Many people dream of writing books, but not many succeed. There are a dozen different excuses, but AnnaLee Conti hasn’t let any of them stop her. This former Alaskan started her journey with a typewriter and celebrates another book release this month.
Thank you for being here! Let’s start with what you write. How did you pick your genre?
After writing short stories, articles, and church school curriculum on assignment for Gospel Publishing House for 25 years, I published my first book in 2002. Frontiers of Faith is the story of my grandparents, who went to Alaska as pioneer missionaries in 1917, and their adventurous 65-year faith journey. As I researched that book, I discovered stories of people they ministered to in Alaska that triggered my imagination to write my Alaska Waters Trilogy of historical Christian fiction (Till the Storm Passes By, A Star to Steer By, and Beside Still Waters). The trilogy is the life and death saga of a fictitious Norwegian immigrant family who battle the beautiful but often treacherous waters of early twentieth century Southeast Alaska to find love and happiness in the midst of tragedies.
My current project, which will release this month, is Footsteps of Faith, a sequel to Frontiers of Faith. It is the faith-building true story of God’s direction, provision, and protection in the lives of my parents and my husband and I as we followed in the ministry footsteps of my grandparents.
What’s the most difficult part of writing your genre? How do you work through those challenges?
To me, the most challenging part of writing historical fiction, as well as biography, is making sure it is historically accurate. I did family interviews and research online, in books, and in magazines. Since I grew up in Alaska, I knew the settings and much of the history firsthand.
How long does it take you to write the book? Edit it? Finalize it?
In 1982, my mother-in-law invited me to her home to write the first draft of my first book in one week, weaving together the short accounts my grandmother had written about their experiences and filling the spaces in between. I holed up in a bedroom in her house and wrote, using an electric typewriter, stopping only for meals, which she prepared. Due to the downturn in the economy, though, I was unable to find a publisher. In the next few years, I retyped the manuscript into a Smith-Corona word processor. In 2002, I discovered a print-on-demand publisher, First Books, now called Author House. I was able to get the word processor disc converted to Word, and my uncle paid to have it published. I reimbursed him from book sales.
For years, I’d been writing fiction in my head. In 2007, I joined a writer’s critique group at the local library to begin fulfilling my lifelong goal of writing novels. I learned a lot from that group that included published authors, and began writing a minimum of one chapter a week. My first novel took me about four to five years to write, edit, and finalize. The next two I completed in two years each.
During those years, I started a blog, “Nuggets of Faith,” including many stories from my life. When I read the book, How to Blog a Book, by Nina Amir, I decided to develop those stories into a memoir that is soon to be released as Footsteps of Faith.
What’s your favorite book on writing? What do you like about it?
I have four shelves of books on writing. They have all been helpful, but Writing Deep Scenes, by Martha Alderson and Jordan Rosenfeld, was the best, especially the section on writing emotion from a deep POV.
How do you prepare to write your books: pantser, plotter, both, something completely different? Describe your strategy.
Before I begin a book, I usually have a general idea of the beginning, middle, and end. I don’t make an outline per se, but I do develop a timeline since my stories have a historical setting with certain fixed dates. When I sit down to write, I reread the previous chapter to get me back into the flow of the story.
What advice do you have for new authors?
For a number of years, I adjudicated creative writing for fine arts festivals for teens in our denomination. The one recommendation I gave repeatedly is to study the art and craft of writing. Schools today do only a superficial job of teaching grammar, spelling, sentence construction, etc., so new writers must devote themselves to study on their own.
Then I tell them to read lots of good books and write a lot. Thirdly, I tell them to never give up. A quote by Raymond Obstfeld encouraged me: “The main difference between successful writers and wannabe writers is not talent but perseverance.”
I would add that “I am a failure” is different than “I failed.” We can learn from our failures if we don’t give up. Only when we quit trying are we truly a failure.
How do you self-edit your manuscripts? What does your revision process look like?
Even though no one recommends it, I tend to do a lot of editing as I write. My writing group gives me good feedback on content editing and revision. I worked in editorial at Gospel Publishing House for four years and learned how to do technical editing, copyediting, and proofreading, so I do that myself. I always print out my books and edit from hardcopy. My husband also reads my manuscripts and tags needed changes with sticky notes. My editors at my publishers rarely make changes.
An ordained minister, author, and teacher, AnnaLee Conti grew up in a missionary family in Alaska in the fifties and sixties. She earned a B.A. in music and elementary education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and an M.A. in Bible at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. For 25 years, AnnaLee wrote many articles, stories, devotionals, and curriculum for Gospel Publishing House and has published five books.
For more than 35 years, AnnaLee served as Minister of Christian Education and Music in the churches she and her husband pastored in New York State. In addition, she served on leadership teams in Christian Education and Women’s Ministries at the state level, conducting seminars and organizing conventions. She has taught grade school, GED classes, Berean School of the Bible (an extension of Global University, Springfield, Missouri), and continues to teach classes in the New York School of Ministry, which trains pastors and teachers for ministry in local churches. AnnaLee and her husband, Bob, are now retired and reside in the Mid-Hudson River Valley. They have one son, who lives nearby, and five adult grandchildren, who give them much joy.
Blog: “Nuggets of Faith” at https://www.AnnaLeeConti.blogspot.com