Award-winning author Erica Vetsch writes inspirational historical romance. Her debut novel, The Bartered Bride, was released by Barbour Publishing in November as part of their Heartsong Presents line.
Erica is a middle child who hails from Kansas but has been successfully transplanted to Minnesota where she, her family, and her cat, Pookie, live in the town of Rochester. She says, “I’m married to the most amazing and understanding man on the planet who supports my fiction addiction and quirkiness with patience and humor.” He has a dry sense of humor that tends to make her laugh at inappropriate moments—mostly in church. Erica and her husband have two amazing teenagers who add variety and color to their lives.
A former high school history teacher, Erica now homeschools her daughter and son, although she’s getting ready to launch her oldest into the collegiate world. When Erica isn’t writing, teaching her two pupils, or working as the bookkeeper for the family’s lumber business, she likes to read, play Hidden Object and Time Management games on her laptop, and sip Earl Grey tea from Caribou Coffee.
Join me as we learn more about Erica and her journey to publication.
Erica’s Journey Begins
•When did you first experience the call to write?
I have always spun stories in my head. I loved taking characters from tv shows or books I read and continuing their stories. I didn’t know until just a few years ago that lots of folks did this and called it fan fiction. I wrote some fan fiction, but after a few months of writing for my own pleasure, I realized I wanted to create my own characters and story worlds and share them with others.
•And write you did, completing a number of books before selling. When did you begin your first, and what sparked the idea for that story?
I began writing my first novel in the fall of 2004. In the summer of 2007, five novels later, I began writing The Bartered Bride. The idea for this novel came from visiting Duluth, MN and touring a museum where I saw an exhibit on the November Storm of 1905 and the wreck of The Mataafa. I came home, and while sitting in church waiting for the service to begin, the idea hit me for an arranged marriage story that climaxed with that storm.
•You write inspirational historical romance. What led you to this sub-genre? Is it your primary focus now?
My love of history and being a history teacher made writing historical romance a good fit. At the moment, I don’t foresee changing genres, because I love historical romance so much, but I’m learning never to say never. I think I will probably always have at least a little romance in my stories, because whenever I try to write anything else, it always turns into a romance.
•You experienced success on the contest circuit prior to landing your first contract, including finaling three times in the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest. Wow! That’s impressive. And fun, I’m sure. What were your reactions to your first final in 2007 and your double final the following year?
I was thrilled to final in 2007, especially considering my first contest entry in 2005 bombed big. But in the intervening two years, I worked hard, wrote four more novels, and joined a really tough critique group. I was disappointed not to place in the top three in 2007, but it was a good experience all around, because I received some really stellar feedback from one of the judges that propelled my writing to another level.
Being a double finalist in 2008 was especially sweet. That was the conference of a lifetime for me, winning a Genesis category, placing third in another, and getting my first book contract. Thrilled seems too tepid a word for the jubilation I felt. I’m sure I could’ve flown home from that conference without benefit of a plane.
•Success followed success, and you received your first contract. However, you didn’t receive The Call or even The Email. Your First Sale Story is amazing. Please share it with us along with your thoughts, feelings and physical reactions to the BIG news.
My call was unique. I was one of the authors who received a contract at the 2008 ACFW Conference during a general session. JoAnne Simmons of Heartsong Presents announced from the dais that she would be contracting The Bartered Bride. My agent and my critique partners knew about it, but they’d kept it a secret for months. One of my friends brought a video camera and taped the announcement.
I was stunned. The previous spring I had allowed myself to daydream about what that moment might be like, but then I shut down that line of thought. I wanted to be able to be happy for the person they announced instead of just sad for me if it didn’t happen. But when it did, I couldn’t wait to call my family with the news.
•Did you hold a launch party to celebrate your release?
I had a launch party at my church this past fall. Luncheon and signing books, and I gave a devotional about what God had taught me through the spiritual lessons my characters experience. I’ve discovered that the lessons I’m trying to teach my characters are often the same ones I need to learn. Trust, faithfulness, God’s sovereignty, God as our refuge. Each story I write teaches me more and more about these truths.
•What was it like to hold your book in your hands for the first time?
Joy. Elation. Accomplishment. Fear. Then round and round all those emotions again. I loved the book, but what if no one else did? I was so happy to have this dream come true. I lay awake the night that my author copies came, too excited to sleep.
•The Bartered Bride has garnered some great reviews. Which of them has touched your heart, and why?
I have a nice review by Mary Connealy on Christianbook.com that I treasure, because I so admire Mary’s writing and love her to death as a friend. Also, I have a host of friends who did a blog tour for me in November to launch the book. They were all very kind in their reviews.
Erica’s Research Process
•As a former history teacher, I’m sure you enjoy the research aspect of writing. How do you go about it?
I prefer to visit the settings of my books if at all possible, and I love scouring original documents and searching books for interesting facts. Duluth, the setting for my first series, is one of my favorite places. I could watch Lake Superior and the great ships for hours. When I want to catch the flavor of the era I’m writing about, I’ve found journals and especially newspapers from the time period help me get a feel for the setting and language of the times.
•Do you endeavor to work actual historical events into your stories? If so, how do you go about incorporating them?
I do. In The Bartered Bride, I’ve incorporated the events surrounding the wreck of The Mataafa, an ore boat that grounded just outside Duluth Harbor in 1905. Rather than use The Mataafa, I substituted a ship owned by the hero’s family. In the sequel, The Marriage Masquerade, I used the journal entries and historical data from Split Rock Lighthouse and wove some of the stories into the life of the fictional Sutton Island Lighthouse. This takes some careful doing, as you want to be historically accurate while substituting fictional characters into the action. It’s a careful balance between what could have happened and what did happen.
What are some interesting facts you’ve discovered through your research? Have any of them found their way into your stories?
I always have more interesting (to me) tidbits from history than I could ever put into a story. In The Bartered Bride, I used information I gleaned about the women’s suffrage movement in Minnesota, immigration, Great Lakes Shipping, and Gilded Age marriages. Nothing sparks my imagination more than reading history books.
Partners on Erica’s Journey
•A writer may spend hours alone with her fingers flying over the keyboard, but many people are behind the scenes supporting her in numerous ways. Who are some of your staunchest supporters?
My immediate family first. They bear the brunt of ‘writer-mom.’ They understand deadlines, and the need for me to concentrate with few distractions. My husband sends me to conferences, my kids do extra chores, they motivate me by asking about my progress. And they cheer every milestone and success.
I’m also blessed with wonderful editors. JoAnne Simmons, who oversees the line. Rachel Overton, my content editor who never lets me get away with anything, God bless her! And Aaron McCarver, my copy editor who helps me slay anachronisms in my writing. I feel so much more confident when they’ve gone through my manuscripts.
•You have an awesome agent in Rachelle Gardner. How did you come to be represented by such a highly sought after agent?
God is good to me. I was agented for several years, but this past fall, I felt the Lord leading me to make a change there. I knew I wanted to query Rachelle Gardner, but there was a catch. She didn’t represent category romances. I thought this was clear direction from the Lord that I should wait until I was ready to make the jump to pitching trade-length stories before querying her.
The very next morning after I had turned the entire thing over to the Lord, I checked my inbox, and three friends had emailed to tell me to read Rachelle’s blog post for that day. On it, she announced she was opening her submission list to authors published in category romance who were looking to grow their careers. I felt like she’d written that post just for me. Within a week, I had become Rachelle’s client.
Erica’s Debut Novel
•Please tell us about your debut novel, The Bartered Bride.
Jonathan Kennebrae is furious when his grandfather informs him that his future has been decided. He will marry Melissa Brooke or be disinherited. Jonathan has invested years of his life in Kennabrae Shipping, but heaven help him if Grandfather decides to take it all away for this.
Melissa, too, is devastated when her parents make their announcement. As little more than a bargaining chip in her father’s business maneuvers, she feels her secure world slipping away. Engaged to marry a man she has never met—someone “considerably older” than herself? What have her parents done?
Can Jonathan and Melissa find a way out of this loveless marriage, or must they find a way forward together?
•The Bartered Bride is in the hands of Heartsong Presents book club members. How can those who aren’t members get a copy of your book?
One of the benefits of being a Heartsong Presents book club member is getting the HP books about six months before they are available to retailers. That means The Bartered Bride will be available in bookstores and places like amazon.com later this spring.
Because of a clerical…I hesitate to say error…mix-up? The Bartered Bride was listed on www.christianbook.com when it debuted. No complaints from me. 🙂 If you are not a member of the Heartsong book club and would still like copies of new HP releases, you can order directly from the website.
Erica’s Journey Continues
•I understand you have FIVE more titles releasing this year. Please tell us about them.
The Bartered Bride (11/09)
The Marriage Masquerade (2/10)
The Engineered Engagement (6/10)
A strong-willed tycoon arranges three marriages-for-profit for his grandsons. The Kennebrae brothers are in for some stormy weather as they navigate the perils of falling in love.
Clara and the Cowboy (4/10)
Lily and the Lawman (8/10)
Maggie and the Maverick (11/10)
The McConnell men declare they are not marriage material. Though they dodge rustlers, kidnappers, and outlaws, they’re no match for three headstrong beauties out to steal their hearts.
•With so many books releasing, you must be juggling many tasks. What does life look like now, and how are you managing to get everything done while writing new stories, teaching and working?
One of the most challenging things I’ve faced since receiving that first contract is the need to juggle projects. Before selling The Bartered Bride, I was very linear in my writing tasks. I wrote my story chronologically, scene by scene, then edited and polished it until it was as good as I could make it, then started the research and plotting for the next story.
All that changed this past year. Now, I’m creating one story while another is in content edits, and another is in copy edits. At the end of November I received content edits on two novels, copy edits on a third, all the while trying to finish my NaNo novel. I’ve been surprised how I have been able to put one story aside and jump into another when an edit arrives.
•What story are you working on now?
I just finished Maggie and the Maverick and will be sending it in to my editors soon. Then it is off to work on a new series for Heartsong, this one set in the mountains of Colorado during the silver mining heyday.
Five Authors Erica Most Admires
~ Mary Connealy inspires me with her humor, her passion for writing, and her genuine willingness to help aspiring authors. I want to be her when I grow up.
~ Dick Francis inspires me to write tight. He never wastes a word.
~ Robin Jones Gunn inspires me with her ability to elicit emotional responses and to get to the heart of women and show them God’s amazing love.
~ The late Essie Summers inspires me with her productivity (over 50 books in a forty year career) and her love of words. Her prose is poetry.
~ James Scott Bell inspires me with his ability to write a fast-paced plot without leaving out the characterization that makes me care what happens to the people in the story.
Five Places Erica Would Like to Visit
~ New Zealand. The home of Essie Summers and the setting of most of her books. I’ve wanted to visit NZ since I was a teen.
~ The Smithsonian. My history-loving heart would nearly burst.
~ The Grand Canyon. I’m told photos just can’t do it justice. I would like to stand on the rim and feel very small and be immersed in how big God is.
~ Egypt. I would love to see the pyramids.
~ The British Museum in London. I could spend a whole week in there and never see it all.
Erica’s Question for You
•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Erica. You gave great answers to my questions. Now it’s time to see what your guests have to say, so ask away.
What is the closest museum to where you live, and what is it most known for?
My answer: The Olmsted County Historical Society Museum, and it would be most known for operating Mayowood, historic home to one of the founders of the Mayo Clinic.
Learn More About Erica
Visit her website ~ Erica Vetsch
Visit her blog ~ On the Write Path
Friend her on Facebook ~ Erica Vetsch
Follow her on Twitter ~ EricaVetsch