Today I have the great pleasure of introducing, author Rhonda McKnight.
My connection to this superb writer is through our mutual friend, mentor and amazing author, Victoria Christopher Murray.
I really enjoyed her interview, and I hope you will too.
1) Tell me about your current project?
Breaking All The Rules is my first romance and my second indie project.
All of my novels were with traditionally published with Kensington and my first indie project was only indie for a short time. I sold it to my publisher for re-release.
Breaking is the story of a Deniece Malcolm, a wedding planner, whose pregnant baby sister is marrying her ex-fiancé. I think it’s a no, no for most people, but dating an friend or relative’s EX is a major taboo in the African-American community.
To make matters worse, Deniece’s sister has the nerve to ask her to help with the wedding.
Our hero is the groom’s rich, sexy, younger cousin, Ethan Wright. Ethan’s interested in Deniece, but she has a rule about dating younger men.
Despite her resistance, things heat up between them and Deniece begins to wonder if it’s time to break a few rules of her own.
2) How has Breaking All The Rules been received?
Readers love it. They love it more than I ever thought they would. It’s my first romance and I was a little nervous about introducing something that wasn’t the women’s fiction I normally write, but they can’t get enough of my hero.
The reviews have poured in and the sales have been better than I ever thought they would be. I also received my first review in USA Today and it was glowing. I was quite proud of that.
3) How long did it take you to write your first novel?
Too long. About 32 years. (That was a joke.)
I became serious about publication in 2003 and started Secrets and Lies in May of 2004.
I work full-time, so any writing I do is in the evenings and on weekends.
I finished the book in early 2007, but along the way I completed graduate school, had a baby, and in general was not working on the manuscript. Time in front of the computer was probably a total of seven months.
I wrote my second novel, An Inconvenient Friend in six weeks.
4) What was the most difficult thing about writing a novel?
The stress of draft writing and the discipline of pushing to the end without hating it too much along the way.
5) Who are your mentors or influences?
Victoria Christopher Murray is my mentor and she’s taught me more in a phone conversation than I could learn in ten years in this business.
6) Who are your favorite authors and why?
Victoria Christopher Murray, Pamela Samuels-Young and the late BeBe Moore Campbell. Victoria and the late Ms Campbell are master story tellers.
Ms. Moore in particular weaved multiple complex plots and a large cast of characters seamlessly. I miss her voice. I love a good mystery.
Pamela is the next John Grisham. Her legal thrillers are not to be missed.
7) What are your favorite books and why?
In addition to being well written, I learned something from each story that has helped me in my Christian walk. That’s important to me and puts them at the top of my list.
Another favorite is Gather Together In My Name by Tracy Price-Thompson. I read it in one sitting and I’ve read it twice. I never read a book in one sitting and I never read a book more than once, so there was something special about it. I’ve not quite sure I’ve figured it out yet. I think it was just a fantastic story.
8) What books have helped you as a writer?
Books about novel writing. I own nearly 40 craft books and have probably borrowed at least 20 more from the public library.
9) What are you currently working on?
A Christmas novella that won’t end. LOL. Give A Little Love. It’s due for release in early December. I hope!
10) What do you want a reader to get from your novels?
I want readers to be entertained by my stories, because I’m an entertainer first. I’d love for them to also walk away with a message about hope, faith and forgiveness, because those are the themes that resonate from my work.
11) What is your writing and creative process?
I’m a bit of a planner. My stories or characters come to me and I write the first one or two chapters, but then I never write more until I know exactly who the people are and what’s going to happen.
I typically write the last chapter after I write the first and I force myself to outline and determine the goals, motivation and conflict before I get to Chapter 3. I write much faster and cleaner that way.
I draft write without re-writing and then re-write, re-write and re-write until I’ve reached my deadline.
My books are never finished. I just have to stop.
12) How does your faith play into your writing?
Heavily, I write who I am and I am a person who loves the Lord, so it shows in my stories. I’m also a divorced woman who still loves men, so the men in books are flawed, but they smell and look good.
13) How does a Christian writer write about romance and sex without feeling like they are sinning?
Let me say this so it’s clear up front, I write a pretty sweet romance. I’ve never written anything but chaste stories. I’m not sure how it works for other people, but I don’t think there’s anything un-Christian about romance and sex, and I consider myself to be a conservative Christian.
However, I also know the word “Christian” means different things to different people. Being Christian is my faith, but it’s also a lifestyle. While I recognize that we’re in our flesh (the human state) until we die, there are things that we can do through faith; remain celibate is one of them.
My stories are sexy, but I don’t write sex scenes. My characters are strongly attracted to people, but “though shalt not fornicate” in a Rhonda McKnight story. I balance what is realistic with what the Holy Spirit says is okay. When I rewrite it’s very easy to find content that needs to be deleted.
14) What do you think is the number one thing that hinders writers?
That’s an interesting question. Are writers really hindered? I don’t believe we are.
Writing is solitary act that can be as private or public as the writer decides.
Authors are hindered or can be by lots of things: contracts, deadlines, genre, reader expectations, the demands of marketing, etc, etc, etc.
I could go on and on, but I’ll sound ungrateful. LOL. I am glad to have a book contract.
15) Lastly, what advice would you give a novice writer?
Attend writer’s conferences (American Christian Fiction Writers is a very good one, as is Black Writers Reunion Conference) and build a network of other writers.
You’ll learn a great deal at a conference and your network will encourage you to stay the course. I know mine did.
The writers I connected with ten years ago are the same people I email and text good news and “grumble, moan and whine to” today. They’re also the people who help me promote my work and I help them. Those relationships are very important.
Pick a project and make yourself finish it. Get to “The End”. The End feels so good.
Lastly, believe in yourself.
Everyone won’t support your writing. Most people won’t, so be okay with ‘you’ being the only person who does.
Thank you so much for this wonderful interview, Rhonda McKnight.
Rhonda McKnight is the author of the Black Expressions Top 20 bestseller, A Woman’s Revenge (Mar 2013), What Kind of Fool (Feb 2012), An Inconvenient Friend (Aug 2010), Secrets and Lies (Dec 2009) and Breaking All the Rules (Oct 2013).
She was a 2010 nominee for the African-American Literary Award in the categories of Best Christian Fiction Novel and Best Anthology. She was the winner of the 2010 Emma Award for Favorite Debut Author and the 2009 Shades of Romance Award for Best Christian Fiction Novel.
Originally from a small, coastal town in New Jersey, she’s called Atlanta, Georgia home for fifteen years.