It's the second Wednesday of the month. That means it's time for another page in our "Author Behind the Story" series! This marks Interview #4 of the series. I hope everyone has enjoyed this series so far as much as I have. It's fun getting to know new people. It's even more fun getting to know the authors behind the titles I see on Amazon, Facebook, and elsewhere. A book title and cover is great, especially when it's a great cover. But who is the person who wrote the pages in between? That's why we're here! So, when you finish reading this page, you can scroll down and catch the rest of the series!
This month, we welcome - to the blog "Where imagination meets eternity" (drum roll, please...) - Penny Shane Richards!
Give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Penny Richards?
Among a few other things, I’ve worked as an interior decorator, store clerk, short-order cook, caterer, B&B owner, and florist’s helper. I love my God, my small town, learning new things, forensics, and anything creative. I believe in all the old-fashioned values of hard work, respecting people and property, fairness and honesty.
Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?
I was in high school, had always been a voracious reader, wrote poetry and liked to draw.
What educational background do you have?
I finished my first year of high school in Illinois, and then my family moved to Hot Springs, AR, my sophomore year, where I graduated. I had no desire to go to college, plus, back then, mostly the smart/or rich kids went. I had the grades, but I would have hated it. I was extremely shy back in those days. My high school offered something called Diversified Occupation, and you could take several different things for very little money. I thought I wanted to be a nurse, but my grandmother was horrified and said, “I’ll pay for beauty school if you take that.” I said, “Okay!” LOL So I went to beauty school my junior and senior years in the afternoons and a month in the summer. It’s come in handy through the years.
I also finished a two-year long correspondence course from Chicago School of Interior Decoration when my kiddos were small. Very intense, but I could work at my own pace. I’ve used that a lot through the years, since my husband and I flipped mobile homes and houses before it was the going “thing.”
I’m also a Master Gardener.
Ugh. Gardening. Lawn Work. Landscaping. Those are all four-letter words to me. I know some people love it. They say, "Oh, it's my therapy working in the garden or the yard." After I work in my yard, I need therapy. Physical. Psychological. Spiritual. The gamut. So, my hat's off to you if your a Master Gardener. Now, next question. I'm going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us in one sentence why it is your favorite:
Favorite Food: Country cooking, though I don’t turn down much of anything.
Favorite Drink: Sweet tea. I may be Northern born, but am a Southerner through and through.
Favorite Song: “Poeme” by Giovanni. It is so beautiful it makes me cry when I hear it.
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): DEVIL IN A WHITE CITY
Favorite Bible Verse: In His favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Psalms 30:5
Favorite Movie: ROB ROY. It is the story of an honorable man and shows what true love is.
Favorite Novel (other than your own): THE MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH. It’s rich in historical information, has a very different, complicated heroine, mystery and story line.
Favorite Novelist (other than you): Ariana Franklin. Author of the above book.
Favorite Sport: Baseball or golf. I had grandsons who played both.
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): St. Louis Cardinals, baseball
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: English
Favorite Subject Now: History
Favorite Teacher in School: All of my English teachers.
Favorite Time of the Year: Autumn. I like the colors, and the fact that the earth is getting ready to rest for a time.
Favorite Place to Vacation: A lake somewhere. I’m not a fan of the ocean, hot sun, or rugged, rocky mountains. I like green, and shade and lakes and creeks so clear you can see the bottom.
If you had one person you could meet (think outside the Bible here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be?
That’s a hard one. Margaret Thatcher?
If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?
Mary, the mother of Jesus. I’d like to know what He was like as a child.
Besides the usual things authors face, has there been an unusual event that changed your perspective about being an author?
Trying to keep my career going while also helping my husband with his business. We were always self-employed, and I worked side by side with him most of the time. Also, trying to balance my work and family. I didn’t always do the best job with that.
What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?
This was VERY scary to me. In 1991, my agent contacted me and said he had a client who had started a mainstream novel about a woman trying to break through the glass ceiling in big business. This man was a world renowned seventy-something scientist/businessman (helped develop the intercontinental ballistic missile, TRW to name a couple of his accomplishments) who wrote non-fiction books related to his work. Would I be interested in working with him since he had no idea how to write fiction? Uh, yeah! At that time, my mainstream novel about horse racing had won the Reader’s Choice Award for Best Single Title. So, we read each other’s work to see if we thought we would be compatible. He flew me to Los Angeles for four days, and we worked together, plotting and working out the kinks. This was HUGE for me, since I am a fraidy cat when it comes to doing something like that. I don’t think I left my room unless it was to have breakfast with him. The work was a true collaboration. He provided all the business/technical/ “insider” type of information to me on cassette tape, and I transcribed what I needed and did the actual writing.
We spent six months getting about 140 pages and a synopsis ready. It was sent to various houses, but unfortunately our agent got very ill, was out of the office for almost half a year and the agent handling his clients didn’t do us a very good job. Meeting and working with Dr. Simon Ramo (shameless name dropping) was one of the highlights of my career and my life. I could call him at any time and get put right through…unless he was talking to Bush the first which he did every day during the Gulf War. My brush with true fame.
Why do you live where you live?
I live in a small Arkansas town of less than 300 people and LOVE it! I don’t like cities and traffic and hustle and bustle. I can leave my UPS packages at the local printers to pick up. People know you by name. This place is very supportive and has some wonderful people.
We know “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.” Is there a book you’ve read in the past five years or so that has helped you become a better you? If so, which one was it, and how did it affect your life?
My son gave me a copy of JESUS CALLING by Sarah Young almost five years ago. There is nothing in it that I don’t know as a Christian, but it helps remind me of certain things, and it’s relevant every year, no matter what’s going on in my life. There are days it is so on target that I sometimes think God shuffles the devotionals so I’ll read a certain one just when I need it! I can’t tell you how many I’ve bought the book and given to others.
No subdivisions! Trees, trees, trees! A little land is good. I’m not too picky, because I can see the potential in any wreck of a house and love working on them.
When you look for a new car, what are the things that are important to you?
Nothing new. Dave Ramsay made a believer out of me. As long as it looks reasonably okay, has four wheels, air and heat, I’m good to go. I’m not one who is after status in home, car, clothes, etc. I’m just simple, plain old me.
When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you?
I like to read almost anything, including non-fiction. I love reading Medieval historical mysteries, and psychological thrillers. I’ll pick up a genre I don’t normally read if it’s recommended.
Are you married? Single? Have kids?
I’m a widow for more than 4 years now. My husband and I were married 50 ½ years. I’m the mother of two boys (both of whom are grandparents now) and one daughter (ditto), grandmother of nine, and great grandmother of 3 ornery, precious little boys, 4, 7 and 9.
I’m sorry for your loss, Penny. I'm sure the Bible has helped you over the years deal with your loss. What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?
“My grace is sufficient to you.”
This line seemed to be spoken in my mind at a time I was going through a very difficult time. I was having a lot of trouble forgiving someone who had hurt me and mine badly. I cried almost all the time, and didn’t sleep. When I heard those words in my head out of the blue, my world seemed to shift back into place and I was able to forgive and move on.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?
Even after writing and selling more than 40 books, I’m still very insecure about my work and worry that it will fall short. As a dear friend of mine once said, “the book in my head is never what comes out on the page.”
I like that because I can relate. You always feel like it could be better, too. Well, Penny, it's been a pleasure having you on my blog site. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and give us a picture of the person behind the many titles you have produced so far. Take care, and may God continue to bless your writing!
Dear Reader, if you want to get to know Penny more, you can visit her here:
Facebook: Penny Richards, Author, Lilly Long
Until next time, God Bless you, and may you Bless God!