Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Paula Peckham
Paula: I was invited to participate in a Christmas anthology. By using the characters from Protected, I was already a jump ahead. I knew them, I knew the setting. It was easier to get started. So A Father’s Gift picks up two years later and continues the story of Abby and Manny, my main characters from Protected.
LM: How do you develop your characters? (e.g. decide on their vocation, names, etc.)?
Paula: When I start writing, the main idea for the plot is already established, so I pick characteristics that make my protagonist fit the story. In Protected and A Father’s Gift, my characters are Abigail and Manny. Abby disguises herself as a boy for a while in Protected, so I needed a name that could be shortened to a boy’s name. She becomes Abner, or Ab. And Manny, short for Manuel, is Hispanic, so I chose a name from one of my friends in Mexico. Their story takes place in 1862, so I didn’t have as many job possibilities to choose from as I would have if I’d written a contemporary story. They live off the land. Farming is their job. Then, like happens with most authors I’ve spoken to, they reveal themselves to me as we go along.
LM: What research did you conduct for the novel and was there a particularly intriguing fact you decided to include?
Paula: I read a couple of Texas history books. I visited a friend who has several guns and practiced
LM: You were a high school math teacher, and you do mission work in Mexico. How do those activities impact/influence your writing?
Paula: After spending 19 years in the classroom, I believe I can write a fairly accurate portrayal of teenagers. I wrote a novella for a different Christmas anthology that was a contemporary story about a math teacher / swim coach (which I was). My mother called me and said, “I’m reading your autobiography.” It cracked me up. After all the research I went through for Protected and A Father’s Gift, it shocked me how easily I wrote In All Things Charity. It just flowed out, like I was writing an entry in my diary. As for my time spent in Mexico, I wanted to share with my readers a portrayal of the Mexican people that is different from the current political narrative. The Mexicans I know are not drug dealing rapists and murderers, despite what we read and hear on the news. They’re kind, loving families who want the same things we do—a good future for their children and to live happy lives. So Manny was Hispanic, and his grandmother, Yaideli, plays a huge part in his success.
LM: Tell us about your journey to publication. What would you do differently?
Paula: This is going to be a long answer. God guided every step of my writing journey. I retired from teaching in 2019. I’d been working on Protected for several years, but teachers don’t have a lot of free time. I’d get a lot done in the summers, but slowly my enthusiasm for it would trickle off as the daily grind and demand on my time took over once school started. In the summer of 2019, I dove into Twitter, trying to build a platform. On Twitter, I learned about PitMad, a pitch party where hopeful authors post pitches of their novels and editors and agents “like” them if they’re interested. I didn’t get much response. I posted a question asking if anyone had seen any agents or editors who were interested in Christian fiction. Someone replied that I should check out ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers).
I looked that up and saw they were hosting their annual conference in San Antonio in September. San Antonio is within driving distance for me, so I quickly joined ACFW and registered for the conference. I went by myself, knowing no one. I learned there was a DFW chapter that meets every month and joined them, too. At the first meeting, I met Lena Nelson Dooley, a multi-published Christian author who hosts a critique group. I asked her if I could join, and she graciously allowed me to. I started taking my chapters to crit group every Thursday night and realized how much I didn’t know. It was sad how unpolished my manuscript was. That group helped me tremendously.
Once COVID hit and we went into shutdown in March 2020, everything moved online to Zoom meetings. I attended a conference in Kentucky for the low price of $20.20. One of the classes I attended was presented by Deb Haggerty, editor-in-chief and owner of Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.
Fast forward to 2021, when I attended another virtual conference held by Mt. Zion Ridge Press. They
So, quite by accident (or not!), I landed in front of Deb Haggerty at a virtual conference and ended up with my publisher relationship. I told her about book three, Accepted, and she said it sounded exactly like the kind of thing they like to publish and urged me to send it to her when I finish.
What would I do differently? Nothing. This plan was laid out by God, so I never second-guessed a thing. Every rejection I received in the beginning just made me think, “Okay, it’s not time yet. Moving on.”
LM: You’ve accomplished quite a lot. What is one thing you wish you could do?
Paula: Speak Spanish fluently.
LM: What is your advice to fledgling writers?
Paula: Find a critique group. Read everything about the craft of writing you can get your hands on, especially if it’s by James Scott Bell. Never stop learning. You’ll continue to improve as a writer, so be open to change.
LM: What is your next project?
LM: Where can folks find you on the web?
Website: http://www. paulapeckham.com
Amazon author page:https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B09FP2JPR6
A Father's Gift:
Now more than ever, Manny yearns for guidance from his own father. But you can’t share good news with a man who’s been dead for years. Sheriff Williams delivered the devastating news of Mark Blair’s death at the hands of an unscrupulous card shark when Manny was only five years old. His grandmother, Yaideli, raised him, doing her best to stand in the gap. She did well by him and taught him how to become an upstanding, caring man.
But the impending responsibility of fatherhood looms over Manny like a storm cloud. He fears he will fail his young family. So many questions surround his father’s death. The desire to know what happened, to understand why Mark left him behind, overwhelms Manny. It’s nearing Christmas and the babe’s birth. He sets out on an adventure of discovery and finds something completely unexpected. Abby and Manny receive a precious gift—learning about the love and sacrifice only a father can give.
Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/3t4GA0T