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Lisa Wingate is an award-winning journalist, magazine columnist, popular inspirational speaker and a national bestselling author of 16 books. Her first mainstream novel, Tending Roses, is in its fifteenth printing from Penguin Putnam. Tending Roses is a staple on the shelves of national bookstore chains as well as in many independent bookstores.
Recently, Lisa’s Blue Sky Hill Series, set in Dallas, received national attention with back-to-back nominations for American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award for A Month of Summer (2009) and The Summer Kitchen (2010). Pithy, emotional, and inspirational, her stories bring to life characters so real that readers often write to ask what is happening to them after the book ends.
Lisa is one of a select group of authors to find success in both the Christian and mainstream markets, writing for both Bethany House, a Christian publisher, and NAL Penguin Putnam, in mainstream fiction. Her bestselling books have become a hallmark of inspirational southern fiction. Her works have been featured by the National Reader’s Club of America, AOL Book Picks, Doubleday Book Club, the Literary Guild, American Profiles and have been chosen for numerous awards.
When not busy dreaming up stories, Lisa spends time on the road as a motivational speaker. Via internet, she shares with readers as far away as India, where her book, Tending Roses, has been used to promote women’s literacy, and as close to home as Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the county library system has used Tending Roses to help volunteer mentors teach adults to read. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others, as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life.
Q. Are you a native Texan or did you get here as soon as you could?
A. I’m a member of the happy crowd who got here as soon as I could. Born in Germany, raised in Oklahoma, I married a Texan who was anxious get back, and I fell in love with Texas. We’ve lived in big cities and little towns around the state and finally landed in Central Texas, where we enjoy raising boys, keeping various farm animals, taking in the Hill Country seasons, and spending time with a large extended family of pranksters, good cooks, and storytellers.
Now that I’m here, I never lack for good settings or good characters. All my recent books have been set in Texas, mostly in small towns like Crawford, which is fictionalized in the Daily, Texas series for Bethany House Publishers.
Dallas figures into my writing also. The Blue Sky Hills series is in a transitioning, fairly inner city area around Lakewood. The series brings together a mix of old and young, suburbanites and downtown residents, wealthy and homeless, entrepreneurs and poor, educated and illiterate, drawing them together as a community.
As far as characters, I meet people everywhere who I yearn to put in a book. I hear their stories and sometimes say, “That might end up in a book, but I’ll change the names to protect the innocent.” In my mind, I often start out visualizing someone I know as a character and then the character takes on a life of his/her own and the story flows.
The relatives have fun talking about the book characters and theorizing on which ones might be based on a family member.
Q. How did you end up writing inspirational fiction?
A. I have been writing all my life. My brother was a great writer and I remember the day he won a blue ribbon at school for his poem, “The Bee Went Under the Sea.” Of course, I wanted to do what my brother was doing. He taught me how to read and write, and I was off and running.
I got serious about writing fiction and trying to get published after college. I knew I wanted to write good stories with compelling characters and situations drawn from life. I write where I live–in a world where people go to church on Sunday and life is centered around family and faith.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of a few authors writing both for a CBA company (Bethany House Publishers) in Christian fiction and for an ABA company (Penguin Putnam) in general market fiction. These days with the massive growth in Christian/inspirational fiction, even ABA companies like Penguin Putnam, have marketing arms to sell into Christian bookstores. I try to write fiction that, while inspirational, will also appeal to readers who wouldn’t necessarily shop in CBA stores or perhaps have never tried inspirational fiction before.
Q. What book marketing activities made you a bestselling author?
A. There is so much controversy over how much effect an author can have on sales as compared to the marketing through publishers. I give credit to my publishers for having some great strategies and I appreciate their efforts, but I believe in partnering with them to do everything I can, too.
There’s nothing like hearing from readers, either via email or Facebook and having a window into the life of another person who was touched by a story. I’m constantly amazed at the ways story can connect people.
I meet many readers in person also, at book signings and speaking appearances. I keep mailing lists, for both email and postcards, share the story behind each new release. We also do bookmarks and other goodies for readers and book clubs and network with writers and readers through events like The Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend.
Q. Tell us about your latest release. Is it set in Texas?
A. Larkspur Cove (Bethany House) is set on fictional Moses Lake, which just happens to resemble the real life Lake Whitney. It features life in a small lakeside community as the normal order of things is turned upside down when the local recluse is spotted with an unidentified little girl in tow. A real Texas game warden and a couple social workers consulted about all things related to the jobs of the two main characters, Mart and Andrea.
Q. Where can we pay you a virtual visit?
A. Come and visit me at my newly designed website, www.lisawingate.com, where right now we’re running a beautiful video for fathers and daughters, based on my upcoming release, Dandelion Summer (July 2011). You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and at the fun, funny, sometimes crazy southern-gal blog I write with four author friends, SouthernBelleView.