Thursday, 10 May 2018

Meet Our Members: Christine Dillon

Each Thursday in 2018 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today interview Christine Dillon

Question 1: Tell us three things about who you are and where you come from.

Although born in Australia, I went off to Asia when I was two months old. My parents worked in Taiwan until I was seventeen. I did most of my schooling in Malaysia and the Philippines and returned to Sydney for my final two years.

After studying physiotherapy and working for a few years I attended Sydney Missionary and Bible College. Those were two of the best years of my life. In 1999, I returned to Taiwan with OMF where I have the best job in the world as a Bible storyteller and part of a church planting team.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing.  What do you write and why?

The non-fiction came out of my daily life and training of others. 1-2-1 discipleship (Christian Focus, 2009) and then Telling the Gospel Through Story: Evangelism that keeps hearers wanting more (IVP, 2012). I wrote about discipleship because people kept preaching the ‘make disciples’ passage (Matthew 28:16-20) but didn’t tell me how to get started in a way I could understand. The storytelling book was written out of an excitement at what an amazing tool it is. Both books were written to allow me to reach a wider audience with what I was learning.

I never expected to write fiction and God really had to force me to do it. I knew it was going to be a hard slog and I was right. My first novel took me four and a half years. Fiction allows me to deal with issues that those I disciple struggle with but in a different format - a story package that challenges the way they see the world. I hope it is ‘life changing’ and inspires them to follow Jesus more.

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

The non-fiction has been read by anyone who wants to meet up with another believer one to one in order to grow in a maturity or for anyone wishing they knew how to tell their friends about Jesus. Storytelling is a method that increases the likelihood that non-Christians will become hungry for more. Of course, it also challenges and teaches believers. It is no surprise that ‘Jesus never said anything without a story’ (Mark 4:34).

Officially my novel is ‘women’s fiction’ which means that the book is focussed on the daily issues that women face and that romance isn’t the primary focus. Think Francine Rivers and Deborah Raney. However, I have been greatly encouraged at the number of men and teenagers (from age twelve) who have read it and enjoyed it.

Grace in Strange Disguise looks at the issue of ‘what is God there for?’ We know people disappoint us but what happens when God does too?

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

Non-fiction is relatively easy for me because I’m an ISTJ and so organisation is my middle name. I brainstorm all the topics I want to cover in the book and then organise them into a logical flow. Then I just start writing. I’m helped too that most of the content of my non-fiction has been taught to others first.

With the novel, I started with the ‘Snowflake Method’. It was something I found online that made sense and broke the planning process into small bites. Good for a beginner. But towards the end of the editing process I was introduced to Story Genius by Lisa Cron. I went back immediately and did her planning writing segments. Some of them made it into the finished book. I now always start with the four scenes she suggests you write for each character.

The rest of the process? For novel two I had two main characters so I bought two sets of index cards (small) in pink and green. On each card I’d write an idea for a scene. Then I got a cork board and worked out a logical flow and added any missing cards. Then I wrote (not always in order), using Scrivener. Scrivener has some marvellous features including a daily word count that you can set the target. Eventually I increased that to five thousand words as that was possible in a day if I’d done some thinking beforehand (which I did while swimming).

Once the draft is finished I let it sit and have a few weeks break. Then on to edits. Edits happen over and over but the most useful one is the read through out loud. I record each chapter, as this forces me to keep doing it out loud. My ear is able to catch un-natural dialogue (a weakness of mine) and many other mis-rhythms.

Then beta readers and more edits and finally to the paid editor (s) once it is the best I can make it. The editors have taught me so much (thanks Cecily and Iola). Yes, having two is expensive but I want my books to be the best possible.

Finalising title and cover and proofreading and then on to pre-marketing. It has been so much to learn, especially after I made the decision to go with independent publishing.

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?

At the moment it is Understanding show not tell by Janice Hardy. Cecily recommended it (so I listened). You might not understand all the details but if you simply search for all her ‘red flag’ words like thought, realised, felt, considered, hoped … you can eliminate them. In the process you decrease the narrative distance between the reader and your character (thus increasing deep point of view and allowing the reader to go on the ride with the characters). It was the best $6 I’ve spent so far as immediately afterwards it saved me $1000 on the editing quote I’d had!

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

A tough question but it has to be the editors because without them I’d be sunk (and Joy Lankshear, my cover designer isn’t in CWD). Cecily Paterson, as well as being an excellent YA general market author, also has a speciality in ramping up emotion (or telling you to do so) and writing natural dialogue. She forces me to know my characters and makes sure they’re all distinct. These are my areas of weakness and as almost the completely opposite personality type to me she is always saying, “Stop thinking! Your character should be feeling.”

Iola Goulton is a master of structure and copy editing and many other things. Both these women somehow get me to write much better than I believe is possible.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?

I have a very full-time job and so this year I’ve set aside Saturdays to write and kept myself to it. I turn off the internet and listen to suitable music (classical or Lord of the Rings). My goal is to get the sequel to Grace in Strange Disguise published. I’d also like to complete the planning for book three and even start writing.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

Without it I wouldn’t be writing. The non-fiction directly flows out of my daily ministry and what God has taught me along the way.

I was only willing to write fiction if it was aiming to be ‘life changing’. That means that God first ministers to me through the research and writing process. There have been many, many times when I’ve wanted to quit because writing is painfully difficult. Without Jesus it would be impossible.

My faith also informs my marketing and promotion … the values behind what I am happy to do and why. The Holy Spirit is great at yanking me back into line.

Christine Dillon was born in Australia but grew up in Asia. She now works in Taiwan as a Bible storyteller. Her book 'Telling the Gospel Through Story' was voted 2013 Outreach Magazine's Resource of the Year in Evangelism and continues to inspire innovative and engaging Bible storytelling. Believing in the beauty and power of story prompted her jump into fiction. Grace in Strange Disguise was runner-up in the Athanatos Christian Writing Contest. Christine loves reading and keeps sane by cycling, swimming and hiking.

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  1. Thanks for sharing Christine. Sounds like you have an interesting and busy life. You've done a lot of writing along the way obviously and being a Bible story-teller sounds fun. Well done for stepping out of your comfort zone and writing fiction. And congratulations on your first novel being runner up in a writing contest. That's fabulous!

    1. Thank you. Bible storytelling is so much fun.

  2. Thanks for your post, Christine. Great to learn more about you and your books.

  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Christine. It's always good to hear more about our local authors!

    1. Most welcome. You're work is worth shouting about!

  4. Fascinating to 'meet' you. Thoroughly enjoyed your interview.

  5. Great interview. The resources Christine mentions for fiction sound great too.