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July 2011

My First Sale: Patty Smith Hall

Patty Smith HallHistory with a twist. That’s the tagline for our spotlight author this month, Patty Smith Hall. For a woman who toured Europe at 15 performing ballet, appeared in a commercial for Six Flags theme parks, received her first publishing contract in the 8th grade for poetry, and was the 40th member to join ACFW, Patty can write about a lot of twists in life.

Living life extraordinarily

Alongside Hall’s extraordinary life experiences is her passion for writing about people who lead extraordinary lives with a living, breathing faith in God.

Alongside Hall’s extraordinary life experiences is her passion for writing about people who lead extraordinary lives with a living, breathing faith in God.

Take the woman who signed the Declaration of Independence, or Frank and Orville Wright’s sister, who helped develop the first manned airplane, mix in faith, and you’ve got the recipe for the characters Hall loves to feature in her writing.

She focuses her efforts on historical fiction and for her debut novel, Hearts in Flight, that lands her in the middle of World War II. The book is the story of Maggie Daniels, a young pilot ferrying aircraft for the Women’s Army Service Pilots during the war. With daughters who love history, Patty went searching for women who made contributions to the war effort. Along the way she stumbled on what felt like a footnote about women pilots—she was hooked.

Living life interrupted

In 2008, after winning ACFWs Genesis Award in Historical Fiction, Hall received a request for a full manuscript from Steeple Hill editor, Melissa Endlich.

Hearts in Flight Book CoverBut it wasn’t to be—not then. Six surgeries, two graduations, and a cross country move intervened. Finally, Hall was able to return to her manuscript and turned it in to her agent, Tamela Hancock Murray, in the spring of 2010.

Later, while sitting in the drive-thru lane for Chick-fil-A, Hall received the call from her agent saying Steeple Hill had offered her a contract with a release date of July 2011. And she screamed. Oh, that poor girl behind the counter at the drive-thru window.

Living life writing

Although she’s been writing off and on for about 10 years, Hall mainly studied the craft (and had a few frustrating head-banging sessions) when her daughters were in school. Once they graduated two years ago, she devoted herself to writing full time.

She doesn’t use a computer—she writes all of her first drafts by hand.

Yet, because of chronic pain in her lower back, even that comes with its fair share of challenges. Since she can’t stand for any length of time, Hall has to write lying flat on her back.

Plus, she doesn’t use a computer—she writes all of her first drafts by hand. In some unique way, Hall believes it gives her the freedom to goof up a bit. But, coupled with lying on her back to write, it does eat up a lot of time. After devotions in the morning, she writes until the afternoon.

Living life in scenes

Halls prefers dialogue and description and believes in putting a reader right there in the scene by using all five senses.

She hopes her fellow ACFW members realize God has a bigger dream for us than we can imagine. One surprising aspect of her journey, though, is how fast everything seems to have happened. Hall realizes it isn’t the same for everyone, but for her, the timing was fast. She received the call on August 5, talked to her editor, Rachel Burkot the next day, and received her revision letter on August 9. Her book hits the stores this month!

Living life with God in the middle

Hall weaves God’s presence and love through every facet of her stories. She writes historical romance from a Christian worldview because her faith in God is a vital part of who she is. Still, fear of failure creeps in from time to time and casts a shadow over her writing. Like so many of us, Hall hears the voices inside her head telling her she’s crazy to think she can be a writer. Unpublished, she worried she’d never be good enough—now published, she wonders if it will ever happen again.

In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (NIV)

But armed with Romans 8:28, she writes anyway.

Patty selected that verse during the summer before tenth grade, when she re-dedicated her life to God. Writing is without a doubt a calling. And no matter what, God has a purpose for everything, good or bad.

So, as she finishes book two in her series and edits a book she wrote during Novel Track: Writing last year, Hall asks for peace in her writing no matter what happens.

Learn more about Patty Smith Hall by visiting her website .

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