Tuesday, August 21, 2012

R.J. Thesman

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

It is a pleasure to have R. J. with us today to discuss her new release  
The Unraveling of Reverend G
 and a special topic dear to her heart. 
Let's get to know R. J.!

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
As a bi-vocational writer, I work part-time at GateWay of Hope Ministries. My title is Program Director for this incredible women’s center that focuses on counseling, groups and prayer. Then I come home, have a bite to eat, exercise and write.
Since the time I first opened my Big Chief tablet and scribbled my first story, I have been a writer. But it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I attended a writers’ conference and learned more about the business side that I became a professional freelancer.
I am constantly writing – whether it is observing people for future characters, using the experiences of life in personal experience articles or unloading my soul in my journal. I can’t NOT write.

Your current release is 
What is it about?
This is my first novel, and it is about a woman minister who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She struggles with forgetting part of the Lord’s prayer and losing an entire gallon of Chunky Monkey ice cream. She has to retire and goes to live in assisted living where she meets a colorful cast of characters. The greatest fear of Reverend G is that she will forget how to communicate with God and thus – lose her faith.

You have deeply personal experience with Alzheimer's. How did that influence your writing process for this book? Did it challenge you more in anyway?
Because of my father’s trauma-induced dementia and my mother’s Alzheimer’s – I wondered what they were thinking about while they dealt with gradually declining health.  What was really happening inside those damaged brains? So I wanted to pursue that question by writing about Reverend G from her viewpoint, in first person.
Many of the experiences that Reverend G has are similar to the ones I have lived with and observed with my parents. The challenge was that in writing the book, I lived it so closely that I grieved for my parents all over again.

This is not your first book. Tell us about some of your other writing experiences.
Most of my writing has been in the nonfiction genre. My first book was an autobiography of my missionary experiences in Honduras, “The Plain Path.” My next three books were curricula for teaching English to international students, using the Bible. Except for an occasional short story, most of my articles have been nonfiction. So it was a great surprise to suddenly wake up with this novel in my head.

Does your process for writing fiction differ at all when writing non-fiction? 

I have always been an outliner and a planner, but with Reverend G – I just sat down and let her write the book through me. And it was so much fun! I think I have discovered my true calling.
With nonfiction, I always did research at the beginning, outlined, wrote the first draft, queried a publisher, then continued to rewrite until it was polished.
With Reverend G – I wrote the entire thing in 6 months, then did some additional research and went back to add it to the text. After the final edits, it was completed. Currently, I have enough characters and plot ideas for another two books in the series.

You also do public speaking and workshops. What message do hope those who hear you and/or read your work take from it?
I absolutely love teaching about writing – especially for the Christian market. I believe it is so important that we keep the message of Christ’s love alive with our words. Whether I am speaking about the Reverend G book or teaching a workshop, I hope to convey the joy of writing and the importance of keeping the message clear and readable.
When I speak specifically about the Reverend G book, I hope to share encouragement and hope with caregivers. Their role and their burdens are incredibly difficult.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing or speaking?
I love to read, read, read and I love nature. My favorite place is out on my deck with a good book. I also love to watch the sun set and praise God that He chooses different colors and textures every night.
I like to cook, but often don’t have time to do it justice. I also love to eat out with my son – especially great Mexican food.

What's your next step?
The 1st draft of the second book is completed, so I am now editing it. I’ve titled it “Intermission for Reverend G.” The third book will be “Final Grace for Reverend G.” After that, I’m already working on ideas for another novel – a secret!

How can our readers get to know you better?
My blog is on my website at: I’m on twitter: @rjthesman. On FB, my author page is RJ Thesman and I also have a group for caregivers and those dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia: I’m also on LinkedIn as Rebecca Thesman and I have an author page on Amazon: RJ Thesman.

Thank you so much for being with us today.
 Do you have a question for R. J. about her writing journey or experience as a caregiver? 

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