Most Thursdays in 2019 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: Debra Williams (Pen name Debra Clewer)
Question 1: Tell us three things about who you are and where you come from.
I am Debra Williams from the NSW country town of Cootamundra. I moved here in 2002 with my late clergy husband John Clewer, after forty plus years in Sydney. Along with being an author, I am an established puppeteer and puppet builder.
Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc). What do you write and why?
I write currently for the Middle-Grade age group (8-12 years) but am branching out into different age groups and genres. I have signed up for an online course in writing chapter books for 6-9-year-old children. My aim with my writing is threefold: to engage children in reading, to engage their imaginations and to teach them some historical fact in a fun way. Whilst I write fantasy, most of it is based on historical fact. I also try to introduce Christian concepts such as forgiveness, doing the right thing, prayer and honesty.
My other reason for writing is to share my faith where I can. When John died suddenly in April 2016, twelve days after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, we had been together for 40 years. We were in Christian ministry for 25, first through Church Army, then in the Canberra-Goulburn diocese where John was priested. His eyesight failed and he took early retirement in 2012. He was passionate about his faith. The night before his funeral my young granddaughter Bethany asked how granddad would be able to see in heaven because he was blind. We had a good talk about heaven from the Bible and what things would be like. Friends suggested I should write something for children to explain these things. Recently I entered the Dear Jesus diary competition through Elephant House press and wrote a 12-day journal entry story from Bethany’s point of view. It has been accepted for publication in a children’s anthology.
John had co-written a large part of the first draft of Harriet and the Secret Librarian with me, and when it was published last year, I did so with a printed dedication to him.
Encouraging children with their writing is important to me, and I recently ran my first children’s writing workshop at our local library.
Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?
Many adults and children have read my work and been absorbed in the stories. One boy in New Zealand whose dad is a member of CWD read my first two novels in three days last year and loved them. He now has a copy of the third novel in the series, and I’m hoping for another review from him. I would like anybody and everybody of any age to read and be engaged with my stories, even though they are aimed at a particular age group and genre.
Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?
My process is to first come up with an outline for the story, with the protagonist, supporting characters and loose story structure. Whilst I am writing, I will refer back to the outline to check whether I have achieved what I have set out do. Of course, the Lord often changes my ideas and gives me wonderful new ones to add in, usually about two o’clock in the morning! My challenge is then to remember what has come to mind so that I can record those notes later on. What helps me the most is giving my writing to the Lord and submitting my writing to the online critique group of which I am a member. Their feedback is always most welcome. I also visit the places written about in my books for research, helps enormously with my story structure.
Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?
The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke. Jeff has helped me to re-structure my writing and turn it upside down. I realised when writing my first novel that the opening scene was wrong, and I needed to re-work what I had written, changing the opening to be much later in the book. One of the pieces of advice was…” Never start with a flashback, unless you’re already a really established author.” I had started off that way, but changed the beginning, and for the better.
Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?
To Jenny Glazebrook, for her continuing faith and trust in her life and writing direction. I have been inspired by her integrity and inherent faith and trust in the challenges she has faced.
Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2019/2020? How will you achieve them?
I have released my third novel in my middle-grade Harriet series, which happened in September 2019. Several people have commented that they have ideas for my next novel (which I must admit, at this stage, I haven’t really thought about!) However, having said that, I have left the ending of the current novel open to lead into the next. My husband and I visited Tasmania in February this year. We loved the Devonport Maritime Museum, and I discovered that there had been a shipwreck called Harriett. There wasn’t enough time to delve into it as we were on a time-constrained bus trip. We are hoping to re-visit Tassie for a short break in December and I would like to gather some information from the Maritime Museum for the next chapter in Harriet’s life.
Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?
My faith has a huge impact on my writing. Everything is committed to the Lord. In my first novel, Harriet and the Secret Rings, Harriet and her friend time-travel to three different historical periods. One is Philippi, where they are accidently arrested and end up in jail next to Paul and Silas. I have taken both an historical angle and a faith angle with this adventure, with Harriet assuring her friend she knows how everything will turn out due to her attendance at her church’s kid’s club. Harriet has a quiet faith and optimism and of course, she is proven right.