This summer I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting Michele Chynoweth at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers’ Conferencer. We spent lots of time together, giving me the great opportunity to hear how Michele could turn a Bible story into a modern-day tale. Something the average reader can relate to. Now, I’d like to give you that same opportunity.
I am the author of two modern-day novels based on Old Testament stories in the Bible: The Faithful One (based on the Book of Job in which “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”) and The Peace Maker, (based on the story of David and Abigail in the First Book of Samuel). I am also married (for three years) and my husband and I have a “blended” family of five – three boys ages 15, 20 & 23 and two daughters, both 17 (his and mine!). I am also a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, a former news reporter and advertising agency owner, and my “day job” is currently as the marketing director for a commercial real estate firm. We live in North East, Maryland (top of the Chesapeake Bay) and also have a dog – life is definitely full!
When did you first begin writing, and why do you write still?
I dreamed of being an author since I was ten-years-old and actually wrote my first “novel” in a spiral-bound notebook about a girl and her dog. But over the years, life took hold and the dream faded into the background: I graduated from high school and college, started a career in journalism as a newspaper reporter, got married, switched careers into marketing as a copywriter for an ad agency, had three kids. Along the way, I started my own advertising agency which I owned and operated for 20 years before I became divorced. The economy hit, forcing me to close shop and take a position in the corporate world.
Somewhere along the line – after my third child was born, I realized I really missed writing fiction and wrote my first novel (which never got published) about a reporter and “destined yet doomed” love affair. It actually won first place in the Maryland Writers Association Fiction contest – but the prize was agency representation with a firm in New York City that was affected by 9-11 – and the prize fell away.
I was working on another when the idea hit me, seemingly out of the blue at the time, to write a modern-day story based on the Book of Job – and about eight years later The Faithful One was finally born. Looking back I realize now that was God tapping me on the shoulder – because my life was a lot like Job’s (the guy who loses everything and questions God, “Why me?”) I also eventually realized the book helped other people who were struggling with their faith and that there might be a need for modern-day retellings of the Old Testament stories. I continue to write them because I feel God is calling me to do so – to “re-imagine” them through contemporary fiction that’s easier for today’s readers to read and understand so that they can better relate to the rich characters and stories and most importantly, hear God’s messages.
How many books do you have published and where can they be found?
The Faithful One and The Peace Maker both can be found in paperback and as an e-book on:
They are also available at some local bookstores and libraries in the Mid Atlantic area.
Wow, can’t pass that up.
Tell us about the journey to getting your books published.
After I finished The Faithful One, I sent out query letters to agents and publishers to no avail, so I got it self-published through AuthorHouse. I then sent it out to Christian publishers through the Writers’ Edge service upon recommendation from a fellow Christian author and ended up signing a contract with Ellechor Publishing House. Ellechor then published my second novel, The Peace Maker.
What inspired you to write these particular stories?
They say write what you know. When I was writing The Faithful One, I was starting to lose everything: my marriage was falling apart, my business was crumbling, my kids were feeling “lost” to me (becoming teenagers!), and I was suffering from the disease of alcoholism and my health was failing. Fortunately, just like my Job character, Seth Jacobs, I ended up finding redemption and getting my life back – different yet better than before.
When it came time to write a second novel in this newly-found genre, a chaplain friend of mine suggested I write about “Abigail” in the Bible. I said, “Abigail who?” (I wasn’t an avid Bible reader at the time). So I looked her up and realized she and I also had a lot in common (ie. our first husbands!) Abigail is married to Nabal, a narcissistic, abusive alcoholic, who goes up against David, who is rising to become king. When David seeks revenge on Nabal, Abigail tries to keep the peace, risking everything. In The Peace Maker, I have Leif Mitchell (David) running against US Senator Darren Richards (Nabal) for President of the United States. I bring in a lot of issues I am passionate about that we see in current political times such as abortion/right to life, domestic violence and stem cell research. I don’t want to tell you how it ends if you don’t know because I don’t want to spoil it!
That’s right, the reader must buy the book to find out :o)!
What are you working on right now?
I just finished a modern-day novel based on the Bible’s Book of Jonah, loosely titled The Runaway Prophet. Rory Justice (Jonah) receives a request from his father on his deathbed to go to Las Vegas (the new Nineveh) with a warning letter to try to save it from destruction from a nuclear bomb the Muslim Mafia have planted there. Of course Rory tries to escape and mails the letter instead, climbing on board a cruise ship. He ends up being put under arrest and placed aboard a submarine (aka the whale) and eventually ends up back in Vegas against his better judgment. Again, I won’t spoil the rest – but it’s a great story about how you can try to run from God’s call, but you can’t hide!
How do you get to know your characters?
I just gave a writers’ workshop to the Lancaster Christian Writers Association on character development so I’ll try to summarize that here: First I name them, choosing names that carry meaning, at least for my main characters. (ie., Chessa, the heroine in The Peace Maker means “peace” and Seth, the hero in The Faithful One, means “chosen one.”) Then I try to picture them – either visualizing a movie star who would play the part or cutting and pasting magazine photos in a collage. I also try to write a character sketch in a notebook – a few paragraphs that tell what he or she is like. It’s funny but I usually “know” my main characters because I’ve already based them loosely on people I know – either myself or a family member or friend. Of course the names and identities are changed to protect the innocent!
And if the reader sees a wonderful character who happens to be a beautiful, youthful, aspiring writer, we’ll all know it’s based on someone you once met … maybe at a writers’ conference somewhere … named … Elaine Stock :o). Ha! You thought I was going to say me, didn’t you?
Don’t answer that.
Does your faith affect your writing? How?
I used to want to write the next New York Times bestseller that would of course be made into a blockbuster movie and become rich and famous – you know, receive the Pulitzer Prize and an Academy Award to boot. Now, to be completely honest, that stuff would still be great. But I realize my writing needs to be about doing God’s will and serving His purpose for my life now because that’s the only way it – and I – can be truly successful. I get little hints now and then that remind me to have faith in this; at one speaking engagement to a church group a woman said after reading The Faithful One she decided to go back to church. After another on The Peace Maker, a young woman said she was married to someone like Darren Richards and wanted to know if she could call me. I believe these instances in which I help others are the true rewards and it helps me hold onto my faith in my calling even when the times get tough.
Yes! That’s what it’s all about!!!
Have you won any awards with your writing?
In addition to the Maryland Writers Association Fiction Contest first place award, I also won the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference Writer of the Year Award. I also won a Toastmasters International Speech contest at the local level. (I spoke about following my dream as an author).
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Enjoy the ride. Seriously. When I was finishing The Peace Maker, I was a tough taskmaster to myself, driving myself to finish in time for it to be published and launched before the 2012 Presidential Election so I could have good timing for press releases, etc. I realized later that was crazy. My book was timeless, based on a future election, and in pushing myself so hard, I lost the joy in writing it. This time I still have disciplined myself to finish but made sure I enjoyed writing it along the way (and enjoyed some fun with my family and friends as much as possible with all I have going on too!) It’s a tough life – juggling writing with family and a full-time job to pay the bills – but I wouldn’t choose any other calling and I hope to do it full-time one day.
Great advice, Michele. Thanks for stopping by InfiniteCharacters.com today.
Michele Chynoweth was a news reporter and advertising agency owner before becoming a published author. She has won several awards including first place in the Maryland Writers Association fiction contest. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, has a blended family of five children with her husband and lives with her family in North East, Maryland. Michele writes modern-day novels based on Old Testament stories filled with the same suspense, drama and romance found in the Bible yet written so that today’s readers can easily see themselves in the characters and understand what God is saying.
The Faithful One
Seth Jacobs has it all – a successful business, a mansion in greater Boston, a beautiful wife and three loving children. Yet, in a series of events beyond his control, Seth loses everything, including his health. Struggling to gain some understanding amidst his pain, Seth’s faith is challenged by his wife who betrays him and even his friends who suggest that perhaps God has His reasons for inflicting so much suffering upon him. Seth questions God as we all do in times of hardship, “why is all of this happening to me?” At the end of his rope, he meets a young yet wise social worker who tries to help him find the answer. A modern-day story based on the Bible’s Book of Job in which “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” The Faithful One inspires us all to have a little more faith, no matter what.
The Peace Maker
Chessa is married to US Senator Darren Richards, a behind-the-scenes, narcissistic alcoholic who becomes the leading Democratic candidate for President of the United States. Darren’s opponent, Leif Mitchell, is selected from his more humble life as a horse rancher and country rock singer to run for political office – and his charm and leadership pave the way for him to become a national hero and a real threat as the leading Republican presidential candidate. A rich and powerful Daren will stop at nothing to bring Leif down, causing Leif to reconsider his “high road” approach to politics. When Chessa finds out Leif is preparing to seek revenge on Darren in an attack that will not only destroy her husband’s candidacy but will probably cost other innocent lives as well, she is suddenly faced with a decision: Should she preserve peace at all costs, protecting those who would otherwise become collateral damage and in default, her husband – in turn sacrificing her freedom? Should she try to stop Leif, which may ruin his chances but save his soul? The Peace Maker is based on the story of David and Abigail in the Bible’s first Book of Samuel – a story of adversity, struggle, courage and faith that God will lead his people if they but let Him.
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