Bonnie S. Calhoun

Bonnie S. Calhoun is the Founder and Publisher of Christian Fiction Online Magazine . She is also the Owner and Director of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance which is the parent organization for the magazine.

In addition to her passion for spreading the word about Christian fiction, Bonnie is also an author of snarky suspense. Her novel Cooking The Books (A Sloane Templeton Novel) will release from Abingdon Press in April 2012. It is presently available for digital e-reader download if you are a book reviewer. Go to, Abingdon Press as the publisher.


Interview Excerpts From ICRS

Linda AttawayLinda Attaway has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. A reviewer for CFBA and a variety of publishers, her blog, Mocha with Linda, also contains her miscellaneous reflections on life, faith, music, and family. A self-described word enthusiast and grammer geek, she also enjoys proofreading and editing. Linda lives in central Texas with her husband and two teenagers and finds joy in serving as her church’s Care Minister. Visit her blog at

As a reader, I am fascinated by the process of writing. Some authors plan and plot their stories; others are what they call “seat of the pants” writers. Some keep a tight rein on their characters, while others say the characters often take control of the story. Here is a glimpse into the writing styles of several authors who attended ICRS last month in Atlanta, Georgia.

Sharlene MacLarenSharlene MacLaren
I am a seat-of-the-pants writer. As I’m typing, my fingers will start writing a sentence that I did not know was coming. And then a character will say something, but five seconds before I write it, a sentence will come into my mind. And then another sentence and another, and then I’m into another scene, and I’m thinking, I didn’t know I was going in this direction. I never know where [my novels] are going to go from one day to the next. I have a general idea, and then sometimes my characters surprise me.

In one of my books, I sat down and thought, I’m going to have Emma visit the post office because she hasn’t done that in the story yet. I had her walk into the post office. Then I thought, Now I need to introduce the postmaster [to the book], which I did. Then suddenly he says, “Emma, I’ve been waiting and waiting for you to walk in here because I have a letter for you that’s been sitting here for three days . . . Here’s your letter.” She looks down at the envelope and on it were only initials, which she didn’t recognize. She opened the letter and all it said was something like, “I know about you and I want to help you.” And it was signed with the initials. I wrote that and thought, What in the world have I done? I don’t know who this person is, but I know it’s going to be pivotal and it’s going to bring in some mystery. So I tell my husband, “Emma got a letter and she doesn’t know who it’s from. Who do you think it’s from?” We worked it out for about twenty minutes. And I said, “Thank you, honey. Thank you, God! I think I got it!” For the next three days I spent time putting together this whole scenario. If it hadn’t been for that letter, the whole story would have totally fallen flat.

Tamera Alexander
Honestly, if I can’t see it, I can’t write it. It’s like a movieTamara Alexander happening. And sometimes—this happened at a couple of the scenes in Within My Heart—there are moments where the creativity, sleep level, whatever it is, aligns, and the movie starts playing out. I just can’t type fast enough. I see the characters, I hear them saying things, and it’s like I’m trying to keep up. Obviously, I know it’s coming from the creative bent or that muse or whatever. It happened at the end of The Inheritance. I was writing and thought, I honestly don’t know what to do with this scene at the very last. I know what needs to be done, but I don’t know how to get there. And all of a sudden this character unexpectedly walked around the corner. I thought, That’s it! And in those moments—I always used to pull an empty chair up beside me—I would just lean over and say, “Thank you, Lord!” because I had no clue what was going to happen here, but apparently He did! And God just gives you those.

Mark BetrandMark Bertrand
This is good because I can give you a contrary view of that because I’m not one of those people. The character taking over is like a good metaphor for the unexpected things that happen in the process. You do sit down, plan ahead and have a sense for what the story’s going to be, although it does change as you write it. So far, I’ve never had the characters wrest control of the story from me! But we’ll see what happens in the future.

Elizabeth MusserElizabeth Musser
I don’t think I set out to write any particular theme. It kinda evolves as I’m writing. But I knew that I wanted to depict friendship...and the whole idea of provision. I put into my novels what I’m asking about, and I think it just evolves. I want to touch on how real people are—to write about life; they’re not cookie-cutter people who deal with only one thing. A lot of times characters develop in unexpected ways. I’ve never written a novel with two first-person points of view, and I was a little afraid of that because I thought they need to have separate voices. I asked myself, “Can I do that?” So—I do this often—I looked in my Myers-Briggs Personality book to figure out their personalities. I wrote down on these little Post-it notes, “This is what Perry is” and “This is what Dobbs is” to make sure I made them stay true to themselves. Now they can change a little bit—because they are influenced by each other—but I know Dobbs and what her voice sounds like, and what Perry’s voice sounds like. I do a ton of research, not only for history, but I love personalities. I think it’s fascinating.

Suzanne Woods FisherSuzanne Woods Fisher
The writing process is like painting with oils. First, you begin with a light pencil sketch—lots of erasing. Next, you add the basic color, with lots of do-overs. Then comes the shadowing and depth and detail. It is not like painting with watercolor! That’s too risky; but you can make lots of corrections with oils! It does seem as if the characters come to life. I feel a little worried about being at ICRS . . . wondering what the characters are up to while I am away. Trouble!

Deb RaneyDeborah Raney
When I write, I create a world. I always write about fictional towns, maybe set close to a real town. The characters might go into a real town, like Springfield, Missouri, for dinner, but they always come home to a completely fictional town in an obscure not very well-defined place. It takes a lot to create a world. I usually have a map, not just of the streets of the town but what the houses look like. I usually find houses in magazines and say, “This is where ‘Susan’ lives,” etc. I’m a visual person, so I have to be able to picture it before I write it. But that’s the most fun. Because the whole time I’m searching for pictures of my characters and drawing the maps, my imagination is working overtime writing that story. I tell my husband that just because my fingers are not on the keyboard doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I can be staring out the window and doing some of the most important work of writing, which is just creating.

But with all that planning of the environment, I am totally a seat-of-the-pants writer. For me, it would ruin the fun of writing if I knew how it was going to turn out every time. I’ve had characters die on me and not even make it into the book. I was writing a book once and the main character had a wonderful dad, but the book was already too long and I still had a long way to go. So I was subconsciously trying to figure out how to cut the book down. I was typing a scene and all of a sudden the dad had a heart attack and keeled over! And I knew that was my mind saying that character was unnecessary. I went back and deleted all the scenes he was in.

Allison PittmanAllison Pittman
I have my TV on while I write. I have something like Dateline Investigative Discovery Channel humming in the background. I never write more than two or three sentences at a time. I don’t do sprint writing. If I don’t have something on TV, I get up and do something. If I have the TV on, I might look up for five minutes or so, and then go back and write a few more sentences, and then watch, and then write. I hear other writers say, or [see] on Facebook, “I wrote 4000 words today,” and I just can’t imagine that. I am not a fast writer. Maybe I’d be faster without the TV on—I don’t know. But I get restless.

Books contain more than just words on a page to an avid reader such as I. Books are a doorway to another world, where characters become so real that I have, at times, felt the urge to pray for them when they encountered a trial, rejoiced over their triumphs and celebrations, and felt the pang of loss when I turned the final page of a novel. Taking a peek into the creative process of these authors only enhances this sense of realism and also serves as a reminder of the Master Creator who has gifted these authors with the ability to communicate His truths through the power of story.