Joanne Sloan, co-founder of the Southern Christian Writers Conference, has written and published her debut novel and we are here to celebrate with her!
Here's how The Widows' Tea Challenge is described on its Amazon page:
"The Widows’ Tea Challenge tells the stories of four widows who meet once a month for tea and fellowship. At the first Tea of the year, the oldest member challenges the others to do something they have always wanted to do. In the course of 13 months, each of the women embarks on a challenge. They all undergo changes and persevere amid adversities, disappointments, secrets, and sorrows. Through their faith and their friendships, they are able to encourage each other to achieve their dreams and to celebrate each other’s joys and successes."
I sat down to talk to with her recently about her new book--and the journey it took to write it:
Question: Where did the idea of your novel come from?
I was visiting my widowed mother about 8 years ago. She was telling me about some of her experiences as a widow. The idea came to me about four widows meeting together once a month for a Tea.
I was fortunate to grow up knowing many widows. The first widow I remember was my step great-grandmother. She was a proper Southern woman. I had many great-aunts whom I admired. Two come to mind. One operated a grocery store and another, a former schoolteacher, gave piano lessons. My maternal grandmother became a widow when she was in her 50s. She grieved for my grandfather for 25 years.
As I got older, my aunts became widows, then some of my first cousins, my paternal grandmother, and my mother. Among our family friends, church members, and neighbors, there were many widows I admired.
Q: What do you hope readers get from your book?
JS: I hope they enjoy reading it and find it interesting. I pray they see how their faith and friendship can help them through their own difficulties and sorrows. I hope they think about something they have always wanted to do and take on a challenge. It might be a life-changing challenge such as being a foster mother or a smaller challenge such as learning to knit or crochet.
Q: Do you have a favorite character or a particular story in the book?
JS: I love all the characters.
I especially enjoyed writing the chapter, where after their Tea, the women had a pajama party, played games, had fun, and talked about their challenges. The idea came from my mother who went to a pajama party with widows in her family. Two of my aunts were in their 90s when they attended the pajama party.
Q: What challenges did you have in writing the book?
JS: I have the bad habit of editing as I write. That really slowed me down. Also, I worked on many other writing projects while I wrote the novel. Of course, that slowed me down.
Q: What advice would you give to writers wanting to write a novel?
JS: I would come up with an idea that is something you really want to write about.
It helped me to do an informal outline of each chapter. Then I would flesh out the chapter over and over.
Prayer is important to any writing. I would pray each day before I wrote.
A writer has to persevere. As Winston Churchill said: “Never. Never. Never give up.”
Above all, be professional. As Christians, we should be the most professional of all writers.
Q: How does faith play a part in your writing in general? And how does it play into this novel?
JS: Faith is the most important factor in my non-fiction writing whether I am writing for a Christian or secular piece. Faith is the mindset, my Christian belief system, that I bring to anything I write.
In my novel, I did not want to “dumb down” the faith of my characters. The widows were all Christians, but they were real people. They had difficulties, sorrows, secrets, and obstacles they dealt with through their faith in God and also through the encouragement they received from each other.