I'm so excited to have Deborah Vogts visit my blog today. Debbie and I have been crit partners and friends for years and she's become like a sister to me. Last year, she sold her Seasons of the Tallgrass series to Zondervan. I remember reading this story a number of years ago and am so excited that it is now in print. At the end of the interview, be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win your own copy of this fabulous new book, Snow Melts in Spring.
Lisa: What was your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book, Snow Melts in Spring?
Debbie: Well, I had forewarning that Zondervan had interest in it, but when I received “the call” from my agent, Rachelle Gardner at WordServe Literary, she asked me if I wanted to sit down. I did, and then she went on to tell me that we’d received an offer from Zondervan for two books. She later was able to turn that into a three book offer. My youngest daughter and husband were home at the time, so there was a LOT of celebrating—screaming, laughing, dancing, jumping, giggling, screaming. You get the idea. ☺
Lisa: That is very exciting! Tell us some of the background behind the idea for this book.
Debbie: Years ago, I took a Flint Hills Folklife summer course at Emporia State University that was taught by Dr. Jim Hoy. Along with classroom study, we took field trips into the heart of the Flint Hills and visited with old-time ranchers, schoolmarms and post-mistresses. It was such a delightful experience, especially our drives into the pastures. We would get on these back roads and drive over pasture guards into the open range. We would travel for miles without seeing another car or even an electric line—just pure, native prairie. That summer, I fell in love with the Flint Hills and it has stayed with me all this time. I’m so glad I have this chance to share this place with my readers through the Seasons of the Tallgrass series.
Lisa: I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters. Is there a character who you relate to from the book and who made an input on your life?
Debbie: My love for country life and the Flint Hills comes out in my main character Mattie Evans. Mattie is a large animal veterinarian in the ranching community of Charris County. Although she struggles with her practice, she is determined to settle in the Flint Hills, a place that is firmly planted in her heart. Almost against her will, she finds herself falling in love with the owner of one of her patient’s—a man who is determined to run away from the Flint Hills and his problems at home. There are many family relationship issues in this story, but the land and particularly the Flint Hills are a major focus. As a young woman, I remember living in Topeka, KS and yearning for wide open spaces. I soon found myself returning to my home roots. My character Mattie is intent on never leaving hers. I guess I can identify with that. ☺
Lisa: Snow Melts in Spring is book one in a three book series. Can you tell us what it’s like writing a series? Do you think you’ll miss your characters once the last story is written?
Debbie: Whew. I don’t know. I’m sure I will. The Seasons of the Tallgrass is actually a 4 book series. Zondervan has contracted for three of those with options on the fourth, so hopefully that will go through. So far, I’m enjoying writing this series. Each of the stories are what you would call a “stand-alone” in that you won’t need to read the first book to know what’s happening in the second. What will be the same is the setting and the community of characters. While each book has its own main characters, readers will see glimpses of past characters running about. Many of my readers have “fallen in love” with Gil’s dad, the gruff old rancher. You’ll see him again in the third book & if contracted, he’ll have a big part in the fourth when he gets a little romance of his own.
Lisa: Tell us a bit about the research you had to do for this story, including the native tallgrass?
Debbie: I did lots of research on the Flint Hills and on ranching. For that I especially enjoyed reading through old journals and books that told about the time period when this land was settled. My husband and I took several trips into the pastures to take pictures, see the land and visit the community. Because the story centers around an injured horse, it was particularly important for me to get the veterinary scenes of the story correct. In doing this, I studied and visited four different veterinarians and tagged behind a couple of them for an afternoon. My male lead character, Gil, is a retiring professional quarterback, so learning more about football was also important. For this, I packed home piles of books from the library and asked a TON of questions to anyone who knew anything about the game. Oh, and I watched a LOT of football that season. My girls weren’t overly happy about my “newfound interest” but my husband enjoyed it! LOL
Lisa: What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?
Debbie: I met my first agent in 2005 at an ACFW conference. She took me on and we shopped my “Seasons of the Tallgrass” series for a year and had a few bites but no sale. At our year anniversary, she released me, which was a real heart breaker for me. However, we don’t always see the big picture like God does, and six months later I signed with agent, Rachelle Gardner with WordServe Literary, and we signed with Zondervan three months after that.
The year my series was being shopped around was especially difficult. My agent would get a bite and then nothing . . . and then a little interest and then nothing. I believed God had placed me on this journey, and things were going so well. Then, all of a sudden, everything stopped! That can really mess with a person’s mind. So, for me, that period between shopping my manuscript and finally getting the sale with Zondervan was a time of learning for me. I had to learn to trust God and put everything in His hands. Not easy. During that time, I bathed myself in prayer, read Bible scriptures that reassured me of God’s promises (no matter whether I became published or not), and I sang many hymns. The verse I leaned on most was “Be still and know that I am God,” as well as Philippians 4:13, Proverbs 3:5-6, and Isaiah 41:13.
Lisa: Because I know where are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published?
Debbie: When you receive a rejection, cry and scream if you need to but don’t give up. Keep dreaming and studying the craft, and reading. Stay tuned to what God wants for you and let scripture keep you afloat. Learn to depend on God for everything—every step of the journey. Just knowing that He is in charge and knows what is best for you, helps to alleviate the pressure so that you’re able to ENJOY the journey AND life.
Lisa: Great advice! Thanks again for stopping by, Debbie, and congrats again on the sale of this wonderful series.
Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Debbie's Book. I'll draw a winner on Monday.
Visit Debbie's blog and website to learn more about her and her upcoming books!