by C.J. Darlington
Rebeca Seitz Interview
"...my faith flavors what I write. When I create, I feel a sense of joining with the Creator, of fumblingly (like that word?) moving my fingers on a laptop in a pale, pale shadow of His fingers moving in the void to create what was not there." -- Rebeca Seitz
Rebeca Seitz loves to scrapbook. And read (while eating chocolate). And write (while eating chocolate). And hang out with girlfriends (while eating chocolate). And laugh (not while eating chocolate - that'd be gross!). And tell stories about her crazy husband and crazier toddler (pausing on the chocolate since her momma taught her not to talk with her mouth full). And...well, you get the picture. She's been in the publishing industry for many years as a literary publicist, securing media placement in places like The Today Show and USA Today for astounding authors of amazing fiction.
In 2006, Rebeca decided to join their ranks and sold her first novel specifically for the scrapbooking world, Prints Charming, to Thomas Nelson Publishers. Creating a world of girlfriends and scrapbooking was such fun, she then signed on to write four more scrapbooking novels, this time for B&H Publishing Group. Sisters, Ink, the first novel in the series, will release February 2008. Subsequent books in the series will release every six months. For those of you who hate math, that means there will be another Sisters, Ink novel in August 2008, February 2009, and August 2009. (Rebeca understands math deficiency - it's why she works in the world of words and leaves the math to her engineer-minded husband.)
C.J.: Were books a big part of your life growing up? If so, what books would you say influenced you most as a child? I hear you were a huge Nancy Drew fan …
Rebeca: I was a Nancy Drew fan! Wow, you do your homework. :) Stories have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents started me out at age 4 with “Benji Goes to School” – and accompanying 45 record, of course. I listened to it so much, I memorized it. My great, great aunt, Retta Moultrie, also fostered my love of reading. She had a huge collection of Reader’s Digest Magazines in her home and she let me play “office” with them all the time. Her oldest issue was from 1979. I have no idea how many times I read the stories in those magazines. For every Christmas in memory, I’ve asked for books. My mom has a picture of me from junior high opening up a huge box of books – the expression on my face tells how much I love stories! For months afterward, she’d have to tell me to put the book down at the dinner table, reminding me that dinner was the time for conversation, not reading. My husband does that now. :)
You got your start in the industry as a publicist for Thomas Nelson. Tell us a little bit about what first drew you to working in public relations.
It was Dr. Jerald Ogg at the University of Tennessee at Martin. I went to college declaring a major of communications because Mrs. Pam Harris – my high school Spanish and journalism teacher – told me I had a knack for writing. At UTM, communications majors pick a track of study: journalism, broadcast, or public relations. Dr. Ogg told me he thought I should consider public relations. By this point, I’d also declared political science as a major. I thought combining public relations with political science would give me a good educational foundation from which I could build a career in politics. :)
It wasn’t until a year after graduation that I met Eva Marie Everson, a fine lady and writer who took me under her wing when I was living in Orlando. Eva Marie helped me get a book proposal in front of editors. But when one told me it was the best proposal he’d seen and to send him the entire manuscript, I knew something was off. Eva Marie was more excited than me! If this was the culmination of my life’s purpose, then I knew I should be at least as excited as Eva. I told her I knew I was supposed to be in book publishing, but perhaps this part of my life wasn’t supposed to be dedicated to writing novels.
I prayed in earnest and, a year after that, learned of the open publicist position at Thomas Nelson. I didn’t even know what a literary publicist was, but I had a degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations and a passion for Christian fiction. I went for the interview and met Pamela Clements, then Vice President of Marketing and Publicity for Thomas Nelson. Pamela is a sharp businesswoman and she shot straight with me. She said there were others with more experience, but I was the only candidate who had a deep passion for fiction. “I can teach you this job, Rebeca,” she said, “but I can’t teach someone to be passionate.” Three months and several rounds of interviews later, Pamela offered me the job. Thus began my career as a literary publicist.
Did your desire to write stem from helping other authors promote their fiction, or has it been a lifelong goal for you?
It hasn’t been a lifelong goal, no. My lifelong goal is to do exactly what God has planned for me – to seek that out, to chase after His dreams with unending zeal, to keep finding His delightful plan day after day. As each new phase of my professional life begins, I see how He has woven together all the things that came before so that I could be prepared for the present. It astounds me, this story of my life that He’s writing.
The initial idea for your first novel Prints Charming came from a brainstorming session you had with some editors, but you obviously ran with it! What excited you most about this idea?
I was so excited that God had brought me an opportunity to write a novel! I had let go of that idea when I became a publicist, not realizing how much of a loss that was for my imagination until I was afforded the reward for that sacrifice. And I was – still am – so stoked to write about smart women who seek out their purposes as hard as I do. They don’t go about the search in the same way I do, but these characters are very real to me. I struggle with them – even crying when writing their tough scenes or laughing out loud with them when they’re being goofy. It’s such a fun adventure to enter the imagination God created and see what it can do.
How did you get started in scrapbooking?
That would be my sister’s doing. :) She’s a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator and even more of a diehard scrapper than I am. I initially got into scrapping because I was ordering her products – you know, supporting her in her new endeavor (which would explain the amount of Tupperware and Pampered Chef in my cupboard as well). Christie stuck with Stampin’ Up! because she had found her passion. She loves capturing her family’s stories in scrapbooks. She even became a professional photographer and has a studio of her own these days! You can check it out at www.christiericketts.com.
Any tips or suggestions for someone who’s interested in starting the hobby themselves? Maybe something like the “5 tools you can’t live without”, or “beginner mistakes to avoid”?
To anyone who wants to dip a toe into the scrapbooking pond, I have one very important thought to share, “Do not be overwhelmed.” There are scrappers for whom scrapbooking is an art form. My sister is one of those. Her scrapbooks are absolutely gorgeous works of art. For many months, I didn’t scrapbook because I couldn’t scrap like her. It took me a while to figure out this is not a contest. I scrapbook differently than she does and that’s okay. Neither of us is right or wrong. Neither are you, newbie scrapper. If all you do is buy a glue stick and some cardstock at Wal-mart, then kudos to you for taking the initiative to get started!
So it sounds like a lot of the novel was based on personal experience?
Oh my, yes! There’s truth in the idea of writing what you know. I’ve been blessed (or cursed, depending on who you ask) to live a varied life. In my less than thirty years on the earth, I’ve been a wedding cake decorator, bra specialist at Victoria’s Secret, newsletter editor, order taker at a pizza joint, file clerk at a boot factory, part-time librarian, grocery store clerk, clerk for the Tennessee State House of Representatives, administrative team member for a mega-church, dispatcher for campus police, part-time caregiver to a foster child, media fellow for a Washington, D.C. think tank, well-baby candy striper at a hospital, asset manager for hospitals, and many, many other roles. I’ve been married twice – once to Mr. Wrong and now to Mr. Right. And, like any good southern woman, my family has weathered countless storms both internally and externally. Everything that happens, that enters my life, is an opportunity for me to open my eyes and watch. See and store what I’m viewing, then analyze it as I attempt to figure out this world in which I’ve been placed. My characters come from the ideas and conclusions I draw after living, after watching, after observing and analyzing.
What was the hardest part about writing Prints Charming?
Re-writing it. :) Seriously, I had to rewrite all but 10,000 words in seven days because my editor had a flash of insight. Good insight, mind you, but still! Karen Ball read the novel and told me it would be much better if it happened a year after the story she read. Um, um, what?! I had a deadline to meet and I was determined to hit it. So, I unplugged the laptop, plopped it and myself down on my front porch, and didn’t move for as many hours as it took to get the job done.
The other hard part was writing an honest character in Jane, not letting myself resort to clichés or cardboard depictions. She and I have so much in common. We’re both headstrong, but a bit reckless in our actions. Jane was wiser than I tend to be. She knew to go to her girlfriends, to let them help her. I have problems accepting or asking for help. Because I lived through betrayal, it was very hard to write the scene where she learns of her husband’s infidelity. That was one of the nights I left the keyboard in tears.
The best part of writing that manuscript was when I turned to my husband, Charlie, for help. I was stumped about a good gift that Jake could give Jane. My love language is gifts and my sweet hubby tries very hard to speak that language effectively. He’s always studying me, trying to figure out a tangible object that will speak his love. I asked him what Jake should give Jane and described what had happened up to that point in the novel. The AOL cds were completely his idea.
Tell us about Glass Road PR.
Glass Road is the only publicity firm in the country dedicated solely to representing novelists writing from a Christian worldview. We do not represent or work with nonfiction, even when our novelists are the ones writing it. We have that policy because we’re committed to the power of stories in transmitting Truth through entertainment. When Jesus spoke in parables – that was for people like us who work at GRPR. Sadly, there are precious few resources open to novelists who have been called to speak in parable to a lost and dying world. I like to think of GRPR as their haven, the one place they can go and know they’ll be understood as creators of story and be supported in their endeavors.
What’s surprised you most in your work with publishers and authors?
Oh, gosh, I’m surprised every week! I’m shocked at the attitudes of some in the industry toward novelists. Too many authors have told me they’ve been called “glorified liars” – whoever’s using that phrase, please stop! Others tell stories of being ignored or degraded because they chose to write fiction rather than nonfiction. I’m horrified and puzzled when Christian leaders don’t accept the importance of stories in the Christian faith. If it was important enough for Jesus to do it, how can we think it isn’t important enough for His followers?
I’m also surprised – saddened, really – at the ambition and ego some Christian novelists have. I don’t think anybody starts out that way. But I do think that there are a few who have begun believing their own press, who maybe have gotten caught up in the words of glory heaped on them in this world and lost sight of the next. It’s important to note that instances of this are few and far between, but it’s sad when even one of us starts getting self-important. I fall into it occasionally, too, so don’t think I’m just accusing others. Satan knows my weaknesses and plays me like a fiddle some days.
What does the term “Christian worldview fiction” mean to you?
It means I’m a Christian. And I write stories. Period. :)
If you think about it, I also buy groceries from a Christian worldview, renovate my house from a Christian worldview, swing in the hammock from a Christian worldview, and breathe from a Christian worldview. My faith is real, it’s the most intricate part of me. I cannot check it at the door even if I wanted to because it cannot be separated from the being of me.
Necessarily, that means my faith flavors what I write. When I create, I feel a sense of joining with the Creator, of fumblingly (like that word?) moving my fingers on a laptop in a pale, pale shadow of His fingers moving in the void to create what was not there. I grieve with them – as He grieves with us. I laugh with them – as He laughs with us. I know their value is in being His creation – as my value is in being His daughter. That directs my story, of course. How could it not?
The spiritual arc of my characters is given a place of importance because, in my worldview, it holds a place of supreme importance. That isn’t to say the arc is couched in spiritual terminology. That would be lazy for me to do because it wouldn’t stretch me and it wouldn’t be true to the character of me that God created. So, I may have a character who heals from a broken heart and learns to love again – that’s an illustration of the relationship between God and creation, though my reader may never make that leap in her mind.
Actually, any romantic story I write can be a representation of God’s wooing of His children. He’s the Ultimate Romancer, the Creator of Love and the One who chases after me when I run recklessly toward a cliff. He does that because He loves me – and when Jake comes to Jane in Prints Charming, bringing her gifts perfectly suited to her situation, saying words of love and patience, forgiveness and grace, rest assured those things are written because Jake is being the earthly hands and feet of a Heavenly father – just as my husband was (and is) to me.
I’m sure it’s often a huge challenge balancing your day job, your novel writing, and your family time. Are there any specific things you do to maintain your sanity? :)
I’m supposed to be sane? Oh no! Kidding, kidding.
The single most effective thing I’ve ever done to maintain sanity in a life full to overflowing is marry the man who captured my heart. He is my support, the earthly hand of a Heavenly God. He models Christ’s love to me in so many ways, including being patient when my temper has grown short, bringing me dinner when I’m still sitting at the laptop after our child’s bedtime, and giving me a hug when I’m staring dumbstruck at a To Do list that rivals Mt Everest. He believes in me, in this life we’re building together, in God’s commitment to us and our commitment to Him – and his belief is strong enough for me to lean on when mine is exhausted.
As an industry insider, what do you think is the biggest misconception aspiring writers have about the Christian publishing industry?
I think there are two: First, that once you’ve gotten a book contract, you’re done. Second, that everybody in the industry will act like a Christian.
What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?
I’d love to write a long epic a la Gone with the Wind. Or a mystery! That’d be fun, though I don’t think I’d be very good at it.
Where is your favorite place to write?
In the passenger seat of our Tahoe, with my husband at the wheel and my kiddo in back, singing along to the radio.
What has been your most embarrassing moment so far as either an author or a publicist (or just a person!)
Hmmm, I don’t get embarrassed very easily, so it’s hard to come up with one. I’m sure there were plenty of times that I messed something up or put my foot in my mouth in front of an author, though. Just yesterday I screwed up the interview time for Karen Kingsbury with a media rep here at BEA – yeah, always fun to make your mistakes with New York Times best-selling authors. Why can’t my mistakes ever be on a small scale?!?
What’s next for you novel-wise?
I’m contracted to write four scrapbooking novels for B&H Publishing Group. The first, Sisters, Ink, will release February 2008. Each subsequent novel will release every six months.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved with Deeper Shopping tv taping their fiction episodes?
That’s a fun little story! We had been pitching media who were attending the International Christian Retail Show 2006 in Denver and got slots for several of our authors with Deeper Living (as it’s now called). One of those slots was for the fabulous novelist Austin W. Boyd. Well, I was running late the morning of Austin’s interview and showed up about 10 minutes after he had begun speaking with the DL interviewer. I interrupted only to ensure they had what they needed (water, etc.) and Austin introduced me to his interviewer, who happened to be the owner of the network. Turns out, Austin had been talking about GRPR with the interviewer, who was looking for someone to co-host a fiction show, someone who was actively working with novelists in the industry. A few discussions later, and I had agreed to come to their studios and film some fiction segments.
It was a ball! We’ve changed a few things since then – it’s now Deeper Living instead of Deeper Shopping and our studio moved – but we’re still having a blast at every taping!
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
That I don’t drink coffee (I prefer Diet Mt Dew for my caffeine) and that I wrestled for much of my life with personal insecurity.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Digging in the dirt, planting new flowers, laying in the hammock with my son and a book, listening to the wind in the trees, watching the blanket of lightning bugs wave in the field across the road, baking something gooey and fattening from scratch, shopping with my mother-in-law, playing Canasta with my parents, helping build the new women’s ministry at my church, scrapbooking (of course) with my girlfriends.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
I had room service – I’m in New York right now at BEA. Room service is one of my rare indulgences.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Organic juice, organic milk, fruit.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
If I’m in line at Starbucks, then it’s Christmas because I don’t drink coffee – they’ve got a mint hot chocolate that’s only available at Christmas-time and is PERFECT for getting yourself in the holiday spirit.
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
Have a long marriage. Visit the French countryside and go to a flea market or auction there. Learn to speak French. Have a little girl. Finish the race I began. Hear those precious, precious words, “Well done, my child,” cross the lips of my Savior.
When was the last time you cried?
Last night at Les Miserables. I cried when Jean Valjean died. I also cried tears of laughter because the guy playing Valjean had a significant spitting problem when he sang – we were sitting on the second row and I kept praying he wouldn’t end up spitting on us. I was with Karen Ball, Jamie Carie, and her husband at the play and, at one point, Karen started laughing hysterically (silently – you know, when your face turns all red and your whole body is shaking because you’re trying to be quiet and not make a scene?) and that got me going and before you know it we were shaking in our seats trying not to release guffaws at this guy with the voice of an angel, but a problem with spittle!
Three words that best describe you:
Driven. Invested. Curious
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
My iPod is loaded! Everything from Patsy Cline to Gwen Stefani to Kenny Chesney to Chris Rice to John Legend to Beethoven.
Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?
I want to thank you if you’ve read this far! :)
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.