A big welcome goes out to Debra Ullrick, debut author of The Bride Wore Coveralls. Debra writes contemporary Christian romances, Christian historical and Christian romantic suspense novels. One busy woman! And you’ll never guess what one of Debra’s hobbies is.
Now that I’ve dangled the bait, I’ll just go ahead and ask. Tell us about your hobbies, Debra.
Debra Ullrick: I collect classic car and monster truck models. I love classic auto shows, Monster Jam rallies, mud-bog races, drag races, demolition derbies, and figure eight races. Can you tell I love cars and trucks? *smiling* I love to read, write, draw western art using charcoal and pastels, play word games such as, Scrabble, Bookworm, Wheel of Fortune, and crossword puzzles. I love to spend time with my writer buddies, and talk on the phone.
That’s too cool. Debra, will you tell us about the “acceptance call” and how it made you feel?
Debra Ullrick: When I first got the email, I was so afraid to open it. As soon as I clicked on it, I closed my eyes and slowly opened them and braced myself. When I saw that first line, “We are happy to inform you…” I can’t describe the joy I felt and the relief that came over me. Tears chased each other as I stared at the email for several minutes. Then I reread it umpteen times to make sure it really said that they were offering me a contract for, The Bride Wore Coveralls. After the initial shock wore off, I whooped and hollered and called Snoopy to dance with me while I made a ton of phone calls.
I can feel your excitement through that response. It’s wonderful. So how long did it take you to calm down?
Debra Ullrick: A few hours at least because I called a bazillion people.
A bazillion? Tell us about the first few at least.
Debra Ullrick: My husband, Rick. Second? My mentor/best friend, Staci Stallings, then Jeanne Leach, who was my first mentor and a very dear friend too. Then Michelle Sutton who is another one of my dear friends. After that, it’s all a blur. *smiling*
So, how many books have you published so far?
Debra Ullrick: Only one right now. Déjà vu Bride, which is the sequel to, The Bride Wore Coveralls, is sitting on my acquisition editor’s desk. And I’m currently working on, Powder Puff Bride, the final book in my racing bride’s series.
With all the time required for these stories, are you able to find time to keep a blog, judge writer’s contests, write reviews, etc. too?
Debra Ullrick: I’ve judged several contests. I do write reviews, but I must say I’m definitely not your normal reviewer. It throws me on a drag whenever I read a review that gives away a lot of the plot. So, instead, I like to write reviews with a lot of unanswered questions. I post my reviews on Amazon.com, CDB.com, and my blog at http://www.christianromancewriter.blogspot.com/ I also belong to Shoutlife. http://www.shoutlife.com/ChristianRMwriter
Is there something unique or special about you or how you write that you would like to tell us about, Debra?
Debra Ullrick: I don’t know if it’s special or unique, but the first thing I do when I sit down to write is pray. I’ve discovered if I don’t ask the Holy Spirit to guide me and show me what to do or what happens next, then I almost always hit a block. As soon as I stop and spend time in prayer, the flow starts up again. Though sometimes when I’ve hit a block, I’ve discovered that there’s a piece of the puzzle that hasn’t been revealed yet. As soon as the Holy Spirit reveals that particular missing piece in my story through whatever channel He chooses to, then the story flows again. Not only that, sometimes I ask myself questions too. You know, the “what if” game. Or I might call one of my friends and have them help me plot.
Okay, into the nitty-gritty. How long did you concentrate on learning the craft of fiction writing before you received your initial offer?
Debra Ullrick: Six years.
You know all about perseverance then, Debra. I’m still trying to master that. Will you tell us how you survived rejections?
Debra Ullrick: My first rejection was from Love Inspired. I have to say I wasn’t disappointed at that time, because when I submitted it, I didn’t feel ready to commit to a three book series. I only had the first one written, and as a seat-of-the-pants writer it can be intimidating to send in a proposal for a three book series when only one of them is finished. I’m a bit more confident now. Not in my ability to get them written, but in God’s ability to get them written through me.
How did you keep motivated during those six years?
Debra Ullrick: The most important thing for me during this time was I had friends and people I trusted that I turned to whenever I got negative critiques or conflicting opinions. Their encouragement is what kept me going and kept me sane. Because when you receive a ton of different opinions, it’s hard to know who’s right, especially as a new author. Also, they helped me when the rules became stifling. It’s important to learn the guidelines, but when they rob your creativity and voice, then you need to stop and ask the Holy Spirit to send you a person, or persons, who understand your unique style and your distinctive writer’s voice.
Another thing that helped is, I like to think—deadline. If I put a deadline on myself, it helps me to meet that goal and work harder. However, I don’t let the deadline goal become a legalistic thing, because I know the Holy Spirit has a timing for everything, and as long as I take the steps He is asking me to take, write what and when as He leads me, then things work out much better. When I struggle to do it on my own, it becomes a chore and extremely frustrating.
That’s great advice. I need to remember that! Tell us, did you write any “practice” novels or did you revise and edit your initial story until it sold?
Debra Ullrick: The Bride Wore Coveralls was rewritten scads of times. The title changed several times too.
How long did it take you to write your story?
Debra Ullrick: Oh gosh, it took me a year and half to rewrite the story. Then I had to make revisions and resubmit it.
Have you noticed a decrease in the time it takes you to complete novels to your satisfaction now?
Debra Ullrick: Oh hi, you darn up and betcha. It doesn’t take nearly as long to write a novel now. For two main reasons. One, I now turn to the Holy Spirit and trust in His guidance and timing. Two, I’ve learned a lot about POV, active vs. passive, showing vs. telling, succinctness etc. Do I have it all figured out? NO WAY! I’m still learning and growing with each new book I write. And I still struggle with punctuation. Drat! *smiling*
How do you write? Ie. SOTP, Compulsive plotster, etc.
Debra Ullrick: I’m a SOTP writer. Plus, I’m a very visual person. My mentor, Staci Stallings, knows this, so she works with me according to how I learn. She’s taught me to close my eyes and watch the story play through my mind.
She’s also had me watch a scene in a movie, then rewrite it according to how I saw it. She does it too, then we compare. I’ve learned a great deal doing this. I saw what I was lacking in my writing. Staci had all the layers and I didn’t. Mine was mechanical, and she touched on all the senses.
Plus, I watch movies and pay attention to the different body languages and facial features etc.
Wow, what a great way to learn. I’ve go to try that. Tell us what a typical writing day is like for you, Debra.
Debra Ullrick: I try to sit down every afternoon and write for a few hours. It has to be quiet with no distractions. If I’m distracted, it really stops the flow for me. Sometimes I’ll set a goal to write a certain amount of words that day. But not usually. I let the Lord guide me.
As a fairly new author, how important do you feel agent representation is in this industry for first sales?
Debra Ullrick: It depends on if you are able to go to a writer’s conference or not. I pitched my story, The Bride Wore Coveralls, to Jim Peterson at the ACRW conference back in 2004. I know a lot of multi-pubbed authors who obtain agents after they have several books in print. Again, I think it is personal preference and being led by the Holy Spirit.
What was the timeframe involved between signing your initial contract to seeing your book on the shelves?
Debra Ullrick: I was notified December 2006, got my contract in April 2007, and my book came out in April 2008.
And how many revisions or edits does your publishing house generally request during that timeframe?
Debra Ullrick: When I got my review, there were a lot of revisions I had to make. When I got my copyedit changes, there weren’t quite as many as the review. And when I got my final galley, I only found a few mistakes.
I must say, the people who reviewed my story after I got my contract did an excellent job with their suggestions. It made my story much stronger and better.
What does your publishing house expect of you with regard to self-promoting your novel(s)?
Debra Ullrick: I don’t know that they do. I just do whatever I can to promote my book. Barbour Publishing provided me with some beautiful bookmarks that I gave away to friends, family, church, etc. I announced, The Bride Wore Coveralls, on Shoutlife and my blog. Plus, I’ve made numerous phone calls, and sent several free copies out to various places.
With all the revisions you did, how did you finally decide your manuscript was ready for your editor’s or agent’s eyes?
Debra Ullrick: Even now that my story is in print, I see things I wish I would have changed. I guess you’d have to go with your gut feeling. Or when the Lord says it’s time to submit, submit. Keep in mind that just because God tells you to submit something, it isn’t a guarantee that it’ll be published. I think we make the mistake of thinking just because God led us to submit a story to a certain publisher that that publisher will buy it. That’s not always true. Does that mean that God didn’t really tell you to? I don’t believe that. I felt led to send my story to Love Inspired and I got turned down. Now I look back on that time and thank God that they did. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about submitting a proposal, about handling rejection, and what to do and what not to do. Did I hear from God? You betcha. Did Love Inspired? Yeppers.
Thanks so much for sharing all this with us, Debra. Do you have any further direction or thoughts that you care to share with weary authors-in-training?
Debra Ullrick: Don’t give up. Randy Ingermanson told me one time that if you find someone who understands your unique writer’s voice and style, they are worth their weight in gold. He’s so right. God sent me someone who doesn’t try to change my voice, but gently guides me by using my style and enhancing it. She is worth more than her weight in gold.
Also, don’t get bogged down by the rules. Don’t misunderstand me, guidelines and rules help us to write better. However, I think we have to be careful that we don’t let the rules stifle our creativity, or that we become so bogged down by the rules we quit writing all together. All I’m saying is, be careful that you don’t become legalistic with the rules. Because where there’s legalism, there’s death; death to a dream, death to creativity, death to the unique voice and writing style that God gave you.
Most importantly, let the Lord be your guide. Ask Him to send you a person, or persons, who can help you become the best you can be. And whenever that person tells you to change something, ask the Lord if they’re right. If He says yes, then ask Him how He would like it changed. I made the mistake of getting too many opinions when I first started and all it did was confuse me and discourage me. I didn’t know who to listen to. God sent me someone who really listened to me and understood me. She encouraged me and worked with me and not against me. That’s when things changed for me. Am I saying you shouldn’t get several opinions? That’s between you and God. We’re all unique individuals who learn differently. You have to discover what works best for you. But you’ll never go wrong by asking the Holy Spirit to show you who and what does work best for you.
Great advice, Debra! Thank You! I wish you all the best with your series and future books to come!
Let’s hear about The Bride Wore Coveralls.
Tell us what gave you this story?
Debra Ullrick: I wrote, The Bride Wore Coveralls, after I rode with my nephew in his bog truck as he raced through the super deep mud pit. What a thrill! They say to write what you know, or what you’re passionate about. Well, I love mud-bog racing, so I wrote, The Bride Wore Coveralls.
THE BRIDE WORE COVERALLS~NOW AVAILABLE!
You can purchase, The Bride Wore Coveralls, by calling: (740) 922-7280, or by going to http://www.heartsongpresents.com/ and downloading their order form.
Fighting deep prejudice against her femininity, her choice of vehicle, and even her heritage, Camara Cole is determined to win the mud-bog racing championship this year. Her biggest competition seems also to be her worst enemy. Chase Lamar has been racing mud-boggers as long as Camara, and he grudgingly admits she's the best driver-mechanic he knows. Their rivalry has been long and bitter. But Chase is a new Christian. As he begins to change, he finds his relationship with Camara changing, too. When Camara's vehicle is sabatoged, she naturally blames Chase, despite a growing attraction. Chase must prove his innocence, but evidence points his way. When the smoke clears and the truth is known, will each be able to extend forgiveness, maybe even love?
Remember to leave a comment in this posting with an augmented e-mail address to be entered into the drawing to win a copy of The Bride Wore Coveralls by Debra Ullrick. The draw will take place Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 9:00 pm Eastern time.
June 19th update: Congratulations goes to stampedwithgrace! You won Debra's The Bride Wore Coveralls. Please e-mail me with your snail mail address to eileenastels [at] rogers [dot] com. Thanks to all who participated and I hope Debra's journey thus far helped many of you!
Blessings and Good luck to everyone!