Vida: How did your writing journey start?
Mary Jane: I remember when I was just a little girl, barely able to write, I wrote a “book” about birds. I guess that was when my writing journey started. This should not have been a surprise to me since my family read to me daily as a child. I grew up with books of my own, and trips to the library, but, by choice, we didn’t own a television set. Somewhere during my love of reading, I wanted to write my own book. When I was in high school, I took a correspondence course that was supposed to teach me how to write children’s books. While I didn’t learn much from that course, I remember very clearly my answer to their question, “Why do you want to write? I answered that I wanted to write books so that I could dedicate them to my family members.
In college I loved writing scientific papers. One of the best pieces of writing advice came from one of my favorite professors. He would edit my paper rigorously, totally “rip” it up. Then I would re-write it, and, amazingly, after following his suggestions, it was a far better paper. One time, I asked him, “How do you become a better writer?” He simply answered, “Write more.” After graduation, my dreams of writing were put on hold. I had no idea what to write about. As much as I loved reading fiction, I knew that I was a non-fiction writer, but I knew nothing about how to get my work published. So, pretty much, my dreams of being a writer got put on hold.
Vida: What inspired you to write the Faith Series, and how many books will it include?
Mary Jane: When I first started teaching Sunday school, my students at that time were ten to twelve-year-old children, and my helper was Verna, a woman in her late sixties, who wanted to learn Bible stories. Since these children were a bit more mature, I could go somewhat deeper into my Bible lessons than giving them a simple Bible story, so we studied the life of King David. My goal with my Sunday school lessons was to not only make the story and characters come alive in the mind of my students, but I wanted to apply the principles of these ancient accounts to the daily lives of my students, too.
One of the things that I encouraged my students to do, outside of Sunday school, was to have their own personal, daily devotions. I encouraged them to make time where they could read a portion of Scripture and pray. All of them looked at me strangely, like I had two heads! After telling them this for two or three weeks, and still get the same stunned expression from them, an amazing thing happened. Verna took my advice and started to read the Bible for herself. She faithfully read one chapter of the Bible every day. To my knowledge, however, none of the other students did so. At least, not at that time, anyway. Perhaps, now that they are adults, some married with children of their own, they may have taken my long-ago advice.
After teaching the life of King David in my Sunday school class, and moving on to teach the Book of Esther, I realized what I did for my little class could be a benefit for many other ladies. So I decided to write them in a devotional format. The life of Joseph in the Old Testament had so many similarities to Jesus in the New Testament, so that was my third book, although I never taught that as a Sunday school lesson.
My goal for the Faith Series is to write twelve books so that there will be a book for each month of the year. Currently, my fourth book, “Abraham’s Faith,” is in the hands of my editor, and I am now writing “Jonah’s Faith.” One of the books I am planning on doing will be a Christmas-themed devotional called “Mary’s Faith.” I am not yet sure which Bible heroes will be the subjects of the other six books, but I did have a request for a devotional on the prophet Daniel.
Vida: Which are your favorite books in the Bible, do you have a favorite Scripture verse?
Mary Jane: I love the Old Testament, and, in particular, I think my favorite book of the Bible is the Book of Esther. I like mysteries, and the Book of Esther is both fascinating and mysterious.On the surface, it is a great novella with a satisfactory ending. But it is so much more, so much deeper. God has many wonderful truths hidden in that book, and I hope that with my devotional on Esther I was able to give my readers a glimpse of some of those hidden treasures, even while encouraging them to look deeper into this peculiar book of the Bible.
As for a favorite Scripture verse, I will start by saying that one of my favorite Scripture chapters is 1 Corinthians 15. This chapter is so full of victory. And my favorite verse in that chapter is verse 26 — “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Death is an enemy, and I have felt it too many times in the death of loved ones. However, I am looking toward to the time when death itself will finally, permanently be destroyed, never to hurt anyone again.
Vida: How long does it take you to write a devotion? Describe your process.
Mary Jane: Sometimes I think it takes way too long. After I decide on a particular character whose story I will write about, I collect all that the Bible has recorded about them. I then create an outline of the book based on the suggested Scriptures and break up all of the verses relating to the character into thirty segments to get a 30-day format. After that I create a template that is both similar to my other books but also a bit different. I always want to include a suggested portion of Scripture for the readers, a Bible study on the Scripture that they read, an application to our present-day life, and related Scriptures that tie all of these together. Sometimes I use a bit of fiction in order to help my readers have a fuller picture of the Biblical character. Most of my devotionals also include a suggested prayer based on the subject of that particular day.
After I have created the template and outline, I start to write. I pray about and think about each chapter until it is done. As I do my everyday work, many times I am thinking about the particular chapter that I am writing. Writing about each day, each chapter, is similar to putting a puzzle together. I work on each section separately, deciding what words go where. The most challenging part is the section where I make the practical application to present-day lives of women. This is what, I believe, is the most important part of my devotional, because I pray that my words will touch and change lives.
After my book is finished, my husband critiques and starts the editing processes. Then my uncle, who was an English teacher, reads it and suggests more edits. I make more changes. Then it goes to my final editor, who does the final editing, proofreading, and formatting. Finally, I get to do the fun stuff — get a cover designed and get it published.
Vida: If you could invite three people from the Bible over for dinner, who would you invite and why?
Mary Jane: You mean other than Martha? Definitely, Martha, because she can serve, (Hopefully, cook, too!) and I won’t have to do anything! But the three people I would love to talk with, while Martha is serving all of us, would be Eve, Solomon, and the Apostle Paul.
As a daughter of Eve, I admire this brave woman. I think all of us can identify with her because we, too, have all make wrong decisions in our lives. Although Eve messed up royalty, she didn’t give up and kill herself. She had enough faith in the God with whom she was able to talk to personally, and she went forward into a fallen world that she created to become the mother of all living. Solomon knew so much about so many things. I would love to listen to him talk about plants, animals, and hear him describe the creation and contents of his temple. I especially want to know just what was so special about his “ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD” that took away the breath of the Queen of Sheba, as mentioned in 1 Kings 10:5.
As the Apostle Paul wrote most of the New Testament, I would love to have him teach that to me.
Vida: What’s next for you as an author and when can readers expect it?
Mary Jane: I am working on two different freebies that will introduce me and my work to others. I have a free, eight-day devotional called “Naaman’s Faith,” an e-book that the reader can get here. I also have a free, printable, prayer journal in a PDF format for those who sign up for my newsletter. Readers can get the free prayer journal and keep in touch with me here. I am also working on a low-content book, a 30-day prayer journal notebook with prompts. You get the be the author! This prayer journal is decorated on every page with floral designs and Scripture verses. Included in this prayer journal notebook is a place for:
- Your personal prayer list
- Writing your prayers out to God
- Listing the things that God has provided in answer to prayer, and thanking Him for it
- Making notes about your daily Scripture reading
- Recording specific answers to your prayers
This prayer journal will be released in October. As for full, 30-day devotionals, “Jonah’s Faith” is in the final editing stages, with a planned release in January. Meanwhile, I have started writing “Daniel’s Faith.”