Tuesday 3 November 2015

Interview with Danika Cooley

Danika is the author of When Lightening Struck which I reviewed yesterday and also of the Bible Road Trip which we have used here and will probably go back to using within the next year. Danika is US homeschooling mother who somehow manages to find time to write. 

She has kindly answered some questions.

1. What inspired you to write When Lightning Struck?

I absolutely love Christian history. I think that understanding our family history is vital to understanding the way God works in history, and to being able to understand the current trends in theology--the same heresies that the Apostles addressed have plagued the Church throughout the last two millennia. As the "Father of the Reformation", Martin Luther is a particularly fascinating and important figure in the history of the Church. Also, his story is exciting--he lived in the time of castles, princes, and knights; he risked his life for the sake of the Gospel; and he became an outlaw, was kidnapped, and more.

2. What was your main goal in writing When Lightning Struck

I wrote When Lightning Struck! so that young people will have the opportunity to learn about an incredibly important figure in Church history--and about theology--in an engaging manner. Really, I wrote it with my two middle school boys in mind. I wanted to make Christian history come alive for them.

3. Which part of researching When Lightning Struck was the most personally interesting to you?

We have so much information about the stories Martin Luther told about his life, that I really enjoyed finding those stories and incorporating them into When Lightning Struck!. It was also really important to me to get the theology involved in the story correct, and I found that aspect of the story fascinating.

4. What did you learn from writing When Lightning Struck?

My research notes are about three times as long as the book! I learned so much about Martin Luther, the Renaissance Popes, the papacy, and the structure of medieval monastic orders. In order to tell the latter parts of the story in which the Protestant leaders were debating over the manner in which Protestants should live out their faith, I really had to study quite a bit.

5. What are you reading right now? What authors (living or dead) have influenced you most?

Right now, I'm reading Ulrich Zwingli by William Boekestein, Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, the books of the prophets in the Old Testament, and a number of books with my boys for school. Reading is definitely one of my favorite parts of my work--I read about a book a week, with bigger works on the side.

6. What was the book that most influenced your life — and why?

I was definitely a bookworm growing up, and I read everything I could get my hands on--some good, some not-so-good. This may sound cliche, but the book that has most influenced my life has been (and continues to be) the Bible. I've read it through many times, studied it, and it's changed me. Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God's Word never returns void, that it accomplishes what He purposed it for. It has certainly changed me.

7. Do you have a certain writing space, somewhere you go "just" to write your books? An office, a lake cabin, a hotel? What do you love about that space? How does it inspire you?

We have a library that I love to work in late at night, after everyone is asleep. It's nice to be surrounded by biographies and great works while writing. Also, I just really love the room.

8. Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing a book?

I love writing. Research can sometimes be tedious or overwhelming, but it's worthwhile to commit to researching well. I think it makes the story so much richer (and more accurate).

9. Did you always have a talent for writing, or is it something you wanted and needed to work harder to achieve?

I've always loved to write. That said, writing is a craft, and like any skill, it needs to be developed with practice, and through criticism and study. I've studied writing, I read widely, and I've had a lot of excellent input from some amazing editors and writers.

10. With all of the duties that you juggle, when do you fit in the time to write?

For me, finding time to write is the same as finding time to exercise, eat, or sleep. I consider it a necessity, so I work hard to make time for it. I've also sacrificed other activities to fit it in. I don't watch television, I prioritize my time, and I often write when I might otherwise be sleeping.

11. Is your writing style different now than it was when you first began? In what ways have you grown in your writing?

I think it's taken me time to find my voice and hone my skills, and I suspect that I will continue to improve as a writer--we always get better at the things we practice.

12. How did you get your start in writing/getting published?

I attended a writing conference for beginners at a local Christian college six and a half years ago. A children's author graciously sat down with me and explained what I needed to do to write for children, and directed me to a local writer's organization. I began attending conferences with Oregon Christian Writers four times a year, and writing for Christian children's magazines. My first acceptance letter came three months after that first conference.

13. What do you recommend for others who are getting started?

It's a good idea to find a local writer's organization, and learn about the business. I think writing for magazines is a clarifying process, which I highly recommend. Also, if you want to reach people for Christ, writing for magazines can really extend that reach.

14. What would you say to a young person who aspires to be a writer? What advice would you give? Also, what would you tell his/her parents in order to help them be supportive in their child's efforts to pursue writing as a career?

The most important thing you can do is learn how to write. It's also important to learn about the industry. Find writer's conferences and workshops, attend, take notes, and really learn from the authors there. Don't let rejection letters stop you--just keep working on your craft. I'd also suggest finding a mentor--someone who is already writing for publication--and humbly following their advice. Also, read widely. Read many genres, from different time periods. Practice writing, but as you do, think about what you'd like to say, and who you'd like to say it to.

15. Would your advice be any different for an adult who would like to break into the business? How?

My agent, Chip MacGregor, always says a successful writer should have great writing, a great idea, and a great platform (the people who read your work, or listen to you speak). It's important to work on all three.

As far as platform goes, serve your readership. For my Christian friends, really work unto the Lord and glorify Him in all you do. He is sovereign over all things, and will open the doors He wants opened.

Really, writing professionally is a lot of work, but it's also a great opportunity to communicate, to practice your craft, and to get to know some amazing people. I feel humbled and blessed to be writing professionally.

16. What else do you want readers to know? Consider your likes and dislikes, interests and hobbies, your favorite ways to relax — whatever comes to mind.

I love to play board games with my kids, hike, paint (I majored in art), garden, and cook. I love my family, and I feel so blessed to be able to spend time with them. I homeschool my younger two, and that's just a gift. Teaching children about the Bible, theology, and Christian history is my passion--I hope to be a lifelong student, and a lifelong teacher. 

Do pop over to Danika's blog. I appreciate her book reviews and highly recommend her new book, When lightening Struck.

Danika can also be found at
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanikaCooleyAuthor    
Twitter:   https://twitter.com/DanikaCooley
Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/danikacooley/
Google+:   https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DanikaCooley/posts
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