PJ Gover has written several novels and is a long-time Bible teacher and writes devotionals which offer a message of hope for practical Christian living. Among other accomplishments she writes a column in the mystery, suspense, thriller genre at Almost an Author website.
A ranch in East Texas serves as home base for PJ and her husband where she is currently working on her next novel, a suspense set in west Texas.
Q: Taking a quick glance at your website at pjgover.com (under reconstruction), it sounds like your writing journey is in full swing.
Tell us more about your journey and when your love of writing began?
A: When I was 8 or 9, I wrote my first thriller, involving spies and international espionage. It was six pages long, but gave me a taste of things to come! Unfortunately, I put aside writing for years, but continued a life-long relationship with the genre through books, movies, and TV shows.
Decades later, I’m back in the thick of writing what I love – mystery, suspense, thriller.
In the interim, I wrote and taught biblically-based lessons and curriculum, and as a natural extension, I wrote devotionals for family and friends. 4 Home hired me to write a one-year devotional book, Celebrate Thee Date, to accompany their inspirational gift line. It’s for purchase at http://4Homestore.com
But even after years of writing, I never viewed myself as “a writer,” a label preserved for those who wrote and published actual books. Or so I thought.
Three years ago, I jumped into writing inspirational fiction and finally felt like a “real” writer. Always a voracious reader, but I knew nothing about crafting a novel. Each genre actually follows a loose formula. I enrolled in an online course and read every “how to” on novel-writing. Six months before I finished my first manuscript, I signed up for a writing conference, forcing me to actually complete the novel. I entered their contest for unpublished works, and placed a thrilling second. My first writing recognition! I completed the manuscript on a Friday before the start of the conference and pitched it the following Monday. A month later, I signed with a literary agent. Although I’m not published yet, I keep writing – hopefully improving my craft with each manuscript.
I recently completed my third suspense/thriller, and plotting the fourth. You, too, can survive high school English and the ugly passive voice!
Q: You write a wonderful column on the website, Almost an Author in the mystery/suspense genre. Tell us more.
A: Thank you. It’s an honor to be a columnist for one of the top 100 writing websites. Almost an Author allows me to enjoy the occasional foray into nonfiction writing. Hopefully, it’s an encouragement to those who create mystery, suspense, and thrillers.
Q: Give us a glimpse into your characters, plot, or story idea for your fourth novel. What have you found is the most challenging part of creating your characters and putting your novels together?
A: My characters, setting, and even plot reflect my personal experiences growing up along the Texas/Mexico border. The idea of ordinary women overcoming extraordinary circumstances informs my novels and pushes the plots to satisfying conclusions.
Hours of research and making sure to include all the necessary elements for an outstanding story challenges me. I’d rather just write! I’ve found I’m an ‘outliner’ rather than a seat-of-the-pants’ writer. With my current WIP, I’m plotting each chapter before writing.
Q: Nowadays the world of writing can get overly complicated. It’s not just about the writing anymore. Building a platform and marketing are key elements for writer’s wanting to be published. Which part of the writing life fills you with dread? Is it all the social media responsibilities or do you struggle with the rewrites, editing, or research? Maybe you love it all?
A: You’re right. It’s no longer just about the writing. Building name recognition and marketing are key, but they’re learned skills. I’m not tech savvy and need all the help I can get. Either find someone to guide you or put in the time to learn the ins and outs.
Always maintain a professional presence on social media and no burning bridges. You can’t retrieve a good reputation from the ashes, and many will not give you a second chance.
The hard part of writing for me is coming up with original ideas out of nothing but personal experience and creativity. My little blonde brain hurts sometimes! But I love editing. I want to ‘wash, rinse, repeat,’ and make my story shine. I love finding the perfect word or turn-of-phrase and bringing out strong emotions in my readers. I love folding in surprises and keeping my readers guessing.
Q: Have you always lived in Texas? And what do you love about it? Has living on a ranch in Texas influenced your writing or your characters in any way? How has your faith influenced your work, your characters, and the themes of your novels?
A: I am proud of my third-generation Texas roots. I feel more like a city girl going country most days, but ranch life has shown up in all four of my novels. I’m most familiar with the environment of Texas skies and wide-open spaces. I can more readily translate this setting onto the written page versus a strictly urban environment.
Because of my faith and background as a Bible teacher, writing inspirational fiction was an easy decision. Too much in the world claws our hearts and rips our security, but God offers hope. Glorifying God and edifying the body of Christ is part of my personal mission statement and works its way into my stories. My last novel explores the theme of family and personal identity in Christ which I’ve threaded throughout a thrilling suspense. The first literary agent I ever met told me Christian writers should write either as a calling from Him or as an offering to Him. I’ve experienced both.
Q: Can you share a tip or two for budding novelists?
A: Learn the craft. Take in-person or online courses to improve your writing and story-telling skills. Read books in your genre and books on the art of writing. Know basic grammar and sentence structure. Build name recognition. Enter writing contests. Many are offered for unpublished manuscripts. The author receives valuable feedback, and if you place, another credential.
Don’t give up. Novel-writing is hard work. Getting published is even harder, but if you love it, it will be a labor of love.
PJ Gover Awards
2020 Semi-Finalist ACFW Genesis, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
2019, 2020 Finalist ACFW Virginia Crown
2018, 2019 Winner ACFW First Impressions, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
2019 Winner Write-to-Publish, Thriller/Mystery Suspense
2019 Double Semi-Finalist ACFW Genesis, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
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