novelist Trish Perry had a monthly column, "Real Life is Stranger,"
in Christian Fiction Online Magazine during its inaugural year. She was
editor of Ink and the Spirit, the newsletter of Washington D.C.'s
Christian Writers organization (CCW), for seven years. Before her
Trish published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry
Christian and general market media.
writing at an early age and later experienced a myriad of jobs ranging
from legal work to stockbroker before you began to pursue your writing
in earnest. What did these experiences add to your writing? Were you
faithful to work on developing
your skills as you did other things?
Actually, what little writing I
did early on was simply part of my Dabbling-in-Art phase of life. I’ve
always been drawn to artistic expression, whether fine art, music,
dance, or writing, and when I was younger I was equally active in all
those areas. So I can’t say I was any more faithful to develop my
writing skills than I was my singing, dancing, or painting skills. Not
until I was an adult.
The experiences I had while
working for attorneys and as a stockbroker probably enriched my bank of
character traits more than anything else. Neither of those environments
is terribly thrilling—not in real life, anyway. You don’t often come
across a Grisham or Wall Street kind of plot in
everyday life among attorneys or brokers.
genre has become your hallmark. Has that always been your favorite
genre to read? Do you think that romantically themed stories should
provide realistic examples of some of life’s emotional difficulties, or
should the man and woman always end up happy together?
Romance has always been one of
my favorite genres to read, but I enjoy just about every genre
available. If I read a romance, I’ll normally follow it with something
from a different genre. I like to mix it up.
And I definitely feel
romantically themed stories should include real-life conflicts and
difficulties. No conflict, no story. We want to be able to identify
with the protagonist. We can’t do that if her life is perfect. I agree
with Tolstoy’s comment, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy
family is unhappy in its own way.”
With regard to chronically happy
endings, of course, the romance genre requires Happily Ever After—or at
least the strong suggestion of it. But that’s just the romance genre.
Love stories are a different animal and can have tragic endings,
enigmatic endings, or any number of different outcomes. They’re just
not romances, as the genre is defined.
Some feel that
romantic stories provide unrealistic ideals of human relationships that
make real life seem like a disappointment. Do you think this is a
legitimate argument? Why or why not?
I’ve heard that opinion before,
and my professional response is, “What a lot of hooey!” With all due
respect, what kind of rubes do such critics think readers are? That
stance is an insult to the reader’s intelligence. No doubt there are
some delusional readers out there, but they’re not the norm.
The complaint tends to be
leveled against romantic fiction, as you mention. And women tend to be
the readers of romantic fiction. So the worry essentially boils down to
whether or not women will “settle” for their real-life husbands (along
with their imperfections) after reading about unrealistically fabulous
heroes. If that’s a danger, all I can say is, please
don’t let any man read Proverbs 31:10–31. Ask any woman if she measures
up to the Wife of Noble Character. I think most of us know and accept
the difference between the ideal human and the imperfect one.
Christian readers in general can
distinguish between fact and fiction in books and film, whether the
fiction addresses the ideal romance, the perfectly crafted crime, the
ability to reach an astonishing land via a wardrobe, or the existence
of tall blue people on the planet Pandora.
There is also
a move toward more edgy fiction, and that includes romance. Do you feel
it’s necessary to provide titillating details in order for your books
to be considered realistic, or do you think that is unnecessary within
the Christian market place?
To answer your question
directly, no, I don’t feel titillation equals realism. I read at least
as much ABA fiction as I do CBA, and like most readers I alter my
expectations when I read books published in the ABA. While I’m not
particularly uncomfortable when I read something edgy in secular
fiction, I must admit to feeling a bit squeamish about the same thing
in Christian novels.
As a Christian writer I
sometimes struggle with the restraints inherent in the industry, so I
understand the desire to push that proverbial envelope. On occasion I
wish I could use my more earthy humor in my writing. No can do.
When I pick up a book that
presents itself as Christian fiction, I don’t want to find myself
distracted, wondering if the author was titillated as she/he wrote what
I’m reading. Sorry—creepy.
Out of all of
your published works, what is your favorite story? Why?
most recent story is always my favorite. The youngest is my baby, so to
speak. And I recently had triplets, which I completed all at once.
Tea for Two
(Harvest House Publishers, April) is the second book in my Tea with
Millicent series. Milly Jewel is back, and I just love her. This time
she introduces a lovely psychological counselor to a young farmer, with
the hope they can join forces to tame his two wild teens. I loved
watching the protagonists and the teens slowly
unveil their vulnerabilities to each other.
I also have warm fuzzies for Unforgettable
(Summerside Press, March), my 1950s-era story about a ballroom
dance instructor and the city desk newspaper reporter in her life.
Their experiences take them from the Washington, DC metropolitan area
up to Manhattan as they each pursue professional success as well as
romantic understanding. I loved the era and the idea of a young woman
trying to achieve independence at a time when few women could.
Finally, my other March
“delivery” is Delight Yourself in the Lord . . . Even on Bad
Hair Days (Summerside). My 2010 was mighty busy! This one is
a really fun devotional, written with Sandra D. Bricker, Kristin
Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Debby Mayne. Not a story, but just as dear
to me as the other two spring releases.
you find yourself, or parts of your own experiences, showing up in your
stories? If not from your own experiences, where do you get most of
your story ideas?
Maybe a shrink would claim
otherwise, but I never show up in my stories. My characters aren’t
based on me or anyone I know. Every once in awhile I’ll experience or
observe something interesting or funny and will tuck it away to
incorporate into a story, but that’s as close to my real life as my
stories get. You remember your question about confusing fiction with
one’s reality? Believe me, my everyday life is no runaway best seller
(not that my books are, either, but you know what I mean).
You are the
mother of grown children. Do they read your work? Share your love for
stories and writing?
I would never subject my
eighteen-year-old son to my romances. Definitely not his cup of tea.
But he’s wonderfully supportive. When one of his college professors
recently told him he was a good writer, he credited me for that and
provided the professor with a list of my books. He’s majoring in film,
so he just might end up doing some screenwriting.
My daughter has always been a
good writer, but she’s also a strong left-hemisphere gal, so she’s a
creative manager, Web designer, and entrepreneur. She does read my
books. All three of us are avid story fans, whether through books or
Can you give
readers a behind-the-scenes look at your current project? What are you
most excited about as you work to complete it?
’Tis the Season
(working title) is the Christmas novella I’ve just started writing for
a September release through Summerside. I’m pairing up with Debby
Mayne, who is writing a historical (working title: Deck the
Halls) to go with my contemporary. The pair will release as Love
Finds You on Christmas Morning. My heroine is the live-in
personal chef to an eccentric billionaire in Cary, North Carolina. At
this point she’s just crossed paths with the hero, so I’m excited to
see how everything develops from here on out. My favorite part about
this project is the tie-in with Debby’s story. Her heroine is my
heroine’s great-grandmother, and their stories intertwine in a lovely
What has God
taught you through your writing career? What advice would you give
others who are pursuing this path?
He constantly uses my writing to
remind me to lean on Him. Whether the concern is about meeting
deadlines or making financial ends meet or coming up with the words and
stories He wants me to write, I know He has it all in hand. I simply
have to lean on Him.
thoughts you’d like to share with your readers?
I’d like to wish you all a
fantastic, blessed 2011! I pray this year brings you closer to the Lord
and His plan for you. And I thank you for reading what I write and
keeping in touch. Many blessings!
Ford has been a resident of
Alabama for more than ten years. Originally from Georgia, she holds a
Bachelor’s degree in English from Brenau Women’s College. She has spent
the past 9 years in sales and marketing and has been an avid reader of
Christian Fiction for more than 20 years.
A mother of two teen sons and married to a technical writer and Army
veteran, Kim’s life is full and blessed. She and her husband also
volunteer as teachers for a resident rehab program for women with
life-controlling issues. She uses her fiction to encourage the ladies
she teaches. She blogs at: Window
To My World