Meet Debut Author Lynnette Bonner

After ten years of waiting, Lynnette Bonner’s debut novel, Rocky Mountain Oasis, is on the shelves. Her inspirational historical, about a mail-order bride who comes west to marry one man but finds herself wed to his cousin instead, was published by OakTara.

Lynnette, the daughter of missionaries, was born in Malawi, Africa. She attended a Christian boarding school in Kenya from fourth grade through her high school graduation, although she did spend a total of three years in the U.S. during that time. She speaks the language of Malawi, Chichewa, and understands a little Swahili, the language of Kenya.

After graduation, Lynnette started college in Washington State. While there, she met and married her redheaded pastor husband. They spent eight years of their married life living in Pierce, Idaho, where Rocky Mountain Oasis is set. They and their four children, who range in age from six to sixteen, once again call Washington home.

When Lynnette isn’t writing or caring for her family, she keeps busy running her on-line business selling Legos on ebay. Although she has little time for her hobbies and interests these days, she enjoys horseback riding and crafts, including rubber stamping, scrapbooking and tole painting. If some of her dreams were to come true, she’d be found living in a log cabin in the country with a maid, a cook and an unlimited supply of Swiss chocolate.

Join me as we learn about more about Lynnette and her journey to publication.

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First Steps on Lynnette’s Journey

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•Ten years ago, you began writing. What led you to start Rocky Mountain Oasis?

At the time I started Rocky Mountain Oasis, I lived in Pierce, Idaho. Pierce has a very interesting history and it was while researching the history of the town that I realized an amazing story could be told around the historical facts. Rocky Mountain Oasis actually started its life headed in a different direction, but the more I researched the more the story changed.

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•Mail-order bride stories are my all-time favorite reads. Why did you choose to make your heroine, Brooke, a mail-order bride? What challenges did you face in writing about a couple thrust into marriage by circumstances beyond their control? What rewards?

I guess I made her a mail-order bride because I like those types of stories too. And it fit with the way her uncle would have treated her

One of the challenges of writing this story was that I have never myself been forced into a relationship with someone I’ve never met. A lot of thought went into wondering how my characters would respond to certain situations, because of my lack of experience in those areas.

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•You completed the book in a year and submitted it to an e-publisher, who published it. However, that experience didn’t go as planned. Please tell us what happened and how the experience affected you.

The e-publisher was an early promoter of ebooks. However, the editor and owner of the company got sick and could no longer run the business. My book had only been out with them for about 2 months.

I think the effect it had on me was one of encouragement. At least one person liked my story enough that they were willing to put effort and finances behind it. And if that one person liked it, then that gave me hope that I would eventually find another editor that liked it too.

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A Dream Put on Hold

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•After the disappointing experience with the e-publisher, your book remained on your computer for several years. You weren’t writing or submitting. What lessons did you learn during that time?

Yes that is true. Life sort of intervened to put my writing on hold for a bit. Some of those life-issues were a newborn, 3 homeschooled children, a cross country move and starting up a business.

Still through all those years, the Lord kept writing at the back of my mind. I wasn’t submitting Rocky Mountain Oasis anywhere, but I kept praying about it. I remember specifically telling the Lord that if He wanted the book published he would have to drop a publisher in my lap because I didn’t have time to pursue one. And I left it in His hands. I figured He gave me the story; He could get it published if He had given it to me for others to read too. Looking back on that time, I think the biggest thing I learned is that it is never a mistake to trust in the Lord.

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•How did you keep your writing dreams alive when life intervened?

Honestly, I think that if you like to write it is a gift from God. And if God gives you something, He keeps the passion for it alive in your heart even when you can’t see that anything will ever come from it. I hope to use this gift wisely for Him. I wasn’t doing a lot of writing during those years. But story has always been my passion.

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•Even though you weren’t actively submitting Rocky Mountain Oasis or writing another book, did you find characters and plots coming to mind? What did you do when that took place?

Yes, I did write some (very little) during those years. And as proof I have several books that I’m in the middle of. I’m one of those writers who will work on a story for awhile, but then I have to let it sit and figure out where the story line is going. I generally move onto another story for awhile, until I get a feel for what my characters would actually do, then I can go back to the first story. I currently have 5 books in various stages of completion. And a second book that is finished and contracted to OakTara.

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Lynnette’s Dream Comes True

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•After years of waiting, you once again sent Rocky Mountain Oasis out in the world. On June 9, 2008, you heard from OakTara, the first publisher you’d submitted to in six years. Please tell us about The Call or, in your case, The Email. What was happening when you received it, how loudly did you shout when you realized you’d sold your book and who were the first people with whom you shared the good news?

I still smile when I think about that day. I was having trouble with my email provider. None of my emails would download. So I had hopped on my hubby’s computer to go online and check with the provider to see what was going on. I wasn’t even planning on reading email, but as I scanned the page searching for the link I needed I noticed in the Inbox an email with the subject Rocky Mountain Oasis. I froze. Blinked. Saw that is was from OakTara. And read the subject again. Then with trembling fingers I clicked to open it.

You see, I had basically written OakTara off as a rejection. I had submitted to them in December and here it was June and I still hadn’t heard from them. Since their guidelines at the time stated authors would hear back in 8 weeks, I figured my window of opportunity had shattered several months previous. But the first line of the email read, “Rocky Mountain Oasis is precisely the type of novel OakTara is interested in….”

I was home alone. My husband had gone hiking with our boys. And my mother, who spent many years as an English teacher and helped me a great deal with the book, was on a flight to visit her brother in Texas. I couldn’t get a hold of anybody! I kept trying my mom, leaving messages, and chewing my fingernails until she finally answered after she arrived at my uncle’s house. Not too many other people at the time even knew that I was trying to get published.

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•I understand a newly contracted author’s life changes in many ways. What were the biggest adjustments you had to make once you’d signed your contract? Were most of the changes what you expected, or were there some surprises?

Actually I think the biggest challenge for me after signing the contract was the long wait until the book was made available. Once the editing/design/finalizing started I was happy to put in the extra time.

Also, one thing of interest for me was that I suddenly found myself switching from wondering if an editor was going to like the book, to worrying if my readers were going to like the book. (But I did have the few hours of blissful joy on the day I got the email. 🙂 )

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Lynnette’s Partners on the Journey

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•You’ve written blog posts on the value of critique partners. How did you locate yours? What makes your relationships work so well?

I love my critique partners. And actually, the group I’m with now didn’t have any say in my Rocky Mountain Oasis manuscript. OakTara accepted the manuscript just a month after I joined my crit group. So RMO was critiqued mostly by family and friends.

I found my current critique group through my local Christian Writers network. They have a coordinator and she assigned me to my group and it worked out wonderfully.

I think our relationships work well because we are not afraid to state what we are feeling. (You know those raw-hide chewy bones your dog loves so much? As a writer, you need to develop skin the consistency of those. And who better to help you than you critique partners. :-)) That said, in our group we make sure to also encourage the good things we see. And really, I’m blessed to be in a group with excellent writers who humble me with their awesome advice for improving my craft. (I’m humbled after I’m done grumbling. :-)) If you are a writer and you are not in a critique group, you are missing out on improving your craft.

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•Keeping a dream alive for the better part of a decade can’t be easy. Who have been some of your staunchest supporters along the way, and what did they do to encourage you to follow your dream?

Several people come to mind.

First, my mother. She told me from the time I was little that I had the imagination of a writer. And she spent countless hours on my manuscript for me. With each rejection she would encourage me that I had a good story and to keep going.

The second person that comes to mind is a lady named Cheryl. Cheryl read my book when it came out with the e-company. She bought several copies to share with her friends and relatives and she consistently asked me how my writing journey was going and told me how much she loved my story. “You just have to get that published,” she would say. She has a wonderful encourager’s spirit, and I benefitted from it.

Finally, I would have to say my husband. I am blessed beyond measure in the love of my life. He never scoffed at my dream, or put it down because it wasn’t making any money or going anywhere. In fact, he told me, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” Had he belittled my writing in any way, I don’t think I would be here today. I so appreciate him!

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•OakTara, which was founded in 2006, publishes inspirational fiction. What can you tell us about the company? And what is it like to be part of the OakTara family?

You can read more about OakTara by going to their website at http://www.oaktara.com. They are growing rapidly, and I think they are a company to watch over the next few years.

I’ve enjoyed being part of the OakTara family. On their website they have forums where many of their authors go to talk about different things and I’ve gotten to know several other OakTara authors through that and other venues like blogging. Their editors are great to work with, and I feel blessed to have a book out with them.

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Lynnette’s Debut Novel

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•Please tell us about Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Brooke Marie Baker, eighteen, has been sent west as a mail-order bride. As the stage nears Greer’s Ferry, where she is to meet the man she’s pledged to marry, she tries to swallow the lump of nervousness in her throat. Can it be any worse than living with Uncle Jackson…or Hank? she wonders. All men are the same, aren’t they? But with her parents and sister dead, she has no choice.

Sky Jordan, a rancher, holds a single yellow daisy in his hand as he watches the ferry cross the river. Ever since he’d found out his surly cousin, Jason, had sent for a mail-order bride, his mind and heart had been ill at ease. No woman deserves to be left with the likes of Jason. But now he questions his own plans to claim the bride for himself. Why am I drawn to this woman I don’t even know?

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Lynnette’s Journey Continues

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Rocky Mountain Oasis is on the shelves, and OakTara has contracted the second book in your Shepherd’s Heart series. I’ve seen on other blogs that you have several projects going at present. Please tell us what they are and how you manage to work on so many at once.

I’ll start with the last part of this question first. I think God wires us all differently. I’m just wired weird, I guess. 🙂 I already explained a little about why I work on several books at once, so let me tell you a little about each of my works in progress.

Under the Grape Arbor: Fitness trainer Taysia Green has had her heart broken, not once but twice, by Kylen Sumner. And now he’s home. Claiming he wants back into her life for good. But there are haunting secrets she’s never told him.

Presently Untitled: Damera’s husband Kent was murdered before her eyes and she basically shut herself off from the world. Now Kent’s twin brother is trying to get her to live life again, for the sake of his niece. But why does she keep finding things out of place at home – doors unlocked, cupboards left open? Has Kent’s killer escaped from jail?

Trail of Chains: East Africa, 1866. MacKendra Ryan stares in horror as a neighboring tribe captures the village her father has been doctoring. Her friends are chained together, children are killed. She wants to rush to their aid, but Trent Dawson, the annoyingly handsome adventurer who is only here to hunt and take trophies, holds her back with a hand over her mouth warning that now is not the time for action. But if not now, when?

Another untitled story, this one a fantasy of sorts: Sasha’s isle has been taken over by evil King Kourom who wants complete adulation from his subjects. But she has a dream. A great eagle warrior will come. And he does. The only problem is, he’s second in command of the king’s army and dead set on keeping his rank along with its perks.

Fair Valley Refuge: Victoria Snyder is adopted. No one knows. And she likes it just fine that way. Getting close to people only opens up the possibility of hurt. But when circumstances throw her together with 3 orphans and her handsome childhood friend, will she be able to resist his wooing?

Wow! Those are some compelling blurbs, Lynnette. I won’t be surprised to see those stories get snatched up when you finish them.

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Five Things Lynnette Has Around Her When She Writes

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~ Coffee, because it is a bad habit.

~ Total silence, because I get distracted by music and other people in the room.

~ Too much clutter because I can never seem to find time to sort through my stacks.

~ Access to the internet for quick research.

~ Chocolate if it isn’t all eaten yet. 🙂

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Five Accomplishments That Have Meant the Most to Lynnette

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~ I’d have to rank leading my kids into a relationship with the Lord first. I pray they continue to walk with Him so their lives will be full of happiness.

~ Marrying a wonderful man who loves God more than he loves me.

~ I’d always wanted to visit Zanzibar. I got to do that several years ago. Beautiful place – and my Africa novel is partly set on the island.

~ Finishing my first novel was quite an accomplishment. It felt good to get it done, even though I didn’t know if it would ever see the light of day.

~ Finding a publisher for the book.

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Lynnette’s Question for You

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•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Lynnette. Thanks for your great answers to my questions. Now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors, so have at it.

Oh, I like this! Well, I’m mostly a romance writer so, thinking specifically of the romance genre, what is it about a book that makes you want to read it more than once?

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Learn More About Lynnette

Visit her Web site ~ http://www.lynnettebonner.com

Visit her personal blog ~ http://www.lynnettebonner.com/blog

Visit her group blog ~ http://www.authorculture.blogspot.com

Friend her on Facebook ~ http://www.facebook.com/lynnettebonner

Follow her on Twitter ~ Lynnette Bonner

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Leave a Comment for Two Chances to Win

To leave a comment, click on “Comments” below the date in the title at the top of the post.

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My Regular Drawing

My next drawing will take place November 20th. I’m giving away a wooden plaque with the words ~ and they lived happily ever after . . .

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To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by November 20th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On November 21st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.

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You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook

If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and November 30th. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On December 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your debut novel in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

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Note: Offers void where prohibited.

Prizes will be mailed to US addresses only.

Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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25 Responses to Meet Debut Author Lynnette Bonner

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Lynnette. It’s great to have you as my guest and to learn more about you and your path to publication.

    I rarely read a book twice since there are so many great ones waiting in my TBR stack. When I do, though, it is because of two things: memorable characters who captured my heart and an author whose Voice resonates with me.

  2. Keli, Thanks so much for having me here today. I had so much fun with your questions. 🙂

    Memorable characters… I agree. what makes a character memorable for you? For me, I think if the author does a great job of showing both the internal and external tension the character faces, that goes a long way to making the character memorable.

  3. laura frantz says:

    Love the question, “How did you keep your writing dream alive when life intervened?” And I so love Lynette’s answer. It’s just how I felt through all those years of “nothingness” when God was preparing me for publication. I am a fan of mail-order bride stories, too, and have toyed with writing one but can’t find a good foothold for an 18th-century one yet.
    Lynette, so glad to meet you here! Keli really has an amazing site where we writers can get together:) Thank you both!

    Please exempt me from the drawing – just wanted to say hi.

  4. Tamara says:

    Like Keli, I rarely read a book twice. However, when I have, it is usually because I like the way the protagonist has grown and changed throughout the story. Also, I LOVE witty dialogue, so that would bring me back to a previously read book.

    I can’t wait to read your book. Best of luck to you!

  5. Laura, keep cogitating on the mail-order bride story. You’ll come up with something that finally makes the story click for you.

    Thanks for saying hi. 🙂

  6. Tamara, I’m thinking of my favorite book and you are right – the heroine really grew and changed in that book. (Which, I think all would agree makes for memorable characters as Keli said at the start.)

    Witty dialogue is great too. As writers, we just have to make sure that we don’t get carried away with the witty dialogue.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

  7. Linda Henderson says:

    I read a lot of books more than once. If I like the storyline and the characters, love the interaction between the hero and heroine and if it has a happy ending I will be tempted to read it more than once. Particularly if I read a book thats not so great and it leaves me unsatified I will pick up one of old favorites and re-read it.

  8. Linda, yes the happy ending is a must for me too. There have been a couple movies and books I watched/read that were excellent, but the ending was sad, and I can never seem to make myself watch/read them again.

    I’ve even heard readers say they will never read a specific author again because one of their books had a sad ending.

    What are everyone’s feelings about happy vs. sad endings?

  9. Thanks for a great post. Lynnette, you’re an inspiration! Best wishes for those upcoming projects.

  10. Janalyn, Thanks. 🙂

  11. Hey Lynnette, how fun to read your interview here! I think it’s wonderful you’re working on so many new projects–they sound great. Again, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your book. I tend to enjoy rereading stories if there are strong characters that are memorable. That grow and really influence other relationships around them. All the best with all your future projects!

  12. Linda says:

    I read books twice or more to glean spiritual insights, interpersonal relationships regarding reconciliation, etc., and subject matters that are dear to my heart.

  13. Cindy, Thanks for the encouraging words re my book. I’m beginning to see a pattern in what we all like in books. Another vote for memorable characters that grow and change. But I liked your added thought that they should influence the characters around them. That’s really good!

    Linda, Adding spiritual insight to the list. Great point!

  14. Alison says:

    Thanks for sharing your inspirational story, Lynette. I’m amazed at how much you manage to do in your life! – and I wish you all the luck in the world with your other writing projects.

  15. Alison, Thanks for your kind words. 🙂

  16. Edna Tollison says:

    Great interview and would love to win this book.

    mamat2730(at)charter(dot)net

  17. Edna, Thanks for dropping by, Unfortunately, the drawing isn’t for a copy of my book, this time. Sorry.

  18. pprmint777 says:

    Wonderful interview, Lynnette. I didn’t realize you had e-pubbed the book at any time. You’re a cutting-edge kinda woman!

  19. Pepper, LOL. Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

  20. Thank you for having Lynnette; I love her, and her candor inspires me to keep writing and to keep my dream alive.

    Please enter my name in your drawing.
    Thanks!
    Jen
    Audience of ONE

  21. Awww, Jen, that made my day. I’m so glad to know that my long journey is an inspiration to others. It really is hard to get published, but what I’m constantly reminding people about is God’s timing. We must do our part (editing, perseverance, fixing mistakes, learning, trying again, more editing… 🙂 ), yes. But in the end, we have to keep trusting God for the right time for our book to be released.

    Bless you!

  22. kitwilkins says:

    Great interview, Lynnette and Keli! Happy Thanksgiving!

  23. Robb Richards says:

    Hello Lynnette,

    I wonder if you could tell me in a private email your experience with OakTara. I’m interested in publishing with them, but I looked at an Absolute Writers Water Cooler review that left some doubt about them in my mind. Then, after reviewing them I’m not sure if I would have a group publishing non-Christian material, some of it seemingly Anti-Christian material, editing my work. What your experience with this, what are your feelings about these matters? I’m not ruling OakTara out, simply investigating before an offer is made. I hate to scramble around at the last minute with a tasty bait in my face.

    Robbbbbbb

  24. Robb,

    I don’t have a way to email you privately, but if you click on my name above, there is an “email me” link on my website where you can send me a message and I will reply from there.

    Sounds like you are a little misinformed about OakTara.

Comments are closed.