Marcia is a pastor’s wife, for over twenty years, and the mother of three girls, which would explain the abundant love, wisdom, and experience she brings to her writing. She felt called to write from a young age, creating stories for her dolls. Since then she’s written two novels, a best selling novella, three devotionals, and many articles, blog posts, and short stories. She says, “The Lord has abundantly blessed, challenged, rebuked, healed and restored me through the process of writing and being involved with writers.”
Click to Tweet: Author Marcia Lee Laycock creates vivid characters: http://tinyurl.com/q6rb7t8 @MarciaLaycock #christianlit
So, Marcia, let’s delve into your stories and that writing process which has blessed your life. I just finished reading A Tumbled Stone and loved it! The underlying conflict in the story comes from a preacher who believes God expects perfection and condemns those who fall short. He sells a relationship with God based upon disappointment and guilt. Though we see very little of this preacher, his doctrine is a driving force in the main characters’ lives. Do you have any personal experience with this kind of preacher? What was your experience going to church growing up?
I don’t have any direct personal experience but unfortunately I have had direct contact with many people who have been hurt and spiritually damaged by this kind of preaching. Many of them have walked through the doors of our church, hoping to find healing and a way back to a God who loves them, a God who picks them up when they fall, a God who is forever compassionate.
I was not raised in the Protestant church, so my experience as a child was full of large cathedrals, liturgy and ritual, something I eventually turned away from and rejected for many years. But the Lord has blessed and healed me from that bitterness and now I have a great respect for my heritage.
I came from a relatively ‘normal’ and somewhat stable family, with a traditional structure. There were often stresses and dysfunction of course, as all families have, but I was blessed with parents who loved me. My husband and I have never formally fostered any children, but we always had kids in our home, many of whom came from extremely difficult backgrounds. When my daughters were in high school they sometimes brought kids home who were experiencing stresses and serious trouble in their lives. One girl, whose mother was an alcoholic, came to stay with us because she was unable to go home. Her social worker was made aware that she was with us and it ended up being what they called “informal fostering” for an extended period of time. We also sometimes had occasion to care for kids who came to the youth group at our church. These opportunities were hard in some ways but the Lord always blessed us as we tried to do what He asked us to do – love those around us in any and every way we could.
One of your strengths as a writer is characterization. (This is the last time I’ll go on about how much I enjoyed A Tumbled Stone, I promise.) I’m being honest in saying that the characters linger in my mind as people I’ve actually met. I feel as though I ran away with Andrea and helped her with her decision to keep or give up her baby. I could swear I’ve been in Benny’s cellar hideout, chatting about his various odd finds. So how do you do it? How long do you live with your characters before you start telling their stories?
Thank you for those kind words, Sara. A character is usually the first thing that gets me writing. He or she will begin to take shape in my mind and won’t go away until I begin to write the story down. Sometimes that will be almost immediately, with just a paragraph or two, sometimes it won’t begin for some time but that character lives in my mind until I begin to build the scenes in which he or she plays out his/her role in the story. For instance, my first novel, One Smooth Stone, which is the first book in the Stones series, came about when a woman from a local crisis pregnancy centre came to our church. After her presentation she asked me a question that stuck in my mind – “Can you imagine what it would be like for someone to discover that his mother had tried to abort him?” The character of Alex Donnelly began to take shape immediately as I did begin to imagine. He is very much a composite of many people I knew in the far north who went there to try and escape their past lives.
As for your writing style, you like to jump heads, in other words, you use a limited omniscient point of view, telling the story from the perspective of many different characters, one scene at a time. The trick to this style is creating each character to have a distinct voice, which you do. Did you run into any resistance from publishers for using this POV?
Yes, this is sometimes an issue. When I first started out I did a lot of “head hopping” and had to do a lot of re-writing! Once I learned the rules about POV it was easier to structure the novel well but still tell the story from the viewpoint of a number of characters. As you have said, the trick is to make each one distinct so they are clear in the reader’s mind. I’m working on a novel now that is in first person so it will be a big challenge for me. :)
Given how the industry is expanding to include self-published books, where do you see yourself as an author in the next five years?
I would like to publish with a larger house in the U.S. so am pursuing the idea of getting an agent. But I also will continue to self-publish and produce ebooks. I think this will be the future for all of us who write – we will likely all become “hybrid” writers.
Yes, when I began writing a faith column for a local newspaper I called it The Spur, using Hebrews 10:24 as my theme. It also fit with the area where I lived at the time, which holds the second largest rodeo in Canada every year. When people began asking me to put the column into a book I was reluctant at first. I had heard horror stories about people with boxes of books sitting in their basements because they were unable to sell them. But eventually a friend and my husband convinced me to do it. I thought it would be very much a local effort, but I have been amazed at where that little book has ended up (places like India, England and South America) and at how God has used it to accomplish his purposes.
I have had many emails, letters and even phone calls from people whose lives have been changed in some way by something I wrote, because God’s Spirit worked through the words. For instance, a friend bought a copy of the first edition of Spur of the Moment, and after reading it left it on the table in the staff room at his workplace. One of his colleagues took it home and began reading it aloud to her husband. One of the stories, Though My Father Forsake Me, is about the crucial role a father has in the lives of his children. That man had a daughter living on the streets of a large city. He had not been in touch with her for a long time but after listening to that devotional he called her, told her he loved her and asked her to come home. And she did! That’s the power of words when they are put into the hands of a mighty God. I was thrilled that the third edition of Spur of the Moment was short-listed for a Word Award this year at Write Canada. Though it didn’t win the award I was told it was a close second. :)
When I find an author I like, I want to be able to visualize her or him writing, whether it be in a study, at the kitchen table, or out in the garden . . . so, I’ll end with a simple question: where do you most like to write?
Since we are church planting and hold our services in a community hall, my husband and I share a small office in our home. We are literally back to back, which sometimes makes writing a little difficult because I need quiet when I write. If Spence gets a phone call that is obviously going to take a while, or has someone stop in to see him, I switch to my laptop in our living room, which has a nice view of a little pond across the street. I wish I was one of those people who could write in a coffee shop or a busy mall, but that’s not me. I am blessed to have a room to go to, where I sit surrounded by books and other things that inspire me. Often my two golden retrievers are at my feet, keeping them warm on chilly winter days. :)
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, Marcia!
It’s my pleasure, Sara. Thanks for the opportunity.
Click to Tweet: Marcia Lee Laycock spurs others toward a life of love and fulfillment: http://tinyurl.com/q6rb7t8 @MarciaLaycock #hybridwriter
Sara Goff runs a global charity she founded in 2010 called Lift the Lid, Inc., which supports underprivileged schools and encourages the students to write. In her late twenties, she walked away from her seven-year career as a fashion buyer/merchandiser in New York City to pursue her passion for writing and to somehow make a difference in the world. Since then, Sara has published on Crosswalk.com, Christian Fiction Online Magazine, and in Epiphany literary journal and the SoHo Journal. Sara is currently living in London with her Swedish husband of 14 years and their two sons, ages 0 and 5. Her first novel is a New York City story about lifestyle choices and unconditional love. You can learn more about Sara and read her writing at www.saragoff.com.