Deborah Vogts brings her love for the Flint Hills to life in her debut novel Snow Melts in Spring. For anyone who has ever dared believe that love can flourish in the winter of guilt and regret comes a tale of forgiveness and gentle passion. This book is a sweet summer read and, for those of us still curled under throw rugs even in the midst of Australia's mild winters, it is a wonderful escape to the wind blown spaces of one of the last great prairie regions of the USA. Masterful writing makes for an easy reading and left all my mates asking, "When is the next book coming out?"
So please enjoy meeting the woman behind Snow Melts in Spring as Deborah shares her love for the Flint Hills, encouragement for writers and her own walk through the world of publishing.
The Flint Hills of Kansas are undoubtedly beautiful, but what is it about that region that most captivates you?
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. There are few “untouched” places like it in this day and age.
What is the one thing you most want your readers to take away from your bookSnow Melts in Spring?
There are many family relationship issues in this story, whether it’s Gil’s wounded relationship with his dad, Mattie’s guarded relationship with her parents and sisters, and even the precious friendships found in the least-expected places. And while forgiveness and honesty are two of the issues my characters deal with, I’d really like my readers to understand that though you may have your life all mapped out, you need to be open to the path God wants you to travel AND be prepared to follow it once He points you in that direction. I also hope to give my readers a taste of the Flint Hills and of how God’s beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.
There is a strong theme of forgiveness in your book, has this been an important theme in your own life?
I think forgiveness is an important aspect every Christian must deal with at some point in their life. Either to forgive someone or ask for forgiveness.
You mention having done quite a bit of research in and around the Flint Hills region. Who was the most memorable character you met while doing this research? Did he/she have some bearing on the shaping of your book?
One of the neatest individuals that I met in doing my research was a lady from Cottonwood Falls who owns the Emma Chase Café. She’s a real “character” and has a great love for her community and for the Flint Hills. And while I don’t necessarily base my secondary-character, Clara, on this person, I am getting lots of information from her. You’ll read about Clara’s story in my third book in this series. J
How do you feel God has guided your writing?
It took three years from the time I shopped this manuscript to my first agent to receiving an offer from Zondervan. During that time period, I had many moments when I saw God’s hand on my work—from the moment I heard the words “Write the book, and I’ll take care of the rest,” to receiving two conference scholarships, to individual meetings with agents and editors. And the writing was easy. But there were also low moments and times of doubt. In my lowest times, when I doubted that God might not want me on this path, I rested on his word, and especially on the verse – “Be still and know that I am God.” I think we all have to rest on the assurance that God knows what is best for us and to try to follow the path he wants us to go.
I know your book was with an agent for a year before you found your current agent who sold your work to Zondervan. What was the journey of finding an agent and then having your book sold like for you? Was there a moment when you thought perhaps this was not going to happen for you?
I found my first agent at an ACFW conference, and we shopped the manuscript series for a year. After that she let me go, which was a real heart-breaker for me. But after licking my wounds, I sent out three more agent proposals and heard back from the third agent a few months later. I really think it was a matter of timing, and listening to God’s call on my life. Rachelle Gardner at WordServe Literary is a great fit for me, and I’m hoping we’ll have a nice, long business relationship.
Can you describe the moment you received ‘the phone call’ saying your agent wanted to represent you?
Of course. Rachelle called and asked if I was sitting down. I remember following her instruction and having her tell me that Zondervan had made the offer for a series contract. I was thrilled at the news, but being the business-minded person that I am, I pushed the excitement down in order to get all the details. LOL. Afterwards, I laughed, screamed and danced with my family!
What did you do to celebrate your book’s release date?
Let’s see . . . we had several celebrations from the time I received the contract, to holding the book in my hand, and then finally having the book released. I always celebrated with family and friends. One night we went out for shrimp, and of course, we had the book launch in the Flint Hills which was a wonderful blessing and celebration combined. Really, every day is a joy and reason to celebrate—that I’m living my dream!
Snow Melts in Spring is your debut novel. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you post-publishing?
Learning to write on deadline. And I’m still learning the fine art of doing this. It’s HARD! LOL. My mind knows what to do, that I need to plan everything out on a calendar and figure out how much I need to accomplish in the estimated number of days. It’s sitting down to do the work—and sitting there until the work has been accomplished for the day that is the hard part!
What are the most encouraging words you have received as a writer?
While I love the hugs and love given to me by my family and friends, I think God’s message for me holds the most encouragement. That he will take care of me, and that even if this writing gig dwindles one day or fizzles out, that he’s still there, and that I’ll be okay.
If you could tell writers to avoid certain pitfalls, what would they be?
There are a LOT of rules out there for the beginning writer and sometimes it can be very discouraging for them. Write the story that is on your heart and don’t worry whether the story will “sell” or if it’s a good fit for the “market.” Learn the craft and write the best story you can at this time. You will always get better. Not sure if that answers your question, but I’ve known many writers who became so discouraged by all the “rules” that it spoiled their writing.
What encouragement do you have for writers who are not yet published?
Don’t give up. Keep dreaming, studying the craft, writing 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 of “getting published” so that you’re able to ENJOY the journey AND life.
What can we look forward to in the next book in The Seasons of the Tallgrass series?
I’m waiting for edits of my second book, Seeds of Summer and have started working on my third book, tentatively titled Blades of Autumn. One of the neatest parts of the publishing process is seeing what the creative team comes up with for a cover, and I’m delighted to share that the next cover is awesome! Seeds of Summer is a story about a former Miss Rodeo Kansas queen, and her return to the Flint Hills to care for her deceased father’s ranch and her two younger siblings.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Tabitha. I’ve enjoyed this time with you!
And a huge thank you to Deborah for taking time out of her busy book launch schedule to answer my million questions!
Thanks again, Deborah.