by C.J. Darlington
Ronie Kendig Interview
breaks my heart to see some writers just so tangled up in the rules
that their stories suffer—and as a result, so do they."
Ronie Kendig holds a B.S. Degree in Psychology and is a wife, homeschooling mother of four, and an avid writer. An active member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Ronie served as contest coordinator for the 2008 and 2009 Book of the Year contests and now serves as the assistant to the conference appointment coordinator. Ronie is a monthly columnist with the widely recognized blog Novel Journey and the International Christian Fiction Writers. She currently lives in Dallas, Texas. This is her debut novel. Find Ronie on the web at www.roniekendig.com.
What book or books would you say influenced you most as a child? Why?
What I remember most was listening to the records from Disney movies. I’m not sure why, but I never really saw movies as a kid. Listening to the records proved incredible, allowing me to create my own versions of the characters’ images in my mind. In high school, I grew to love Stephen Lawhead’s Search for Fierra and Siege of Dome, then also some of Jerry Jenkins’ “old” Jennifer Grey Mysteries—so kewl the way they had them “flip”—open with one story, then flip the book and there was another!
been a lover of stories ever since you were young, yet it took the
encouragement of your husband to spur you to pursue writing. What
was it that held you back from pursuing your writing inclinations before
Fear. And it’s something God is still working with me on—fear of rejection and fear of failure are paralyzing fears for me. I was so scared to venture into something that seemed so completely out of my realm of believable goals. . .and fail. What would people think of me? What would family members say? I already had several giving me the proverbial pat on my shoulder when they found out I loved writing. . .you know, the pat that says, “Yeah, sure. Uh-huh. Like that will ever happen.”
Could you share with us a little bit about your writing journey? How long was it after you decided to write for publication that you were published?
As you noted above, I didn’t start trying to get published until well into my adult years. Fear held me back but my husband nudged me onward. My first rejection is dated 2002. It’d take another five years of blood, sweat, and many, many tears before I signed with my agent. So, I’m set, right? All’s good. I’ve got an awesome agent, so clearly now I can hit the bestseller lists.
My first book didn’t sell. But I kept writing. Fifteen months after signing with Steve Laube, we sold my espionage thriller. Six months later, we sold the Discarded Heroes series.
a thick skin is one of the harder aspects of being a writer, and that
come easy for you. How did you learn to develop the toughness necessary
rejections from tearing you apart without becoming
hard in the process?
Besides the grace and mercy of God, two things have helped me: my thick stubborn streak that I come by honestly thanks to my Irish heritage, and the amazing friends God has surrounded me with, including my agent, Steve Laube.
I recently blogged at NovelJourney about being a Jellie in a Rhino World—and it’s so true. I am a very soft-hearted person, very empathetic, and this industry is one that will break your heart (as my agent says often). After the release of my first book, I found myself really struggling, very discouraged and feeling disillusioned. I stepped back and had to re-examine if I wanted this career. To go on with this, I would need to accept the brutal aspects along with the amazing ones. The rejection and criticism with the screaming fans (okay, so there aren’t a lot of them yet. . .).
But more than that, I examined myself in the light of God—in honoring him, in trusting Him. If I’m writing for myself, I might as well hang it up now because the one thing this isn’t is a barrel of laughs and fun. But if I’m in this for God, to bring Him glory—which I am—that I need to take up the cross daily, lay the hurts at His feet, and go forward in His power and might.
Your second novel Nightshade has just released, and it’s the first of a four part series! Share where you got the idea for this series and how you eventually landed at Barbour.
Nightshade and Max Jacobs was borne out of a real-life story, one that—sadly—did not end happily. In grief, I watched a woman’s life and small children see their lives fall apart as her husband, a Navy SEAL, battled PTSD (to my knowledge, he wasn’t diagnosed but the signs were there). I knew I could never again pen a military story without showing the grave toll combat takes on our heroes.
Fast-forward several months. At the ACFW conference my mentor, John Olson, and I brainstormed a story, then later got help from Camy Tang. During our conversation, I realized the story we brewed was the perfect frame around which to speak about PTSD, about our heroes. From that, the Discarded Heroes series was borne.
But getting a publisher to take it on was a different story. It languished out there on editor’s desks for four months. We got amazing rejections back with high compliments, but nobody was willing to take a risk. Then one day, Steve called me. He’d had a conversation with Becky Germany at Barbour, and she’d said she was branching out. He wanted to know if I was okay with him sending my proposal there.
I admit. . .I hesitated. Barbour? They mostly did historicals and romances. I couldn’t imagine a gritty story like NIGHTSHADE there. But as I talked to Steve, I realized: Who am I to say where God can get this published? So, I told him to go ahead. Within a week she asked for the full. I signed the contract by May.
With your first book Dead Reckoning there was a lot of armchair travel and research involved, but with Nightshade, it sounds like it hits closer to home. Did you find this book easier or harder to write than Dead Reckoning? Why is that?
You’re right. It definitely hit closer to home, and I don’t
know that it was easier. . .in fact, yeah, I’d say it was harder
because I was determined to get every facet of the story and concepts right.
Chuck Holton, author of Meltdown and A More Elite Soldier (among other
titles) and editor for Oliver North, agreed to read my manuscript for possible
endorsement. He was brutal on me but he helped me get the facts right,
the terminology correct to make it hold muster with military folk.
Also, I so desperately wanted to honor men like my father-in-law, who experienced things no person should have to while serving in Viet Nam as a Huey pilot. It was a tad funny (in hindsight) because at first, Chuck ripped me up. And I thought, if I can’t pass muster with him—who is former Army Ranger who saw combat in Panama and has embedded with Oliver North in Afghanistan & Iraq numerous times. . .and that’s my audience, combat-hardened veterans/soldiers—then why am I bothering to write? To me, if I couldn’t get the details right when they were putting their lives on the line, then I needed to fold up my tent and go home, so to speak.
Even with your experience as an army brat and with a husband who knows his military stuff, was there anything that really surprised you in your research for this book?
You’ll laugh—and I deserve it—but what surprised me the most was how LITTLE I really knew about the military, about life there. It was a steep learning curve and I spent many hours feeling like a complete idiot, but I wasn’t going to fail the series. I wanted to provide a means to open up dialogue for our heroes. And again. . .if they can go to war, face the unimaginable, then the absolute least I could do was to learn and get it right, to honor them. And. . .I still have SO much to learn.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something the average person doesn’t usually think about, and yet it’s becoming more and more common in military veterans. What do you wish Americans knew about PTSD?
Wow, where do I begin? I guess. . .the most important thing is that PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, simply means they are hurting. Invisible wounds (mental/emotional) can be healed, but they take time—and love. And sadly, nobody who hasn’t “been there, done that” can understand what these heroes go through. Even though I write about this disorder, I will never fully understand either.
PTSD can present in many forms: anger, depression, substance abuse, distractedness, hypervigilance. We’re about to bring home thousands of heroes. Let’s be prepared to welcome them and give them the understanding necessary for those who are suffering from PTSD to find the help and healing necessary.
Over the next few years our men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces and its allies will return home, changed, traumatized. . .and forgotten. Rather than condemnation or alienation, heroes like Max from Nightshade, need a listening ear, acceptance, and encouragement to share their experiences without condemnation.
Nightshade has one mission—to open dialogue, to open a segue for those who are hurting to find hope.
Will you be that help for a hurting heart? A handshake and thanks in the airport. A prayer. A letter sent through one of the various organizations to our troops, to let them know we care, we’re praying.
When you signed this four book deal, did you know already what the plotlines of the next three books would be, or are they still works in progress?
Yes, actually, I did. In fact, I received a lot of compliments and comments from editors as we shopped it around regarding how thorough the proposal was. The proposal contained sample chapters and full synopses for each of the books—it was nearly 180 pages long—and I had the first book complete. Right now, I’m three-fourths of the way through the third book, and will plunge into the fourth in September sometime.
We’d love to have a little sneak peek into the next books! Care to share?
Sure! Just be aware that the descriptions below were in the original proposal. The latter two might change as the stories evolve.
Digitalis – Former Marine Special Operations Team member, Colton “Cowboy” Neeley is recovering from a life of bad choices and debilitating flashbacks. Piper Blum is hiding—from life and the political assassins bent on destroying her family. In reality, she is Lily Piper Rosenblum, daughter of Yakov Rosenblum, who holds a deadly secret. She begs Colton to help extract her father from Israel. He petitions Nightshade to consider this mission for the girl he’s falling for. The team agrees and soon, they’re deep six—straight into the Holy Land for a snatch-n-grab of her father. When the chopper is shot down, Colton and Piper must make the treacherous trek out of hostile territory with the team before they’re caught.
Wolfsbane - Former Green Beret Canyon Metcalfe fled the memory of Tres Kruces but never succeeded in unloading the guilt. On a mission to protect the daughter of a vice presidential candidate who is facing treason and espionage charges, he can feel the tendrils of the past reach ensnaring his heart. When the mission goes south, Canyon must fight to bring Danielle Roark home. Can Canyon face his own failings and past? Will Dani forgive him for abandoning him? Armed with truth, they must fight their way back to the States and freedom.
Firethorn – Former Force Recon Marine Griffon Riddell never sees
the setup that lands him behind bars and charged in the murder of a US
Congressman. As the evidence mounts, he’s convinced someone is trying
to disassemble Nightshade, piece by piece. Covert operative Kazi Faron
is tapped by Olin Lambert to reunite his black-ops team. She’s more
than glad for the mission that could fund her straight into retirement.
But reassembling the team isn’t easy—and the race against the
saboteur brings them back to one of Nightshade’s own.
Now that you’ve entered the fray of published authors, ever had any unusual or embarrassing moments at a book signing or while performing research?
What could be more embarrassing than being at a book signing and not selling a single copy? Sigh. I pray that never ever happens again. But I’m also realistic. It does happen. One author/comedian even made a video about it.
There seems to be a trend in Christian publishing to publish more books from a Christian worldview (i.e. clean novels but with little spiritual content) rather than overtly spiritual titles. Do you have any thoughts on this? Where do you feel your books fall in this debate?
My article this month at Christian Fiction Online Magazine talked about different types of writers and different audiences. What is right for one person, isn’t right for another. God uses us all in a variety of ways to reach people who are hurting in different ways. Some of those people need in-your-face theology. Some need an object lesson. Others are ministered to through the living example and allegorical impact of a story.
As for my books. . .well, I think it will depend on which book you read. To me, faith is an organic thing, unique to each individual. I have not written a conversion scene, and I’m not sure I ever will because most times, they come off sounding cheesy or . . . wrong. That said, I recently had a reviewer get upset about the faith element in my story, saying it was overdone (um, sorry. . .missionaries are pretty overt in their living faith). I was really surprised but also glad. God will touch hearts as He wills. What He requires of me may not be what he requires of you, or some other author. What’s important is that we listen to Him and obey His will.
What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?
I’m toying with a supernatural thriller. I love thrillers and write more toward that type of story than a suspense, so it’s not too far of a reach for me, but I’m not sure the market is ready for me to do that yet. However, I’ve written and meddled in the speculative genre since I first “picked up my pen” to become an author.
You’ve recently obtained your BS in Psychology. Congrats! Do you think this degree has helped you in creating and understanding your characters?
Thank you! I am fairly proud of that since I homeshcooled my four kiddos and secured my agent while I was finishing up the degree. It was killer work, but I am so glad I did it because—you’re right. It has deeply impacted my writing. I have a much better understanding of people and motivations. My intention, when I went back to school, was to go into counseling or work with/assist homeschool families with children who had Autism or Asperger’s, since I have dealt with it in my own life with the twins.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?
To know and master the rules, but don’t suffocate in them. It breaks my heart to see some writers just so tangled up in the rules that their stories suffer—and as a result, so do they. All life gets squeezed out of the story and out of the joy in writing. On the other hand, I think too many want to appear edgy and end up sacrificing their stories as well. Find a balance.
What’s next on the horizon for you in books?
That’s really still up in the air. I’m working on a few proposals (another military series, an espionage series, and a couple of other ideas) to send to Steve so we can determine which direction to take next.
Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?
I love to hear from readers! Find me on my website, Facebook, or Twitter!
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
In 1991, I took a job as administrative assistant to the music buyer of a large Christian bookstore chain. That job also included me being the concert ticket coordinator—which was absolutely awesome because I got to meet established artists like Steven Curtis Chapman, Newsong, this new hip-hop group called DC Talk (hehe), Carman. . .But my absolute favorite artist, due to his down-to-earth realism and genuineness was Rich Mullins. I worked three of his concerts and multiple in-stores, and that man had more talent and humility in his little toe than most artists had in their whole being.
I’ve been married for twenty years. Incredible to believe, even for me.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I love decorating and remodeling, so I tend to paint different rooms in our home—or I work in the yard. Living in Texas makes yard work impossible during the summer but I love doing it all the same. I’m trying to shift more into traveling and enjoying life.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Busted! This morning, I got up late and plodded down to the kitchen, wehre my awesome 17 year old daughter had made brownies last night as a thank you for me coloring her hair. So, two brownies and an cup of iced Morning Thunder tea later, I’m in my office. LOL But normally, I have homemade muesli for breakfast.
always found on your refrigerator:
Realtor-based calendar, magnets of the places we’ve visited (like Fallingwater earlier this year!), and milk/water stains from the kiddos spilling drinks. ::blush::
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Venti shaken black tea, unsweetened. Two months ago (and maybe on occasion still) my order would’ve been a Grande Skinny Cinnamon Dolce latte. :-D
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
Travel—I want to hike mountains, learn to swim (well, I can swim to save my life but not for pleasure), see Israel, Greece, Rome, more of our great country. . .
Build a home in the country. . .er, well, in the distant suburbs. I am NOT a country girl, but neither am I a city girl. I’d like something in between the suburbs and country, on about 10-20 acres.
When was the last time you cried?
Oh man. This morning—I started reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan and the first chapter has you watch this Awe Factor video. Through that I became acutely aware of “Who am I that you love me, God?” Wow. Amazing video. You should check it out!
Three words that best describe you:
Loyal. Faithful. Empathetic.
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Nothing in the CD player.
My iPod has tons—but I think I last listened
to either Fireflight or The Letter Black—oh, or Skillet. Hmm, not
Watch the trailer for Nightshade:
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.