Donna: My guest today is best-selling Christian romance writer Deborah Raney. Deb, welcome to ICFW! Please introduce yourself to our readers—how long you’ve been writing, what got you started, that sort of thing.
Deb: Thanks so much for the warm welcome, Donna! I began my first novel on New Year’s Day 1994, as part of a New Year’s resolution to finally write that novel I’d been dreaming about since I was eleven years old. That novel, A Vow to Cherish, ended up getting three contract offers, was published by Bethany House Publishers, and became the inspiration for the award-winning World Wide Pictures film of the same title. That launched my career and I’ve been happily writing ever since! I’ve now written over thirty books, including a couple of non-fiction books and several novellas. In addition, I teach at writers conferences all over the country, and am on the board of the 2600-member American Christian Fiction Writers organization.
Donna: And tell us something about your personal life. I know you’re a grandmother and we share an enthusiasm for gardening.
Deb: I’m a farmer’s daughter who married a small-town boy, who dragged me to New York City early in our marriage, but brought me back to his small town in Kansas when we found out we were expecting our first child. We raised our four children in a small town, then when they were grown and all living out-of-state, we decided to try city life again. Nothing so big as New York this time though! We moved to Wichita, Kansas, four years ago and have just loved our lives here!
We now have seven grandchildren and spend a lot of time on the road or in the air traveling to visit them.
And yes, we love our gardening. Ken is the outdoor gardener, though I do weed and water with him. I’m the indoor gardener who’s had a love of houseplants since our newlywed days in New York.
Along with that, Ken and I have spent the past three years exploring Wichita’s neighborhoods every Thursday morning when we stop for donuts and coffee before heading out to the local garage sales, estate sales, flea markets, and farmers markets. We just love spending a few pennies on treasures for our house and the home offices we keep there.
Donna: And I know you and your husband, the brilliant artist Ken Raney, have launched your own publishing company Raney Day Press. Tell us about that venture.
Deb: Since I’ve been writing for over 22 years now, many of my older books had gone out of print. Once we began to get the rights to my books back from the publishers, we wanted to update those books and give them a new life. Mostly that involved bringing the “contemporary” stories into the 21st Century by giving my characters cell phones and laptop computers! (Just goes to show how much the world has changed in two short decades!)
The new indie market has made it very feasible for authors with an established readership to publish their own novels. I’m so grateful that my husband’s skills as an illustrator and graphic designer have made this process so much easier. We’ve published through our own imprint, Raney Day Press, and we’re very pleased with the results! We’ve done the books in both print and e-book formats, and have even tried an audio book, though so far the jury is still out on that venture.
I still write for traditional publishers, so I guess you’d call me a hybrid author. I’m very grateful for both avenues of publishing.
Donna: I think you have two or three books with international settings—and all of them have been award-winning. Tell us about those books.
Deb: Yes, my fourth and fifth novels, Beneath a Southern Sky and its sequel, After the Rains, both from WaterBrook Press, are set in the Amazon rain forests of Colombia, South American. Beneath a Southern Sky was a RITA Award winner and went on to win several other awards, as did the sequel.
My novel Over the Waters from Steeple Hill/Harlequin is set in Haiti. It was inspired by my parents’ short-term mission work in a girls’ home near Port au Prince. They spent two weeks each summer there for over twenty-five years beginning in their early empty nest years. They, each of my siblings, and Ken and I have supported girls through The Love of Jesus Children’s Home in Haiti. It is a privilege and a wonderful legacy, passed down from my dad and my late mom, to be a part of the work being done in Christ’s name in that impoverished part of the world.
Donna: How interesting. What stirred your interest in Latin America?
Deb: We became dear friends with a retired missionary to Bogota from our church. Linda had served her entire adult life as a midwife, and as a nurse to the lepers of Colombia, and her stories inspired my story of a young missionary doctor and his wife who travel to a far-off (fictional) South American village. When the husband goes to help during an epidemic in a neighboring village, and reportedly dies there, his grieving wife returns home, having discovered she is pregnant, and attempts to put her life back together. She remarries and is happily pregnant with her second child when she receives word that her first husband has been found alive. The dilemma is one that happened more than once in wartime situations. I wanted to find a way to bring that dilemma into a contemporary story. It seemed to capture the hearts of many readers, as did After the Rains. I will soon be writing a third book to complete the trilogy—more than fifteen years after it first began.
Donna: Do you find writing books with international settings to be a different experience from writing ones set in America?
Deb: Very definitely! Research is not my favorite part of writing, but when you are writing about a country you’ve never visited, let alone lived in, the challenge is daunting! My missionary friend, and another woman my age who had lived in Colombia as a young girl while her father worked in the oil industry, were invaluable resources to me as I researched not just my plot and characters, but every nuance of the setting. I even “invented” a dialect for my native villagers based on a mix of Spanish, Portuguese, and Swahili.
Remembering how difficult that research was, not being able to experience the Colombian rain forest for myself, when it came time to write my novel set in Haiti, I planned a research trip there with my parents, my husband, and our youngest daughter. A few days before we were to depart, there was a coup on the presidential palace and flights were cancelled. We rescheduled the trip, but again, unrest in that volatile country cancelled our flights.
Almost miraculously, the Lord began to place people in my life who had spent time in Haiti and could answer my questions, read my manuscript, translate some dialogue into Creole, tell me about the sounds and smells and foods and customs that I wasn’t able to experience for myself. One writer friend sent me hours of video she and her husband had shot while on a mission trip to Haiti. My childhood doctor who traveled to Port au Prince often with my parents was a wonderful resource. I give God the glory when readers and reviewers say, “it is obvious that Ms. Raney intimately knows the country about which she writes.”
Donna: That all sounds absolutely fascinating! Thank you so much for being my guest today, Deb, and congratulations on all your success. Please tell our readers where they can find you online.
Deb: Thank you, Donna. It’s been my pleasure! Readers can find out more on my website,. The blog where I’ve featured your beautiful garden spaces, Donna, along with those of dozens of other authors, including my own, is at . I also love social media and love to connect with readers in the following places:
Posted by Donna Fletcher Crow whose historical romance series Where There is Love has been newly issued in a boxed set with covers designed by Deb’s husband Ken Raney.