You all know I’m a sucker for a contemporary romance novel–and I LOVE connecting with other Michigan writers–so today’s interview is super special for me.
Author Judith McNees is a fellow Michigander with a heart for romance. I was thrilled to chat with her, and I can’t wait to introduce you to her.
What do you write? How did you pick your genre?
I write contemporary Christian romance. I picked this genre because it is what I enjoy reading the most. I want my writing to encourage and uplift its readers while pointing them back to Jesus. I also always want to write a happily ever after, even if my characters have a hard road to get to it.
What’s the most difficult part of writing your genre? How do you work through those challenges?
The most challenging part of writing in my genre is writing believable characters who are not Christians. As a reader, I expect that when I pick up a novel with a Christian label, there will be no swearing and only chaste representations of romance. My goal is to write my characters in a way that naturally represents their personalities without including words or images that could cause a reader to fall into sin. When I have a challenging character, I pray over the scenes, and I will often send them to sensitivity readers to ensure they don’t go too far.
What conference do you most want to attend? Why?
I would love to attend the ACFW Conference. ACFW is the organization that has been the most helpful in sharpening my writing and editing skills, and they always put out quality content. Several of my favorite authors are ACFW members, and I would love to meet them in person. I’m a sucker for an autographed book, so I would totally fangirl if I met them!
How do you combat writer’s block?
I combat writer’s block several ways. First and foremost, I pray. I also have a prayer partner who will pray over specific aspects of my writing, including scenes, characters, and even themes.
The second thing I do is worship. I am a worshiper at heart, and it is the fastest way to connect with the heart of the One who called me to write. The third thing I do is to message a writer friend who helps me brainstorm. Finally, I set a fifteen-minute timer and write anything. Even if it turns out terribly, at least I have something on the page to edit!
How do you prepare to write your books: pantser, plotter, both, something completely different?
I would say I’m a combination of plotting and pantsing. The series I am currently writing and publishing is a five-book series. I have planned far enough to know the tropes and social issues I will address in each novel to set up the new ones in the preceding ones. I typically have an idea of the major plot points, but I don’t plan out every scene when I start writing.
Why did you decide to self-publish?
I decided to self-publish for a lot of different reasons. I liked the idea of having total creative control of the product I’m putting out. For example, I went through three covers for my first release until I got it exactly how I wanted it. I can also include as many Scripture references and as much Christian content as I want without worrying whether an editor will think it is “too preachy.”
Knowing that my debut novel was the first in a series of five also drove that decision. In my research, I saw that if a publisher isn’t happy with the sales from a first novel, a writer might not get a contract for the second. I didn’t want to wait to publish parts two through five.
Finally, and most importantly, throughout my pre-published process, I went to the Lord in prayer over my writing. After all, I do this to glorify Him. What I continue to sense is that the indie publishing route is the right way for me to go. If He leads me differently in the future, I will gladly follow His leadership.
How do you self-edit your manuscript?
Self-editing is a fairly involved process for me.
Once I finish revising, I edit one chapter at a time. I start by running the chapter through ProWritingAid, Grammarly, and Microsoft Word. I also search my list of weasel words and passive verbs. After I do that, I import the chapter into my formatting software, Atticus.io. In Atticus, I ensure my sentence structure has enough variation at the start of each paragraph on each page as it will appear in the print version of my novel. Once I’m happy with that, I do a line-by-line edit to catch anything that may have slipped through earlier edits. After I’ve done this for every chapter, I read the entire thing out loud. Finally, I export a pdf and epub version and read through both of them at least once.
What does your revision process look like?
My revision process isn’t as involved as my editing process since I do so much revising when I edit. Typically, I do this chapter by chapter as well.
I pay special attention to the dialog. I want my characters to have their own unique quirks in the dialog, so I look for places I can tweak it. For example, I have one character who starts some of her sentences with conjunctions. I make sure I haven’t done this with any other characters. I also try to ensure that my male characters sound masculine. When in doubt, I turn to my hubby and ask him how a man would say it! I also add any descriptions I left out in my rough draft since I tend to write fast. Finally, I look for ways to bring out particular character traits.
Can two broken hearts learn to trust each other…and God?
Grace Morgan has a closely guarded secret. One that also makes her good at guarding her heart. After all, she has what she needs to be content. She won’t make the mistake of falling for another man at work…until the hunky new guy she’s trying not to notice moves in across the hall.
Tyler Danby has a secret, too. Left by his wife, who takes away everything he cares about, he’s nursing his wounds and starting over. When he strikes up a friendship with his quirky neighbor, he wonders whether God might be giving him a second chance at love.
Secrets have a way of coming out. And broken trust is hard to restore.
Contemporary Christian romance author Judith McNees lives in southwestern Michigan with her husband and four of their seven children, along with their three dogs. Her family loves to travel together, but she still believes that her home state is one of the most beautiful states there is. She is a proud stay-at-home mom, stepmom, foster mom, adoptive mom, and grandma, which gives her plenty of fodder for her writing. She holds a B.A. in English from Western Michigan University and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon.