Award-winning author Mona Hodgson writes inspirational historical romance—among many other things. Her debut novel, Two Brides Too Many, was released by WaterBrook Press on October 13, 2009 and is available exclusively at Walmart stores until May 2010, when it will be available at all major booksellers. Her second romance, Too Rich for a Bride, will be available later this year.
Mona’s writing credits also include nearly thirty children’s books, contributions to eleven books for adults, and hundreds of short stories, articles, and poems in fifty different newspapers and magazines. One of her favorite things to do (besides writing or eating dark chocolate) is to mentor other writers in a conference setting. She speaks regularly at women’s retreats, schools, and conferences throughout the United States and Canada.
What does Mona like to do when she’s not writing? Picnic, Hula-Hoop, read to kids, visit museums, play tennis (on Wii), sink her toes into wet sand at the beach, retreat with her three sisters, explore new places, gaze at Arizona sunsets, and share lunch with a friend. A brave soul, Mona has ridden a camel, fed a giraffe from her mouth, and held a baby crocodile.
Please join me as we learn more about Mona, her writing, and her debut novel.
Mona’s Journey Begins
•With close to thirty children’s books to your credit, it’s clear you’re a veteran writer. When did you begin writing with the goal of publication?
I was introduced to the impulse to write for publication in 1983.
•Four years transpired before you submitted your first piece of writing for publication, a time you referred to as your “Jonah journey.” What did you learn about yourself and your writing because of your wait?
I was going to be a nurse like my cousin Irene. Becoming a writer had never crossed my mind. I met Bob Hodgson in 1972, soon after I graduated from high school. We married that same year, I forgot about nursing school, and gave birth to daughters Amy and Sara.
In 1983, the four of us attended a retreat for Law Enforcement families where I had my first encounter with a real writer! Carol interviewed Bob and me for a magazine article. I remember sitting across the table from her and wondering. Hmmm! A writer?
Following Carol recommendation, I pick up a copy of The Christian Writer’s Handbook by Margaret Anderson and read it. I subscribed to a magazine for writers and started thinking about becoming one. Bob encouraged me to do so. Still, I didn’t have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English or Journalism or any extraordinary life experiences. What did I have to draw from?
Doubt and fear plagued me and I gave in to them, launching what I call my Jonah journey. In the fall of l984, I enrolled in a nursing program—the boat I boarded, headed in the opposite direction of my Nineveh. Before the end of the first year of college, I floundered in the belly of a large fish. Laying in a hospital watching a nurse switch out a bag of fluids for my I.V., I realized that a nursing career wasn’t for me. But I’m not as bright (submissive) as Jonah was.
When the fish spit me out (the hospital released me), I still didn’t head for Nineveh (writing). I went to my college counselor and discussed switching to a music major. After all, I liked playing the piano and I had taught piano lessons. It didn’t take more than a discussion with the dean of music for me to realize that a music career wasn’t right for me either.
Writing! Mid-summer 1987, I responded to an ad for a correspondence course offered by Christian Writers’ Fellowship International. My instructor, Marlene Bagnull, recommended that I enroll in the unit on writing daily devotionals. I did.
In November 1987, my first acceptance letter and non-acceptance letter arrived in the same envelope from The Secret Place, a quarterly daily devotional. I moved on to correspondence course units in various genres including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; all the while taking writing courses at the local community college and attending at least two writers’ conferences each year since the Spring of 1988.
Mona’s Career Takes Off
•You went on to publish many more works. Please give us a summary.
I published several hundred articles and short stories for adults and children published in fifty-plus newspapers and magazines. My writings have appeared in Focus on the Family, Decision, Clubhouse Jr., Highlights for Children, The Upper Room, and dozens of other periodicals. I’ve also published several dozen devotionals and dozens of poems.
I wrote a weekly newspaper column for two years called, Letters from Home.
I’ve had eleven pieces, poetry and non-fiction, published in anthologies.
•Wow, Mona! I’m in awe. And that’s only the beginning. I know you’re a much-admired children’s book author too. Will you give us an overview of your work in this area and tell us how you do it all. I’m envisioning a fluttering cape Wonder Woman-style. Or maybe you gave up sleep years ago?
I have published twenty-eight children’s books—eight picture books, nineteen early readers, and one middle-grade non-fiction. These include Bedtime in the Southwest, Real Girls of the Bible: A Devotional, How Did Bible Heroes Pray, and six Zonderkidz I Can Read books.
No cape. But about twelve years ago I did give up sleep, and the hope of ever having a spotless house or perfectly plucked eyebrows. When I saw the direction God was leading me in, I followed Him with much vim and vigor. Jonah lesson learned. I hope.
Mona’s Romance Writing Milestones
•You’ve experienced tremendous success in so many areas. I understand there’s a special contest placement numbered among them. Please tell us about that and what it meant to you.
Yes, in 2008, my entry, A Thimble’s Worth, won first place in the Historical Category in the Genesis Contest, sponsored by American Christian Fiction Writers. That win garnered the attention of fiction editors.
•And then came a thrill you’ll never forget. You sold your first novel-length story. Please tell us about the day you received The Call, complete with all the sensory detail we writers love. Did you scream yourself hoarse, throw out your back with a wild happy dance, or dissolve in a puddle of tears?
On March 31, 2009, while I wrote at Lauraine Snelling’s dining room table and she sat in her favorite chair, tapping on her laptop, my agent called me with the opportunity to write Two Brides Too Many for WaterBrook Press. Lauraine, one of my fiction mentors, and I did a happy dance then I called my hubby with the news. Next, I went outside and gave God shouts of praise and thanksgiving. I think I was bouncing without a Pogo stick. That night, Lauraine and Wayne took us out to dinner to celebrate. So fun!
•I was in Walmart a few weeks ago and snagged my copy of Two Brides Too Many. I’m eager to read it. However, my excitement pales in comparison to yours. Where were you when you beheld your beautiful book for the first time? How did you feel?
Thanks for buying a copy, Keli. I’m glad to hear the Walmart in your area carries it.
My editor, Shannon Marchese and I were having breakfast at the ACFW conference last September when she pulled my first copy out of her bag, less than six months from our first conversation about the story. I’m sure my mouth dropped open because my tongue went dry. Yes, there for a moment, I believe I was speechless as all I could do was to stare at my name on that incredibly gorgeous book cover.
•You began writing articles, moved on to children’s books, and are a multi-published author in that genre who is highly respected. But I understand you’d long held a desire to write a novel. When did the idea of creating a romance novel captivate you, and what was it that motivated you to make your dream come true?
In January of 1989, shortly after I began my trek into publication, my family joined my mom and my dad, a guest preacher, for a weekend in Arizona’s White Mountains. While Dad and I walked down a dirt road alongside the house we were staying in, we discovered a deserted cabin not much bigger than my dining room. I hadn’t been a writer for very long, but God had already braided the “what if?” gene into my DNA. What if a granddaughter had left that cabin after a family tragedy? What if she had to return years later when her grandmother’s health was failing? By the time, Dad and I returned to the house, my imagination had planted a full garden of seeds from which the premise for a contemporary novel sprouted.
Over the past two decades, I’ve taken countless novel-writing courses, working on learning the craft and writing the story. As part of that process, I started a second contemporary novel set in Arizona’s Verde Valley. And intrigued by the late 1890’s and the stalwart women of that time, I began writing a historical novel set in Jerome, an Arizona copper mining camp.
•How much time passed between your initial story idea and the fruition of your dream? How did you deal with the delay?
Twenty years passed between my first idea for a novel and publication of my debut novel. I kept working on the craft of writing fiction while I followed God through other doors—writing short pieces for periodicals and writing children’s books.
•What advice do you have for those who dream of being a published novelist?
Recognize and remember that writing for publication is a process and a journey that requires intentional and persistent steps. Expect detours. Enjoy the adventure!
Make the most of writers’ conferences, writers’ market guides, and critiques by published writers.
Mona’s Debut Novel
•Please tell us about Two Brides Too Many.
Two missing misters.
Two sisters arrive in an 1896 mining camp expecting marriage, but finding love.
Aboard the train, romantic dreamer Nell carries a photo of her intended close to her heart and imagines an exciting and love-filled future, while her pragmatic older sister, Kat, resigns herself to marriage as a duty, not a delight.
But when the ladies disembark at the train depot, neither fiance’ awaits them with open arms. The well-bred Sinclair sisters find themselves alone in the wild, frontier town—a place where fire threatens to reduce the buildings to rubble, the working women strut the streets, rogues will gamble for the shoes on one’s feet, and God’s grace is found among the most unlikely of folks.
Mona’s Journey Continues
•Two Brides Too Many is Book 1 in your Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series. How did your novel start come to be an exclusive offer at Walmart?
Ready, I walked through an open door. Ran through it, actually. Random House sells inspirational books to Walmart. A fiction editor at WaterBrook Multnomah, the Christian publishing branch owned by Random House, had contacted my agent looking for a novelist who had not yet published a full-length Inspirational novel. One who could write historical fiction set in an 1890’s gold mining camp in Colorado. And write it by June 1, 2009. Yep, two months from seed of an idea to hitting send on a full manuscript.
•When will Book 2 be available, and will it debut at Walmart too?
I expect Too Rich for a Bride will release later this year, but I don’t have a specific date yet. Anyone who wants to be in the “know” can sign up for my quarterly newsletter by emailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I don’t yet have the answer as to whether or not Walmart will contract with Random House for an exclusive offering of Too Rich for a Bride, which explains why we don’t have a specific release date.
•What are you working on now? Can readers expect more books in this series?
Yes. I still have Vivian and Father’s stories to write. I’m just starting the editing phase on Book 2, Too Rich for a Bride. When that’s done, I’ll begin writing Book 3 in the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series.
•Ooh. A new direction. What brought about this change?
Actually, that very first seed of an idea for a novel was for a contemporary. Writing historical stories came later. Besides, I know better than to put myself into a box. It doesn’t go well. So my brand isn’t a specific genre or category, but Family Ties. Each of my novels examines and champions family relationships.
Five People Who Have Greatly Influenced Mona’s Writing
~ My dad, Bill Gansberg. The end of 1986, during one our walks, I shared my interest in writing with my dad. During a visit in the Spring of 1987, he asked me if I had pursued becoming a writer. I told him I was still thinking about it. “I don’t know that it would ever make you rich or famous,” he said, “but I think you have something of value to say.” While my dad lay on his deathbed, he told me he’d dreampt that my books hung from each of the five blades on the ceiling fan above him.
~ My hubby, Bob, who accommodates this writer in so many ways, making it possible for me to walk through open doors.
~ David Talbott, Director of Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, the first writers conference I ever attended. Changed my life.
~ Marlene Bagnull, my first “writing for publication” instructor, who guided me, taught me, and continues to cheer me on.
~ Dozens of writers who let me stand on their shoulders, walk beside me, listen to my heart, and help me hone my craft. Oh, I have learned so much about being Christian from them, and much about writing too.
Five Ways Mona Strives to Make a Difference
~ Pay attention.
~ Wait then respond.
~ Write from the inside out.
~ Teach others what I’m learning.
~ Be a teachable student.
Mona’s Question for You
•It’s been great having you as my guest, Mona. I loved hearing about your amazing writing journey. Your answers to my questions were wonderful.
Now it’s your turn to find out what your visitors have to say. What would you like to ask them?
What qualities do you look for in a hero?
Mona has generously offered to give away an autographed copy of Two Brides Too Many.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Mona by midnight January 29 (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)
On January 30, I will hold the drawing and leave a comment with the name of the winner. I’ll post the winner’s name here as well and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. And Mona is willing to mail a book to any country, so don’t let a non-U.S. address stop you. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)
Congratulations to Renee, winner of Two Brides Too Many.
Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.
Learn More About Mona
Visit her website ~ www.monahodgson.com
Friend her on Facebook ~ Mona Hodgson
Follow her on Twitter ~ MonaHodgson
Request to join her network on LinkedIn
Request to add her as a contact on Plaxo