Author Heather Norman Smith's Latest Book
I am pleased to feature my fellow author Heather Smith’s latest novel, Songs for a Sunday, soon-to-be-released on 2/7/23 by Iron Stream Fiction. Not only is it a dual storyline novel with local color and heart, but it's set in the state where I will soon be a resident: North Carolina!
Here are a few questions Heather was willing to take on before her novel is published. Let's find out what it takes to get a story out into the world—one that treasures life in all its forms.
Songs for a Sunday
How did you come up with the idea for Songs for a Sunday?
This book came to me first as a title. I was in the shower when the words popped into my brain, and I had no idea what they meant. It sounds a little strange, but along with the title, I had an image of a couple out for a drive in an older model convertible. That image later became part of the first scene in the 1960s storyline. Most of the book was written in 2020, and I actually don’t remember anything else about how I came up with the plot of the book.
Give us a short synopsis of the storyline. . .
Here’s the back cover copy:
1963: Twenty-year-old Annie dreams of managing the dance studio where she has trained since childhood and of marrying her high-society boyfriend. But when her younger sister with special needs gets pregnant, Annie is forced to set her dreams aside for the sake of family.
Present Day: Missy Robbins has always lived in her younger sister’s shadow. When given the opportunity, Missy steps out of her comfort zone as stay-at-home mom of four to prove she’s as good a singer as Erica. Missy’s new pursuit puts her on a path to self-discovery and reclaiming her discarded faith. Until she discovers her grandmother has a sixty-year-old secret.
Will Missy conceal Grandma Annie’s deception or will she be forced to reveal the hidden truth?
Which part of your story was the most difficult to develop?
One plot point that proved difficult is when a character delivers a fantastic vocal performance of Amazing Grace, yet she doesn’t fully believe the words of the song. At this point in the book, singing the song is just an act for her. It was hard for me to imagine and capture someone not being moved by the lyrics and the Spirit of the song.
Also, one of my characters in the 1960s timeline would be considered “neurodivergent” today. It was a little challenging to keep that character’s unique traits consistent throughout the story.
Who was your favorite character to develop in the novel, and why?
The main character, Missy, is autobiographical in several ways, so I think I had the most fun inserting my experiences as a mother of four into her fictional life.
Did you unearth a particularly interesting tidbit, fun character or spiritual truth you just knew had to be included in your novel?
The story is set in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and I loved including lots of real locations and some great historical details in the story—things like the formation of North Carolina School of the Arts, the first public arts conservatory in the country. Many of the “real” settings are within a fifteen-minute drive of my home, and it was a lot of fun to incorporate those places.
What would you like your reader to understand or come away with after she finishes Songs for a Sunday?
God has a plan and a purpose, and He can use anything and anybody to accomplish it.
How has God prepared you to be a writer?
I think He gave me a love for words, in general. My husband says I’m too analytical because I place a lot of importance on “saying what you mean and meaning what you say.” But I think it’s part of the appreciation God gave me for language and the power it has.
What sparks your creativity when you’re feeling drained?
When I hit a slump, I have to remind myself that my writing is more than entertainment. There is a higher purpose to the kinds of stories I want to tell. When I go back to the ministry aspect of writing, I’m always motived to keep going.
What is your secret to getting your word count in with many distractions?
I’m obsessive about the story. Once a story idea starts with me, I have to tell it. And, I stay up very late at night most of the time.
Where would be your ideal writing space? Why? Describe your present ‘office.’ What--if anything--would you change?
I write with my laptop on my lap, sitting on one end of my couch. That’s where all my books have been written, so I can’t really imagine writing anywhere else.
Favorite books as a child? Adult?
Ever since I first read it in high school, I’ve always loved To Kill a Mockingbird.
Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you . . .
My day job is as a Business Analyst for a Software Development company. Sometimes, when my characters start talking to me, it’s hard to focus on my work, but I’m very thankful for my job.
Thank you, Heather, for being willing to share a bit about yourself and your upcoming novel.
Preorder "Songs for a Sunday" today!
I hope you have been enticed to check out Heather's upcoming release on February 7th! It is a cozy read that draws you right in like savory smells in a grandma's kitchen. The characters will feel like your friends after only a few pages. The dual storyline is easy to follow, but doesn't give away secrets until half way through the book. You will return to the story with anticipation each time you put it down (if you are able).
I don't know about you, but as a writer, I look forward to a new writing guide when it comes along. Today I get to share the news that The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Vol. 1) has arrived!
The Conflict Thesaurus is their newest writing tool. . .
This guide is about that absolutely necessary ingredient our stories need: Conflict. It shows you exactly how to use conflict to raise tension, create a fresh story premise, and pull readers in. The guide also dives into over 100 conflict scenarios and how each can be endlessly adapted to challenge a character inside and out. Problems, Moral Dilemmas, Ticking Clocks, Obstacles, No-Win Scenarios. . . this book is plot brainstorming in overdrive!
I'm part of Angela & Becca's Street Team for this release, and we have an important question to ask you:
Can You Survive Danger as Well as Your Favorite Protagonist?
Sure, it's easy for you (or is it?) to use conflict to wound your characters and make them struggle, but what if it's you in the hot seat instead? Will you make good decisions, or bad ones?
Are you game for The Conflict Challenge?
It's time to find out by taking the Conflict Challenge! I dare you to become the protagonist in a special story Angela & Becca have created. And heads up, if you survive, you win some pretty cool stuff!
While you're at Writers Helping Writers taking the Conflict Challenge, make sure to enter The Conflict Thesaurus celebratory giveaway, too. But hurry - it's only on for a few days.
So, take the challenge. . . if you dare. I did, and it's super fun. And don't forget to come back and let me know how you did against Camp Deadwood!
While your at it, check out Becca and Angela’s other stellar tools:
Have you used any of the above thesauri? If so, which is your favorite? If you're looking for an incredible online tool that helps you craft your story, check out One Stop for Writers.
Creating Images for a Book Launch
Has it been two years? Wow. Tempus Fugit!
As long as I'm celebrating The Heart Changer’s 2nd birthday, I might as well share some of the marketing images I've created on Canva. If you don't know about that site (no matter what your profession) you are missing out on an incredible resource! There are many tutorials to help you create an image. And best of all, it's free at a basic level.
I am so honored once again to be a part of Tessa Afshar’s book launch team for The Way Home released by Moody Publishers. This time, instead of a Biblical fiction novel, Tessa has written a 6-week Bible study on a topic dear to her heart: women in Scripture who have found a new beginning and a deep faith. Although I have never met Tessa Afshar in person, I feel she is a kindred spirit in so many ways, and is dear to me!
When I discovered she was drawn to Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, I had part of the reason. The other part you will find in the videos and interview below. Enjoy and be blessed!
The Inspiration to Write
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.