conference, I learned how to present a professional book proposal, I
attended workshops, and I met book editors face-to-face. One of those
meetings resulted in a contract for my first novel four months later.
At conferences, I’ve gotten to
meet other writers, talk with agents, and keep up-to-date on my
profession. It is encouraging to have friends who are only an e-mail
Marketing my books has called
for creativity. Of course, my publisher does the bulk of the marketing,
but I certainly have a part to play. I’m very thankful for the
Internet. Having a Web site has made it easier to reach my readers.
And although I can’t stop in
bookstores throughout the year, I do make the most of my trips back to
the States when a new book is releasing. (I always bring yummy French
chocolates with me to hand out!) It becomes very intense as I schedule
signings and speaking engagements, interviews and meetings with book
clubs all within a short amount of time. Intense but so rewarding.
Every time I get to sign a book or speak to a bookstore owner or share
with a group of women, I feel like the Lord is giving me a big hug. He
has allowed me to write for His glory—my lifetime dream.
A highlight of my most recent
trip back to the States was getting to meet all the great people who
work at my publishing house. It was well worth the investment in travel
to be able to talk with the marketing and editorial teams. Having my
agent meet me there was an extra blessing. We’re all in this business
A few years ago I joined a Yahoo
group for published Christian authors. Again, this has given me great
opportunities to keep up with the market in the States, make new
friends, and meet fellow professionals who “get” my work.
One writing perk to living in
France is that I’ve gotten to travel and speak in other European
countries where my novels are published. God is using Christian novels
to reach people all over the world.
Which brings me to my main
frustration at Christian fiction in America: Through
statistics, I’ve discovered that most evangelical Americans want to
read novels that take place only in America. I believe American
Christians desperately need to be aware of the whole big world out
there! As technology makes the world grow smaller, we need to be
challenged and stretched in our cultural beliefs while holding tightly
to the Gospel.
In the meantime, I’ll keep
writing Southern fiction with a French twist.
It’s not easy to juggle two jobs
in two countries. But what a privilege. Now excuse me, please, while I
grab a baguette, a piece of cheese, and a glass of
wi . . . grape juice.