Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Crusaders for Christ -- First in a Series of Interviews of Christians with the Heart of a Servant


As best I recall, I was sitting on a cushy chair at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Black Mountain, NC -- It was my first writer's conference, I knew NO ONE, and I was nursing a severe case of poision ivy. In all honesty, I'd really hoped no one would notice me, however to my surprise this beautful young woman sat down next to me.
She leaned back in her chair and clasped her hands around her knees. Eyeing the obivious discomfort I felt with the poision ivy, she smiled a very coy smile and remarked, "I can see you were itching to get to this conference."
It took a minute for me to absorb her warped sense of humor, but when I dug through the serious look she offered me, I saw a sneaky little grin cross her lips. That was all it took. Within moments we'd become wonderful friends.
I was impressed with her intelligence and poise. She was confident, yet not the least bit cocky. Though she was fifteen years my youth, we began a friendship which stands tight despite the miles which divide us. She has served as my mentor in writing, a teacher, a critique partner and a guiding light.
GINA HOLMES is the creator of Novel Journey, a blog site set aside for the promotion of Christian Fiction authors. Gina runs the site, along with Ane Mulligan and Jessica Dotta. An aspiring writer herself, Gina pens some pretty awesome (and eerie) Christian suspense. Novel Journey is entering its third year of internet publication and it has raised the brows of top selling authors such as Frank Peretti and renowned agent/writer, Chip MacGregor. In its short lifetime, Novel Journey has hosted hundreds of well know authors and has more on the waiting list. If you're interested in knowing what's going on in Christian writing or what authors are hot, or if you're looking for guidance as a new or advanced writer, Gina is the gal to seek out.

Gina, we've been friends for three years. I've admired you from othe very beginning with your unique style and quality of writing. You've served as a wonderful mentor for me and you've been equally the same as a friend. Tell me how long you've been writing?
I realized in high school I had a talent for making up stories (just ask my parents!). I started getting serious about reaching publication in 2001. I started writing greeting cards, magazine articles and that sort of thing. I realized my real passion was in novel writing, I guess about 2003.

Where did you get your beginnings in Christian writing?
I didn't even know there was such a thing as "Christian" books or the CBA (Christian Bookseller's Association) until I was telling some friends at church I was writing a novel. I explained the premise of my story and several people compared what I wrote to Frank Peretti, who I'd never heard of. I went to the church library and realized there was a whole slew of Christian fiction. I wasn't sure where I'd fit into what seemed to me to be a lot of sweet romances...until I read Francine Rivers' Reedeeming Love. I finished that book, hugged it and said: I want to write like this. And I realized I could write -- not only write to entertain, but also to point to God.

I know Novel Journey began as a personal blog for readers to walk in the shoes of an aspiring writer, learn the in's and outs of the journey of publication from YOUR own bloody knees of experience. When did you decide to make Novel Journey a support system for the promotion of Christian authors?
In the early days, I had three readers and one of 'em was me. Ha! People weren't all that interested in one writer's journey to publication. Which usually is a very, long and tedious one. I'm all for hitting two birds with one stone, so I thought, why not promote other authors while I'm not really accomplishing anything else productive with this blog? I spent a lot of time on the internet googling for author interviews. I wanted to know how others before me accomplished the goal of publication and great writing. I figured if it interested me, it would interest others. I was right I guess, because we've grown bigger than I could have dreamed.

What prompted you to make Novel Journey a personal ministry?
I realized very quickly that God has His hand on Novel Journey. I mean, it just took off like wild fire when I took the focus off myself. It dawned on me that I had a unique opportunity to have influence over some things I feel strongly about: moral fiction, great writing and God. I guessed I wasn't the only one who didn't realize that there was a place to go to get great books that wouldn't try to pull me from my faith or make me slog through a stream of gratuitious sex and profanity.
It is amazing how God will use us once we hand ourselves over fully to Him. It's hard for us to do that. I think because so many of us don't see our personal examples or our interests as a "ministry." But once we truly hand it over, all the stops are pulled out and great things happen. You're obivously a prime example of just that.

Tell me how God uses you and Novel Journey to minister to others?
Novel Journey minsters to me in a huge way. The authors we interview have shared so much of themselves, so much of their hard earned knowledge. The open-hand model most of these authors live their lives by has shown me how generosity an investment that has a wonderful return. I've made so many good friends and have learned nothing is impossible. I never would have dreamed a couple of years ago, I'd be chatting with Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, Noah Lukeman and all the other amazing writers I've gotten a chance to interview.
I'm not sure all the ways that Novel Journey ministers to others, but I hope that it does. I hope that writers are inspired to do better, to aim higher, to step outside their comfort zones and consider other's perspectives. There seems to be this tug of war within the CBA of those wanting to push the envelope and those who don't. I love stirring the pot a bit between these groups, not to cause division but to allow others to see another's perspective and to consider it. Neither point of view is completely wrong, or completely right. Keeping the dialogue wide open, in my opinion, is healthy if we want to grow, but keeping one another accountable as well.
I've followed Novel Journey from the beginning, (maybe I was one of the original three - smile) and I can honestly say the standard of forthrightness, generosityto share good reading, good information and promote others places you and Novel Journey at the top of the personal ministry list. You have the heart of a servant by giving so freely and expecting nothing in return.

What's the level of commitment to this blog site now?
Its gotten pretty huge. After a year or so on my own, it was too much and Jessica Dotta came aboard with her publicity expertise and Ane Mulligan with her scriptwriting and book reviewing expertise. We each put a lot into Novel Journey. Some days it can eat up all of daylight. Other days, just the time it takes to post and edit. There's a lot that goes on behind the scens that readers won't see.
I think it's important to let readers know there is no charge for what comes from Novel Journey. Any costs that may be incurred in the operation of the blogsite are taken on by you. It's a full time job with no salary other than the rewards of doing good.

Tell me how God has blessed you through this journey?
God has really worked on my sense of black and white. I was on fire for God and Istill am, but my faith has settled into a more accepting, more surefooted area that doesn't think everyone has to agree with me to be loved. They don't have to think the way I do to be right. And because they're right, doesn't necessarily make me wrong. God has really been working on my judgementalism and seeing His children the way He does a little more. He's been doing that through my writing, through my family, through every aspect of my life. It's been a painful refinement but thank God he loves me enough to turn up the heat.

What was your goal when you decided to make Novel Journey a ministry?
Our goal was and is to promote really great CBA fiction. That goal has changed a bit. After I read Leif Enger's Peace Like a River, which is NOT a CBA book, I decided that great fiction that points to bibical truths, whether CBA or ABA, was worthy to promote. We've recently started interviewing a lot of ABA (secular) novelists. The reason behind this is to draw the ABA readers who will hopefully then discover CBA authors. The crossover, of course, will work both ways and that's okay. There are a lot of great ABA authors out there who love the Lord as much as any CBA reader/author.
I agree completely with you. A meshing would be beneficial to everyone. Win -- Win.

Can you tell me some of the results professionally and personally you've seen through the blog?
Professionally, I was contacted through my blog to write for a premier issue of a woman's magazine. That was cool. Having a platform of thousands of readers a month doesn't look bad on a marketing plan. I've made so many more friends in the industry and we all know networking is important. All this however, is the icing on the cake. It's not my main motivation for the site.
Personally, I think I've touched on a lot of this earlier, but in addition to all that, the friends I've made in cyberspace have become some of my best. There is a community, a tight one, among CBA novelists and aspiring novelists. I love being part of that very cool, very edifying, gang.

Tell me about your daily response from the postings on the blog?
It's funny. We have between two and three hundred readers a day on average and get only a few comments. I wish folks would take the time to comment more often. It really does make the author's day (and mine). But the responses are generally positive, unless we run something controversial, like a certain publisher's interview or Mike Duran's thought provoking pieces which are meant to get people talking. We're very deliberate in the pieces that will get lots of comments. We know that ahead of time.
Those who comment are always encouraging. Robert Liparulo (Comes A Horseman) recently said that we at Novel Journey draw a kind hearted group and he's right. We do.
Now that's a nice compliment. You're a fruit of the spirit -- Kindness.

I know you're always on the cutting edge of internet technology and you've worked some with Pod Casts already. Can you tell us what lies ahead for Novel Journey?
We've messed around with podcasting, though after trying that out, I'm not sure we'll do too much of it. It's all about the reader. What do they want to see/hear? Podcats haven't gotten the most enthusiastic response.
We'd like to get into broadcasting, though we're considering our options there and laying down the groundwork. We'd like to, of course, continue to grow. Last year we almost trippled our readership. I'd like to continue along those lines. We're getting into some on-line critiquing of work and doing more commentary, which I really enjoy. Other than that, we're constantly considering our options, looking for ways to accomplish our purpose in a better way. Tomorrow, some great idea may strike Jess or Ane or I and we'll flesh it out and see if it works. If it does, great, if it doesn't, we're not afraid to toss it out and keep looking.
The sign of a great team is the strength to work together. Sounds like the three of you are insync. It takes a good friend to tell you if your endeavor is stinky and a bigger friend to smile and agree. (laughing) Novel Journey is the result of three women who know how to work as a team. The proof is in the pudding.

Finally Gina, many people never take time to look seriously at how and what God can do to direct their careers and their lives. What do you have in your prayers for the future with Novel Journey and as a writer, and tell us how you feel God is leading you?
Great questions, Cindy. God is always there, the pillar of fire, leading the way. I don't always follow. When I find myself off the path, I get back on. Usually on my own, sometimes because the pain is too great to stay off for long. The consequences for living outside God's will and all that. Interesting timing with this question. We're just now coming up with our mission statement for the site. We want to remain focused on the bigger picture and having a mission statement is a great way to do that. So, I've been thinking a lot about this question.
My prayer is that God will use it and show the three of us how He wants to use it, and when it's purpose is complete, that we won't hang on to it a second too long. So, I'm not real sure the future of Novel Journey. This has been a God thing all the way and so I'll let Him nudge me in the direction He wants. For now, our goal is to continue to bring the Christian and secular writing community together if we can, to promote great fiction that holds bibical truths and to encourage and help writers to do their best work.
Personally, with my writing, I'm in a comfortable spot writing my fourth novel, realizing that when God's ready for me, He'll open the door and until then, I'm to be faithful honing my craft, and seeking to bring Him glory with my words.

A special thank you to Gina Holmes for sharing her personal ministry with us at Mountain Breeze. I am a firm believer that God places us in the pathways of those who can minister appropriately to our needs. Gina has been the light in the darkness for me, guiding me to being a better writer, and encouraging my work with the Father on the daily devotions.

Our ministries are unique and personal to us each one. I encourage you to do some soul seaching and find your passion...then fall to your knees and say, "God, here I am, use me." You will be amazed at the growth and the rewards that are gained from sharing this personal one-on-one ministry. We don't have to be Bible College grads or stand from a pulpit to share a ministry.

Thanks to Gina Holmes for opening up her heart of a servant to us. Check out her blogsite, www.noveljourney.blogspot.com and see what is offered in the world of Christian fiction. And when you visit....leave a comment. Let her know what you think. I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised.