Pepper Basham is a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where spinning a good yarn is as important as genealogy. She started telling stories when she was a child…and MOST of them were true, but eventually she began to feel sorry for all the imaginary friends in her head and gave them life on the page.
Pepper met and married her husband in college, and then finished her master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology, followed by a series of moves and births. Seriously. Each move they added another child. Pepper’s decided her family needs to live in Tennessee for the next twenty years.
Currently, Pepper lives in Northeast Tennessee with her pastor-hubby and five dwarv…er…children. As blessed and busy as she is with that package, she also works full-time as a clinical instructor of speech-language pathology at East Tennessee State University. Her special interest is children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The families and kids she serves hold a special place in her heart. She hopes to someday get a Ph.D. in psychology or counseling so she can be called Dr. Pepper.
The only time Pepper stops to catch her breath is to inhale chocolate, play on the playground with her kids, or sleep. She’s an anglophile who fell in love with all things British when she was twelve. She loves making Oreo truffles too and is slowly creating the best Chocolate cheesecake recipe known in the southern U.S.
Pepper has a fondness for “Preacher Cookies” aka no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies, so I’ve got a big platter of them along with glasses of cold milk in case you’re the dunking type. Help yourself to the virtual fare and prepare to have a blast getting to know more about Pepper and her writing.
Pepper’s Journey Begins
•When did you first hear the call to write?
Call to write? Hmm, so that’s what it was! I always wondered if it was my imaginary friends crying out for freedom. LOL.
Seriously, I still have a copy of the first story I ever wrote. Little story. I was nine years old and wrote a ten-page mystery with illustrations. Only the most trusted individuals in my life get a view of that one. 🙂 I also have a story I wrote when I was 12 and it was 25 pages typed on an old-timey typewriter with those really high keys. My granny bought the typewriter for me at a yard sale because she said, “You’re a writer and a writer needs a typewriter.” I think God used that moment and my granny to plant the writing-seed in my heart.
•When did those early efforts lead to writing with the goal of publication?
Well, from those earliest moments, I just kept writing. It was almost like I needed to get those stories out. During high school, I’d write sequels to movies. Even in college, I wrote a sequel to Frankenstein because I didn’t like Mary Shelley’s ending. 🙂 I completed my first full-length historical novel during my first year of college. Nothing I would show inquiring minds today, but a great idea to rewrite later.
Life happened and writing took a backseat for a while. I still outlined ideas and jotted down scenes on napkins, but no real novel-writing for about four years.
About five years ago, I completed my second novel and knew it was time to get serious. It was the perfect time, right? I had four children, my husband had just finished seminary, and I was working full-time as a speech-language pathologist. Why not? 🙂 I took the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Workshop and learned a lot about the basics of plot, structure, and characterization.
During this time, I discovered Inspirational fiction and knew that’s what God had called me to write. I often tell people that, like Eric Liddell the Olympic runner said, when I write “I feel God’s pleasure”.
Three years ago, I attended my first writer’s conference…and met my agent, Les Stobbe. Since then, I’ve tried to fill my life with books about craft and meet people in the Christian writing world.
The gals at Seekerville, a group blog of authors, have been a great learning place – and such an encouragement. You can check them out at http://seekerville.blogspot.com.
I finished The Journeyman course through The Christian Writer’s Guild last May and it was a great learning experience.
•You’ve explored a number of genres. What is the appeal of each of them?
Stories happen. A character pops into my head, a setting ignites my imagination, or an idea sparks the waking of an imaginary world — and there I go. I know that God has a hand in the workings of my inspiration and will place me in situations to inspire ideas. I love his way of working real life into fiction.
I’ve always enjoyed American History, so that interest, coupled with my family history, fed into writing historical novels.
I used to say I’d never write a contemporary novel, and now I’m working on my third one. Just goes to show you that God has a sense of humor. The humor and voice of contemporary novels match my personality well, I think— and come much easier than historicals. Life, especially with kids, can be really funny to write and I incorporate it into my contemporary novels.
This AMAZING allegory/fantasy of God’s grace came into my head about five years ago and snowballed into a three — maybe five — book fantasy series for YA. All I can say is that it was ‘all GOD’. He brought the message of Christ’s sacrifice alive in an amazing way through my fantasy The Book of Beginnings. It’s a fantasy retelling/recreating of the Bible.
Because I’m very fond of my Blue Ridge Mountain culture and I’m somewhat obsessed with England, I’ve taken those two things and interwoven them into many of my stories- particularly my Jenkins Family Chronicles contemporary romance series.
I have my fingers in a few nonfiction projects too that use experiences and skills from my profession and motherhood. Who knows what God wants to do with those.
•You’re represented by one of the foremost literary agents. How did your offer of representation come about, and how did you react when you got The Agent Call?
Oh Keli, this is a funny story because I did a lot of the things you’re NOT supposed to do when you meet with agents. Mind you, this was my first official conference and I was a complete amateur at it. I went out of curiosity…and left mesmerized. There were people LIKE ME there. I could talk about writing for long periods of time and their eyes didn’t glaze over. It was awesome.
So, back to my agent story.
My first day of the conference, I met with a published author just to talk about what that meant. My second day, I met with an editor to figure out what they do. So on the final day, I thought I’d sign up with an agent to learn what they did. Had no idea. But by the third day, all of the meeting slots were full. After lunch I checked again. One agent, Les Stobbe, had a cancellation in his schedule, so I filled my name in the spot.
The first thing I did was take his hand, introduce myself and say “I’ve never met an agent before, so you’re my first victim. What is it that you do?”
After about ten minutes of chatting and showing him my ‘projects sheet’, he asked for my card. My card? Why on earth did I need a card? (blushing here). I grinned and said, “Now that’s a great idea and as soon as I get one, I’ll be happy to share it with you.”
He chuckled and asked me to write my contact information on the back of a sheet of paper. Two months later, he sent me a contract. He gives a tough critique, but he’s good at thickening my skin to criticism.
•You entered the Contest Circuit last year and have already garnered some impressive results. Please tell us about them and what they meant to you.
I’ve been really thankful for what I’ve learned through the contest circuit. The critiques are educational, painful sometimes, but I’ve grown as a writer because of them.
When I won The Award of Excellence in Christian Literature at The Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May 2009, I was completely shocked. It was my first contest, but exactly what I needed to confirm this growing desire in me to write. For me, it felt like God’s small stamp of approval. I needed it, because the effort to make time to write can be tough most days. I can’t thank God enough for that little boost of confidence.
I was a finalist for the Golden Rose in October 2009. Another nice reward for hard work.
I’ve entered a few contests this year with no placements. I also sent three mss into the Genesis. We’ll see how that goes, but God knows. It’s not like I don’t have plenty of other things to do with my time besides wait. 🙂
•You started the year off seeing your name in print. What’s the story behind your first article?
I never thought I’d publish nonfiction before fiction, but in January I had my first article published in MomSense Magazine. I took some of my experience as a speech-language pathologist and wrote a parent-friendly guide to helping babies develop their ‘first word’.
•That’s not all you’ve had published. Didn’t I hear something about poems?
I’ve had a few poems published in anthologies, but nothing else. Two poems to be exact. One inspirational poem entitled A Quiet Heart and a romantic poem entitled The One My Heart Cannot Forget.
Pepper’s Challenges and Solutions
•You wear many hats, including mother of five, full-time speech-language pathologist, and pastor’s wife. How do you fill all those roles and still find time to write? What advice would you offer others whose hat racks rival yours?
- Relax – if God’s called you to write, He’ll provide the time and inspiration. It may not work out as you schedule it, but it can still happen. If He has called, He will also equip.
- Pray, then seize the moment – We may think we don’t have any opportunities, but not all writing moments happen in front of the computer. Thinking about the story and characters gets your mind & heart ready for writing. My kids are only children for a short time. Writing will come when it can, but it’s amazing how many little moments add up to a completed novel.
- Write. If you don’t do it, you can never finish the book. Remember #2 – writing doesn’t have to happen every day (although that’s a good goal, even if it’s only 50 words), but to finish a manuscript at some point you’re going to have to write it down. In all honesty, one can create stories anywhere, it’s finding the time to write them down that can be the tricky part. I’m a ‘night’ writer – and I try to etch out at least thirty minutes a night to write, other moments are just a bonus. 🙂
- Great minds. Find a good friend, or group of friends, to bounce ideas off of. Remember, it’s a slow process – a learning process. God’s timing is the best, but having a support group along the way is truly a God-send.
- Laugh. Often. And mean it. It’s a great stress reliever.
Pepper’s Sources of Inspiration
•Who or what nourishes your creative spirit?
~Jesus. God’s love encourages me to write about how we humans respond to it.
~My kids are constant inspirations – almost all of my novels have kids in them. I LOVE writing kid-characters.
~Movies and music. Just the right song can send my brain into a scene or the possibilities of a new character.
~Chocolate – enough said.
Pepper, the Blogging Pro
•From kisses to characters, you explore many topics on your blog. When did you join the blogosphere, and what have been your best blogging successes so far?
Without a doubt, the Kissing Scenes Posts I put up in February has been my most successful blogging experience so far, but starting a group blog is sure to surpass that. The Writers Alley launched last week and is already promising to be a fun adventure in the blogosphere. I hope to reserve my personal blog for more devotional and silly posts 🙂
•In addition to your own blog and your wonderful new group blog, you’ve been a guest blogger. What were those posts about, and why were they so special to you?
I feel honored to have been a guest on Seekerville twice. One post, Baby Steps On the Write Path, was about finding the time to write. The other post came after my first line edit. Whew. Painful, but a great learning experience. It was called The Soul’s Internal Editor. Just being asked to guest on Seekerville was wonderful. The ladies over there are fabulous. You can feel the encouragement from their enthusiasm and support.
Partners on Pepper’s Journey
•Who are some of your biggest supporters?
~ My parents have dreamed this dream for me ever since they noticed my passion for writing when I was a little girl. My dad isn’t a great reader, but he’ll read my books. I can’t tell you how proud that makes me feel. Nobody supports me in this dream like my mom. She’s my biggest encourager.
~ My little bro, who still thinks I’m perfect. Oh dear, it’s so nice to know that SOMEBODY is that delusional.
~ My granny – who bought me my first typewriter, because ‘a writer needs one’. She also raised six kids by herself (her husband died of cancer when her oldest was 11 years old). She understands the chaos of everyday life AND still believes in my writing dream…and no, she’s not delusional 🙂
~ My kids who will hold hands with me and pray around the computer before I send in a proposal or contest entry. My oldest will pray, “May Mommy respond like a Christian to anything God chooses to do with her writing.”
~ The Seekers!! Julie Lessman, Mary Connealy, Tina Russo Radcliffe, and Ruth Logan Herne have been particularly helpful. Author Cathy Marie Hake as well.
~My new friends at The Writers Alley. Sherrinda, Casey, Mary, and Krista – you guys are already inspiring to me.
Pepper’s Journey Continues
•What are you working on at this point?
I’m writing in a lot of different genres actually.
I love humor, my home in the Blue Ridge, and England – so, I combined the three together for my first contemporary romance, Here To Stay. I think in series, but I’d like to write a stand-alone someday. Every book in my ‘plan’ is part of a series so far, though. The one book I started a few months ago (another contemporary) that I was sure to be a stand-alone, became a three-book series once I met the characters. I wonder if it comes from being a part of a big family. We keep going…and going…and going. 🙂
I’m writing a WWI romance, a YA fantasy based on the Bible, plus the new contemporary series, Mitchell’s Crossroads.
One of my big goals in the middle of this process is to write a story based on my granny’s life. Her story is truly inspirational! I plan to make it into a fiction novel based on my family history. The scarlet thread of God’s redemption is really woven back through so many generations.
Five Fun Facts About Pepper, the Person
~ Pepper is my real name.
~ My mom’s name is Ginger – we’re the original ‘spice girls’ 🙂
~ I write music, love to – it inspires me too.
~ I have a bad habit of drinking vinegar – I know, how on earth can the same person like vinegar AND chocolate? Boggles the mind.
~ I am a huge fan of the cartoon Phineas and Ferb. Hilarious.
Pepper’s Questions for You
Is there a particular setting you like to use for your novels?
Is there anything you particularly love about your hometown that you could use in a story?
Or, are you infatuated with another place, like me with England?
Learn More About Pepper
Visit her website ~ www.pepperbasham.com
Visit her personal blog ~ Words Seasoned With Salt
Visit her group blog ~ The Writers Alley
Friend Her on Facebook ~ Pepper Basham
Follow her on Twitter ~ pepperbasham