Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Patti Hill answers the tough questions. Help!

Can you make up stories on the spot - at the drop of a hat?

I was a champ at this as a child, but Mom considered it lying. Sadly, I was very good at it. I love Jesus for taking my sin and redeeming it into something that benefits His kingdom. At least, that's my intention. Now that I've matured a bit, I percolate story ideas. I believe strongly in the power of staring out the window. It helps to have a splendid view.

Of your favorite books, what one do you wish you had written, and why?

I deeply regret waiting so long to read To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s stellar book. I love the story because it confronts a dark truth in our history without ever feeling preachy. And Scout's voice, oh my, it's spot on--strong and clear. The writing is elegant in its simplicity. I really, really wish I’d written it.

Conflict is central to fiction, but how do you create a work of fiction that is tense, difficult, and sometimes even frightening, yet make it a place readers want to go to, spend time in, and get to know well?

As a beginning writer, this was a tough aspect of storytelling. I don’t like conflict, so I was much too nice to my characters. They all lived in La-La Land. Very boring. And then, interestingly enough, I went through a tough trial. The experience transformed me down to my soul. After that, I have no problem dishing out the conflict for my character. How else are they going to change?

More to the point, I have a rather odd sense of humor. I found something amusing in all of my medical tests, even a lumbar puncture and an episode with a car battery! My readers will see my quirky perspective in my writing. In other words, humor makes conflict more palatable.

What is Christian fiction?

Christian fiction is written by someone who relies on the saving grace of Jesus, believes He is the hope of the world, and writes accordingly. The story doesn’t necessarily have Christian content such as believing characters or Bible verses (although mine do), but the story must reflect the eternal truths of Christianity, things like redemption, forgiveness, sacrificial love. Examples of Christian fiction that fit my definition range from The Shack to The Lord of the Rings.

Where is the strangest place that you had a brainstorm and had to stop and write down an idea or snippet of dialogue?

Bonnie and I have this in common. All of my best ideas happen in the shower! And why not, it's warm and quiet in there. I once had a four-idea shower. That’s a record. I’ve learned to step out of the shower to write the ideas down, or they swirl down the drain with my shampoo. I must get some of those bath tub crayons.

Which one of your characters most resembles you and how did you draw from your life to create them?

Amy in The Queen of Sleepy Eye is very close to how I was at seventeen. I knew everything, certainly had God all figured out, and was convinced that I was bulletproof. Fortunately, I remember that part of my life pretty well (but don’t ask me what I had for lunch). My life, however, was much easier than Amy’s. I dragged that poor girl through the mud. Fortunately, by God’s grace, we've both landed on our feet. Phew!

Tell us about the relationship between your writing and your spiritual life.

I consider my office a holy place where God and I get to play together. As I’m writing, I look for His footprints in the dewy grass and do my best to follow. It’s a breath-taking game of follow the leader, that’s for sure.

I thoroughly enjoyed our first visit. I'd like to know what you remember about yourself at seventeen.

If you'd like to post a link to Novel Matters on your web site or blog, go to Kathleen Popa's brilliant blog at to snatch the widget.

Grow in grace, dear readers...Patti


Patti Hill said...

Okay, I'll start. At seventeen, I picked a college with the most friends attending that was at least 200 miles away from home. No thought given to majors or future careers. I changed my major several times that first year. So silly. During my sophomore year, an English professor suggested I should be a writer, so I changed my major to journalism. Really, I should have talked to her first. But learning to write crisp narrative is one way God prepared me to write.

Kathleen Popa said...

My last year of high school I read a book titled, "What to Do With the Rest of Your Life." How's that for a daunting title? I was daunted. It had a lot of two or three page sections featuring a person in a particular profession, who would tell what his/her average day was like, what the pay was like, what was good/bad about the profession. There was even a mortician in there.

I was looking for something practical (not writing!) that didn't involve working with dead bodies. I thought working with wood would be nice and... woodsy, so I spent my first summer after high school working for a guy who refinished furniture. I worked for free, with the agreement that he would teach me how to work with wood. Ha. I learned to get the old finish off the wood, and that's all I got to do all summer.

Anonymous said...

How fun to learn more about you, Patti. Do I really have to recall me at 17? Scary thought! What a confused and lost little soul I was.

Patti Hill said...

Janet, I'm trying to picture you confused and lost . . . nope, it's not coming. You'll always be strong and present in my eyes.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. I thought what we had in common was a yearning for a kind of richness of writing. What if it comes down to is that we all are creative in the shower.

I think I need some chocolate to think this over.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

At seventeen, I wanted to either teach special education or be a park ranger. I dropped 'park ranger' when I realized I'd spend the first few years picking up skunks off the road. The fact that my English teacher thought I had some writing ability never even sparked my interest, even though I read voraciously. Seventeen was pretty much a wash for me.

Kathleen Popa said...

Did anybody learn the truth at seventeen? Anybody?

Didn't think so.

Patti Hill said...


We didn't have to learn the truth at seventeen. We already knew all there was to know. I'm just grateful that I got to use material from those days to make them redemptive. I had great hair, too. Naturally blonde.

Clueless now,

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I wasn't so lucky with the hair--I slept on rollers the size of orange juice cans every night. And I always thought I was fat, but I was skinny then, and I didn't even know it!

Bonnie Grove said...

Teen years? Oh, how little mattered outside of what I was wearing.

And giggly. Heavens, I laughed so much. That was my favorite part about being young - the ability to laugh at inappropriate times.

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

I would sign up for your blog feed if you used FeedBlitz.

Anonymous said...

The day I turned 17 we learned that my father was dying. Three months later my mom was left a young widow who'd never worked outside of the home. My older brother brother was in Vietnam so I was the oldest of the six kids at home. I remember that year as one of unrelenting fear. I didn't see how we would make it through the next day let alone make it through a lifetime.

One of my high school art teachers (who also coached football) made college happen for me. He did everything-- finding the money, getting me admitted, strong-arming the college to find me a place in the overcrowded dorms.

I sleepwalked through that year in my life and woke up when I found myself a seventeen-year-old at college. The good news? We all made it!

Kathleen Popa said...

Wow, Wendy. What a year of sorrow and mercy that was. Your art teacher was amazing, and so were you. I don't know if you learned the truth at seventeen, but I'll bet it did a lot to make you the lovely woman you are today.

Mesu Andrews said...

Hi all! Thanks to Sharon and Latayne for the invites to the blog conversation. I love all that I've read so far and have posted a little blurb on my blog and added it to my gadgets on the side. Blessings on your new endeavor! I believe it's going to bless many! How beautiful and humbling to hear your stories. God is so amazing - the way He draws us from every direction and circumstance. I've bumbled my way into writing like the proverbial bull in a china shop, never dreaming at age 17 I'd be doing what I'm doing! Every day I sit down at my computer and realize two things: 1) I can't do it without Him, and 2) He must have a great sense of humor.

Bonnie Leon said...

Oh my gosh, seventeen was sooo long ago. Aside from meeting my future husband, it was agony.

I was one of those teens who did drugs and all the rest that went along with it just so I could fit in. I so wanted to be myself but was afraid.

When I found Christ seven years later, I found me too. And I been me ever since.

Love this site and I'm going to be here to visit a lot.


Anonymous said...


My mom, Sharon Souza, gave me The Queen of Sleepy Eye a couple of months ago. I absolutely LOVED it! It's one that has stayed with me, even though I've finished at leat 10 books since.

I can't wait to read more from you.

By the way, at 17 I was a senior in high school, engaged to be married (2 months after I graduated), registering for Jr. college with the hopes of being a lawyer some day. I knew everything!

I went to college for 3 days, found out I was pregnant 2 days after our first anniversary, and worked in banking for 7 years. I came to work for the family business when my daughter started kindergarten so I could drive on field trips and be home with her after school every day.

Now I'm 32, I've been married almost 15 years and my daughter's about to become a teenager! This is not the life I thought I'd have at 17 but I'm so blessed that God knew better than me.

Nichole Osborn said...

6 days after I turned 17, I was told I had to find a place to live or be put in foster care. (My mom, a single mom, had a total mental break down) I moved in with a friend. I was not going to ever get married or have children. By 19 I was married and had 1 son with another on the way. I am 32 with one teenager and one almost there. I became a Christian at 18. Deanne it sounds like you and I have a lot in common.

Anonymous said...

As a beginning writer I too am only learning the art of creating conflict. Since I too do not like to face conflict in real life, I like my characters to avoid it as well. But now I realize that my writing is boring with conflict. I do not even care to re-live my own conflicts to make things richer but I suppose I will have to. Thanks....