Interview by Cheryl Johnston
Debora Coty’s passion is sharing with women of all ages her offbeat blend of humor and hope.
And as a result of her nine-year writing journey the Seffner wife, mother and new grandmother now enjoys recognition as a humorist, columnist, speaker, writing workshop instructor and award-winning author of over 120 internationally published articles, twelve inspirational books and a contributor to numerous anthologies. Her book Too Blessed to Be Stressed recently received the 2012 Mom’s Choice award.
The native Floridian taught piano for 20 years and for more than three decades she has also helped countless people through her orthopedic occupational therapy work.
Readers and aspiring writers will find her encouragement in bookstores and online at www.DeboraCoty.com.
Focus: Please tell us a little about yourself, Debbie.
Having grown up in the piney woods of north Florida, moving to Tampa to attend the University of South Florida in the mid-‘70s was the big time for me. The first day on campus I met Chuck, and we married three years later. After transferring to the University of Florida and earning my Occupational Therapy degree, we moved to Seffner, where we’ve been nestled happily now for 34 years.
Focus: Can you share a background on your writing journey?
Writing a book like Catherine Marshall’s Christy (I read it 9 times as a teen) was my girlhood dream. That dream got back-burnered as real life intervened and I pursued a science career, married, and then raised two children and an ark full of critters (Don’t ever let anyone tell you rodents were meant to be pets!). Then, one day while sitting in a dentist’s office at age 45, with my youngest chick about to fly the coop, I realized something was missing in my life. There was something I was supposed to be doing … but what? I had no clue.
Right there in that waiting room, I prayed, asking Papa God to show me what He had for me yet to do. Then I picked up a magazine and randomly flipped the page to a writing contest ad. The light bulb popped on inside my head.
Nearly nine years later, I’ve been completely flabbergasted by the twists Papa has orchestrated in my destiny, with over 120 articles published in international magazines, newspapers and trade journals, a monthly newspaper column, and book #12 debuting in February. Who’d a thunk it? Eph 3:20 has become my life verse: “To Him who is able to do EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY BEYOND all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to HIM be the glory … forever and ever. Amen!” (Emphasis mine)
Focus: How supportive is your family of your writing career?
I truly couldn’t have done it without them. My husband Chuck, the long-suffering tech guy who keeps me plugged into cyberworld (a must for today’s authors), oversees my website, maintains my blogs, updates contact lists (my e-newsletter now reaches 3,000 homes) and rescues me from all the computer messes I create.
The fodder for much of my material comes from crazy everyday life and my own family experiences (like those in Mom NEEDS Chocolate). They are also quite patient with me during those marathon writing sessions when my office door is barricaded, calls remain unreturned, housework ignored, and dinner nowhere in sight. Better than patient, really … Chuck takes over and makes sure our dog Fenway and I are watered, fed, and bathed at least once a week.
Focus: Tell us about your blog, website and the Grace Notes column?
In addition to guest-posting on other blogs and writing the “Grace Notes” column for Christian Voice, I maintain two blogs of my own: 1) “Deb’s Blog of Wit and Near-wisdom: Living Life in the Crazy Lane” and 2) Grit for the Oyster- I’m especially excited that this writing craft blog, based on my book, Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers, has won two Reader Views awards. Both blogs are accessible through www.DeboraCoty.com where readers can also sign up for my monthly newsletter.
Focus: Do you have a writing room and a writing regimen?
Yes, both. The day after my son left for college, his bedroom became my office where photos of family adventures and wonderful memories cover walls and bookshelves. Terrific little notes, clippings, and personally motivating comics also surround the computer desk. It’s a happy place!
I’m a ridiculously early riser (5 a.m., sometimes even 4), so I usually attack the keyboard by six and write 3-4 hours or until I have to be somewhere. Like most writers these days, I never quit my day job as an occupational therapist treating orthopedic hand injuries (although I did have to work less as book contracts appeared). Other days I hightail it to a court and stoke my tennis junkie habit in two tennis leagues.
I’m a huge advocate of afternoon happy naps … probably because I had the audacity to ask Papa God for more hours in the day. Instead He sent me menopause. Now I have the whole stinking night, too! (Be careful what you pray for!) Whenever possible, I lay down to recharge for an hour or two (one is essential, two is bliss). My family is very supportive, too, because if I miss my nappy, ain’t nobody happy. “Smiles to Go Before I Sleep” is a chapter on rest in my Too Blessed to Be Stressed book.
Anyhow, I try to get 2-3 more hours of writing in by early evening … that is, unless I’m working against deadline, and then I hole up in my writing cave as long as necessary.
Focus: How difficult is it to have your book published and to accomplish the necessary promotion?
Getting someone to actually read your material can be difficult. Publishing house editors and agents are swamped with deserving manuscripts, so enticing them to look at yours long enough to consider publication takes persistence and panache. And lots of prayer.
Once your book is out, it competes for the eyeballs of the public with thousands of others fresh off the press. With self-publishing becoming even more popular, those numbers are increasing. Yours must somehow stand out and sell.
Focus: How much time do you invest into writing, promoting and communicating?
For me, novels take longer to write than non-fiction (The Distant Shore – two years writing; another finding a publisher). Each of the three in my current “Take On Life” non-fiction series for Barbour Books has taken about 6 months.
To seriously promote each book requires at least 3-4 months, beginning a month before its release. In addition to the publishing house publicist who handles the book releases, I retain a professional freelance publicist because I want a little more individualized attention so my books will make the biggest splash possible. My private publicist, Amy Lathrop of Liftfuse Publicity Group, is an online specialist who focuses the bulk of publicity/marketing in cyberworld, which has proved extremely beneficial with my last four books.
Most authors find they can accomplish little else except promotion during the three to four months following book release when they’re traveling for events, speaking to groups, and conducting online or in person radio/TV interviews. You love it, but it’s also exhausting.
Focus: What topics can we expect in the not too distant future?
I’m really excited about Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate, which releases early February (subtitled: Wit and Wisdom for Sidestepping Life’s Worries). Couched in my unique blend of humor and hope, readers will find great practical tips for conquering everyday fears (financial, health, relationships, loss, pain, the unknown, the what-ifs, etc).
Each chapter also contains small group discussion questions (“More Pluck, Less Chicken”) and enlightening conclusions from a survey I conducted of 500 random women. I’ll bet the 10 biggest fears women struggle with most will surprise you as much as they did me!
My next project will be a devotional-style book about the unconditionally loving, smiling aspect of Papa God. It’s surprising how many people see Him as a harsh, judgmental dictator who stares down from heaven with his big stick, waiting for us to mess up so He can bust us upside the head. It’s a totally different perspective to see Him as Abba (Hebrew term in the Bible which translates as the intimate form of “Father”) or in modern terms as “Daddy” or “Papa”. The Smiling Christ was actually my agent’s idea.
Focus: What made you decide to tap into the chocolate theme?
Hey, write what you know, right? I’m a choco-athlete, the step beyond chocoholic. I exercise so I can eat more chocolate. And I’m not alone! I’ve met plenty of others who also cherish the 3 G’s: God, Godiva, and girlfriends.
Focus: Have reader reviews, letters or comments impacted you in a profound way?
What I enjoy most about writing for women and meeting my readers are the heart-bonds we develop in joining hands and wading through life together.
I feel privileged to have received quite a few letters from readers that bless my socks off and reduce me to tears. Honestly, there is nothing – nothing – as soul-fulfilling as knowing that Papa God has used you as His tool for touching the heart and changing the life of someone for His glory.
Focus: So, what advice would you offer to aspiring writers?
1. Do your homework; don’t submit anything that hasn’t been thoroughly edited and polished to a gleam.
2. Learn your craft and keep learning; attend writing conferences/retreats; read trade journals like Writers’ Digest and Writers’ Journal; and join a faith-based critique group like the Brandon branch of American Christian Writers (I’ve been part of this wonderful group for five years. Google “Brandon Christian Writers” and join us the fourth Thursday monthly!).
3. If the Lord has called you to a ministry in print, trust Him even while you’re bogged down in that seemingly endless wasteland every writer encounters called waiting: Literary Limboland … Publication Purgatory …The Manuscript Netherworld. Remember, God is faithful, and if He wills it, He fulfills it. Against all odds.