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April 2011

Research, emotions, and humor

Leaves decorative
Stevens writes from a wellspring of emotional experiences and this enables her to bring her characters to life. But she possesses a sense of humor as well. As the owner of more than 200 stuffed bears, each with its own name, she once teased her husband saying, “I’m going to miss you, honey,” when he jokingly threatened to leave if she brought one more bear into the house.

Qualities like that help readers relate to Stevens—and her characters. She also loves historical research, and there have been times when she’s gotten so lost, a modern interruption such as a doorbell ringing completely startles her.

Her friend and copyeditor, Marjorie Vawter, notes her attention to detail. “Connie is conscientious in her historical research and in using the right words and sentence constructions to convey a feel of the time period for her stories,” Vawter said. “She is a talented writer and true friend.”blue hydrangea

My First Sale: Connie Stevens

Every experience can be used to deepen my understanding of human emotions and reactions. —Connie Stevens

Connie Stevens has been through a number of experiences which have deepened her understanding. She is no stranger to personal grief and loss, and she’s walked the road of both highs and lows related to her writing journey.Tiffany Stockton

Although she began writing in high school, Connie Stevens didn’t seriously pursue professional writing until the 1990s. Through it all, her faith and her focus remained steadfastly on God. “If I’m not writing for God, what is the point?” she said. “Every page, every scene, every chapter must be God-honoring.”

Connie StevensGod honors those who honor Him. For Stevens, that honor came with her first book contract. Where other authors receive a phone call or email telling them of their first sale, Stevens learned of her contract at the 2009 ACFW Conference in Denver.

Need a new title?

Traditionally on the first night of the conference, Becky Germany and JoAnne Simmons, editors from Barbour Publishing, take the stage and announce the awarding of first-time contracts. When she heard the title of a book to be contracted, Leave Me Never, Stevens’ first thought was she would have to think of another title because someone else is using it.

Then, she wondered why her critique group was screaming and pushing her forward. She doesn’t remember that walk to the stage other than it involved hugs from a lot of people. She does, however, remember her agent, Tamela Murray, standing with her arms open.

I got up, ran toward her like a madwoman, and gave her a big hug right in front of everyone.

“I was beyond thrilled when Connie was awarded her first Barbour contract at the ACFW conference,” Murray said. “I got up, ran toward her like a madwoman, and gave her a big hug right in front of everyone. Connie is a dear woman of God and exceptionally deserving of her success. I am so very proud to be part of her journey as her literary agent—and as her friend.”

Leave Me Never is the first of the three-book series, Home to Willow Creek for Barbour. Following soon are Revealing Fire (April) and Scars of Mercy (July).

Absorbed in the story

Leave Me Never book coverBut Murray isn’t the only one who has walked with Stevens on this journey. Kim Vogel Sawyer pushed her to deepen the emotions of her characters and create a setting that pulls the reader in and makes them feel at home.

“Connie writes with such depth of emotion,” Sawyer said. “She makes me feel what her characters are feeling, thereby absorbing me in her story. Having the privilege of reading her work from start to finish lets me see the effort she puts into her craft. I look forward to celebrating many more of her contracts.”

Full immersion

She is so good at writing raw emotion because she has lived through extreme heartache herself.

Attention to detail helps readers get immersed in Stevens’ stories. Her editor, JoAnne Simmons, experienced it. “Working with Connie has been wonderful,” Simmons said. “She is so good at writing raw emotion because she has lived through extreme heartache herself. And yet to know her is to know she is full of the joy, peace, and comfort of knowing Jesus as her Savior.”

The raw emotion, creativity, and depth all come from Stevens’ reliance on God to guide every step of her walk. She hopes readers will understand how close God stays, regardless of the circumstances. With Lamentations 3:22-23 and 1st Corinthians 6:20 on her heart, Connie continues to touch lives through the words she writes.

“He abides, He indwells, He takes up residence within us,” Stevens said. “He doesn’t just visit; it’s not temporary. He will never leave us or forsake us.”

Amazing experience

Revealing Fire book coverEileen Key, another critique partner and friend, said Stevens has extra creativity. “Connie’s ability to brainstorm, plot, and write amazes me,” Key said. “We work closely in our group and polish each other’s writing. I can’t wait to see where the Lord leads her.”

For Stevens, these words from critique partners and friends are part of what amazes her about this experience. The willingness of so many to offer their help and guidance made an impact. Everyone was patient and Stevens is grateful for their help.

Looking forward

That willingness to help stemmed from Stevens’ own willingness. Her friends claim there is no end to Stevens’ giving heart.

She might have the house to herself during the day and enjoy a flexible schedule, but she plans what she needs to accomplish each week in order to stay on top of things. And the steady support of her friends and colleagues keep her going.

Right now, she’s working on a proposal for a three-book historical series set in north Georgia. She asks members of ACFW to pray she’ll never lose sight of God’s will for her life. That she’ll always be both teachable and useable.

Visit Connie Stevens online.

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