1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed for Queenie’s BookTalk and Reviews that I was called to write was a journey for me and I began the journey at 64. God has a way of letting us know that whatever plan He has for us will take place whenever it is supposed to. It is never too late to get started. As a creative, writing was a part of my life, even when I did not call it my God-given assignment.
In my younger years, I wrote skits for youth groups, designed black history plays for our church and throughout my Christian adult life, and designed content for our Bible classes and our School of Biblical Studies College. Coming from a singing family, I wrote songs and sometimes updated the ones we were to sing as a choir. In my career as a Deputy Administrator in State government, I was involved in writing and developing programs, services, training, and more. I spent most of my adult years writing with a corporate voice or a ministry voice, but in 2018, I stepped out not only to discover my writing voice but to learn how to put my perspective into print. I accepted my calling after publishing my first book in 2018, six years after retirement. A Christian nonfiction book, entitled Your Adam is Asleep Until God Opens His Eyes, is based on conversations my adult daughters and I had about men, dating, and marriage. It was my daughters who encouraged me to write this book once they found interest—their friends wanted to know more about our discussions. Still unsure what this book was meant to be, I tested the contents of the book during a speaking engagement as the Sunday morning speaker. As I presented my points, I saw several young adults run to the front of the church and place their cell phones on the pew to record my presentation. Witnessing that reaction confirmed that there was an audience for my message, and it was my calling.
I love being creative and using my imagination to present important messages. After writing nonfiction, which is natural for ministers, and Bible teachers to do, I discovered my love for writing Christian fiction, especially after recognizing that Jesus was a Master storyteller—He used relatable things, but the stories had a deeper meaning. It took some work to transform into a show-do n’t-tell style of writing and I again turned to my how-to books for help. I love storytelling and leaving the reader with nuggets that will stay with them. I also discovered my favorite topic to write about, born from my experience as an ordained minister and my 30+ years ministering to single women, providing pre-marriage and marriage counseling. I identified a common thread in the problems couples faced and the marriages that were failing, even in the church—it pointed back to a lack of training, once provided by the church. This teaching has all but disappeared and I felt a call to write about it. My heart is in sharing stories about dating with intent—to marry, dating safe, self-worth, laying aside the weight of the past so God can send your mate, how to prepare for marriage, how to assess men you date, how to assess yourself, marriage takes work, and that work begins long before a marriage event.
The most frustrating part of being a writer happened during the early stages of my writing career. It was lonely trying to figure out the business on my own. I purchased lots of how-to books and took part in a variety of classes to gain knowledge about the literary process and business. In the beginning, there were very few authors willing to walk with me on my new journey—many were too busy with their projects, while others wanted me to call 1-800-pay-me-a-fee-first-before-we-talk. In time, God caused the right people to cross paths with me, and we connected. I now have a significant group of supporters—they are the tribe of literary friends I had hoped to have in this business, and we are faithful in our support of each other. My family has remained constant support as well.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
Here are nine of my books and they are located at most online stores and local bookstores. https://drvelma.com/shop
• The CATCH No One Wants, Christian Contemporary Fiction, my 14th Book
In the story, the father asks God to help him provide guidance to his daughter, after watching her dangerous dating habits. God’s answer was, to use what you know. The father is an expert at fishing and sees the behavioral similarities between men and fish, so he invents five metaphorical stories he shares with his daughter on a two-day fishing trip. Four stories represent the men she has dated: the Catfish, who enjoys garbage, the salmon who does not want to get caught, the Sturgeon who likes to nibble, and the Pufferfish, who is beautiful until agitated—all highlight the dating mistakes his daughter continues making even now. While the fifth story—the Goldfish — represents the husband she deserves, and he was standing right in front of her.
• The CATCH Workbook
Now, you get the same benefit Veronica enjoyed from her dad’s wisdom. Great for book club discussions, church groups, and self-study. The Homework Basket captures all the things Veronica Dawson’s father provided her during and after his intervention. He asked Veronica to complete every task to help her apply intentional dating to discover the husband she deserves. As you move through the Homework Basket, we give you access to Greyson Dawson’s teaching.
• A Place Called Down—Why Christians Suffer. Christian Fiction
A place called down is common for us all. We can come to believe that our walk with God will only be filled with mountaintop experiences. It is not always the workings of evil, the author reminds us that in fact, God can also order for us A Place Called Down. In this book, the author deviates from relationship-focused topics to bring us into her testimony of tests, trials, and tribulations, to offer insight into the low place. She describes a place that is not fun or easy, but by its very nature, can be likened to a refiner’s fire. A fire is so hot that God uses it to burn away what He cannot use. This is how the place called down can feel. Isolating. Difficult. Unyielding. Helpless. It is a place of suffering – tragedy, illness, job loss, financial woes, death, divorce/separation, relationship issues, pandemics & more.
• Your Adam is Asleep Until God Opens His Eyes—A conversation between a mother and her daughters about men.
The author’s daughters encouraged her to write this book—after sharing their conversations with their friends, they could not believe the interest in their discussions. The book addresses men and dating, in response to her daughter’s initial question, ‘Mom, why are men so slow?’ It was important for the author that her daughters understood their responsibilities before saying I Do. When she wrote the book, the three of them sat down and agreed to be transparent and open so that those reading it could see their journey and connect the topics covered. The book has foundational teaching about God’s original intent for a successful marriage, which begins with preparation. It is the perfect call to action for single Christian women and a go-to resource for couples looking for a reset.
• The Rainbow Baby (Kindle) –
This story tells of the author’s 12-year journey with infertility, and her faith and hope that God would bless her with a child. It was during the 80s when women did not have the reproductive specialists that exist now. Adding to this was the fact that the author was in her 30s, and care for pregnant women in their late 30s was very new. Read how the author’s hope shattered when she suffered a miscarriage and the embarrassment she felt when the doctor treated her loss like it was just another day’s event. The author’s loss happened at the very point when she should have received blessed news confirming her pregnancy and the fact that she was six weeks along. She let go of my dream and accepted her fate. But that is not the end of her story.
• My 70s Love Story (Kindle)
The author shares her life as a 10th grader in high school. The story shows how different the 70s were when dating. The time was simple and less complex compared to today. For instance, there was no google site to find a person or locate a phone number. If you wanted to locate someone, they provided you with an address or phone number. There was no privacy at home. Houses had one telephone, and it sat in one location where others in the house could hear every conversation. It’s funny and truthful. The reader goes on a journey with the author from writing her ‘husband to be prayer list,’ to meeting the young man in 10th grade English who later becomes her husband of 48 years.
• The Little Letter K and the Boring Alphabet Line. Letter K and Her Birthday Surprise and Letter K and Her Alphabet Friends
Co-Authored with her granddaughter Kai M. Tampol, a first-time Author at age 6, sketched her book character in early 2020. Kai used her own imagination and creativity to bring her character to life, in her book entitled, The Little Letter k and the Boring Alphabet Line (which includes coloring pages). She created a multicultural alphabet world, full of ABC characters with childlike personalities. Follow the story of Little Letter k, who becomes bored standing in the alphabet line, in the same position and her assigned location every day for a long time. Bored and tired, Letter K uses her imagination, risks exposing an alphabet secret, and leaves the line in search of more fun. More of the letters follow. Find out what happens in the story. But, because of Little Letter k, the alphabet line is never the same again
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
I draw inspiration from God, family, and friends. Since God is the God of all creation, I begin my creativity from His inspiration. To guide me, I use Proverbs 3:6 KJV “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct their path.” The word acknowledges, in the original language, means to “invite in”. Therefore, I invite God in on every writing decision. I begin the year with a list of ideas, but after prayer, I am led to the one which is to be done first, etc.
I recall my husband and pastor, preached a message directed to the single women, and he said, “If the fish aren’t biting, then it’s time to change the bait.” I knew that instant that this was my next book. As God would have it, it was the message in the book, but not the title. As fish remained the common thread for my new book, it was important to examine their personalities to match them with men. I called my brother, who is an expert at fishing, and asked him about the personalities of his favorite fish. The personalities matched perfectly. My editor even remarked that “the use of the fish analogy is genius.” I believe the idea had God’s stamp all over it.
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
My best writing time is primarily mornings—5:00 a.m. The early morning hours are the most peaceful, and I find there are fewer interruptions. Once everyone is up, including family, phone calls come in around 8-9. I do not work from an outline and hate that approach to writing. There is no one-size-fits-all style of writing, and it is important we become comfortable with our individual styles. I love setting writing goals; for instance, I try not to write on Saturdays—set aside for family, Sundays—set aside for worship, and Mondays, set aside for church business, etc. My writing days are Tuesdays through Fridays. I set a goal of the number of words I must add to my story for the month, then divide that into the number of days I must write, and that number becomes my target each writing day. I surpass my daily goal regularly. Normally, I can finish a novel in three months or less.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
The first book I read which moved me, was written was called Barren Womb, published in 2020 by Denise Walker. I met this author for the first time during the Christian Book Lovers Retreat in 2019. Our tables were side by side at the book fair and I visited her table to greet her. I purchased one of her books and we have remained friends since that meeting.
Currently, I do not have a favorite author, because I enjoy a variety of work by so many. I am not reading anything because I’m preparing for my upcoming book release; however, my most recent read was In Search of a Prince by Toni Shiloh.
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
My most significant achievement has been to help my granddaughter publish her first book at age 6. She is now an award-winning author and has three books published.
In my next five years, if God says the same, I hope to be traveling, writing more books, speaking, and hosting webinars around the topics I love.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What is your advice for other writers to better be able to cope or navigate their way through the publishing process, be it traditional or self-publishing?
There are groups of authors where it is obvious the groups are exclusive. I’ve tried not to focus on those realities because conditions change as God sees them. I have learned to trust His plan for me and not compare myself with anyone else. There is plenty of work to do for the kingdom and a place for everyone at the table. I’ve learned to keep my head held high, and those that God wants me to connect with will cross my path and connect. While those not designed to connect with me won’t and that’s okay, too.
New writers must study the craft of writing, especially the specific genre they intend to write. There are writing rules which are critical to a writer’s success and it’s important to know what they are. Know your writing voice and writing style. I discovered much later that I could not write using an outline—I hated it—but everyone was saying it was the best approach. But as I continued to research, I discovered why I did not like it and understood that my preferred style is called the Jigsaw Puzzle method of writing. I write without an outline and work on whatever piece in my story I am inspired to work on in the moment. Pieces are created based on what I know will occur in the book, even though at the time I do not know where the pieces will fit. Once several pieces to the novel are complete, I can then take those pieces and place them where they will fit in the story. It is like putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. I felt so much relief once I found the information about the jigsaw puzzle and it helped me become comfortable with my style.
As stated at the beginning, I began at age 64—it is never too late. The key is to get started. How-to books have flooded the literary market. Read them to guide your journey. Take the time to connect with like-minded people in the literary field. Join Facebook groups that can help and provide support. Give back, comment, like, etc. This business requires that you establish relationships with others, and with your audience—which means maintaining your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts, posting regularly and acknowledging posts of others.
8) Do you find it hard to juggle the creative side of being a writer against the business side of being a writer, in terms of marketing and promotion and things of that nature? How hard has it been (or easy) for you to build up your author platform?
I do not find it hard being a writer versus the business side. Both take time. Again, read, read, read. Understand every step of the publishing process. There are plenty of books and no excuse. The struggle happens when we do not understand what’s required.
Three different people from the publishing world, marketing world, and a publicist assessed my social media. They gave me advice, and I implemented it. I didn’t like the idea of building a platform, but it was necessary if I wanted to connect with my audience and fellow authors. I remember avoiding LinkedIn until they brought it to my attention. My connections grew from 50 to 301 in a short time. Instagram was similar in terms of where I started and how my following has grown.
Marketing can be scary if you do not know what to do. It can be exciting and fun when you understand it. Again, this can include a combination of things—things you can do—post and share on social media, create graphics, secure a street team to help promote your book, and a book launch team of volunteers to help push the launch of your book, create a marketing budget, purchase ads, etc. and/or secure a professional marketing service, a publicist, etc., to help you along the way. For my upcoming book, I’m doing all of these.
9) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself after it’s out there for the rest of the world?
I disagree with what these writers are saying. If you do not enjoy your own book, why should anyone else? I had a great feeling when I hit the send button to return my edited manuscript to the editor. It felt like I’d delivered triplets. It was such a relief. But more than getting the editing done, I enjoyed Word 365’s “Read Aloud” feature. I sat, listened, and reviewed my hard copy as the computer read the book to me. It’s amazing the things you can hear by using this method. As I listened and read along with the program, I felt a sense of enjoyment with the story and how it flowed. I loved the book from beginning to end. It was a great sense of accomplishment.
10) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
If you are still breathing and your faculties are working, it is never too late to become a successful writer. There is no such thing as a late start. You will begin when it is your time to do so. Your part in all of this is to not allow stinking thinking to talk yourself out of that moment when it comes. As I mentioned earlier, I became an author at 64 and I am now a 6X Award-Winning Author at 68. If it can happen for me, it can happen for you!
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
I have always been a giving and helpful person and when I write, it genuinely reflects my giving and helpful nature. I use the wisdom gained in my life experience and weave that knowledge and wisdom into my books. Every time I receive positive feedback from readers who enjoyed one of my books, it inspires me and affirms my call to continue writing my message.