A fresh new voice in the world of LDS chick-lit, Stephanie Fowers, the author of Rules of Engagement (Covenant Communications), is our Monday interview. I’m thrilled to bring her to your attention because she is truly an amazing individual. First off, which makes her near and dear to my heart, she graduated from BYU-Idaho. Here’s a little more about her from her website:
“I graduated from BYU Idaho in English and (besides the below freezing temperatures), I loved the small town atmosphere complete with garage bands and pizza joints (Go pizza bombs! That was me, not Stephanie.). Then I served an LDS mission in the Philippines. The people there are so cool. Someday I’m going to write a book about my experiences there…or even a book about their history. They have an intense past and culture that I think the world should know about. Their war heroes are amazing, and their people are so full of life. Everything about them is amazing.
“So, after my mission, I graduated from BYU with an English major and a Communications minor. I was going to go into advertising (I won enough Burger King crowns in my advertising class to encourage me), but I decided to take the writing route instead. While at BYU, I won second and third place for the Mayhew Hinckley short story contests; one was an excerpt from my Destroyer novel (the name is subject to change) and the other was from my Only a Princess novel (Yeah, I write Science Fiction too).
“I’ve had so many different jobs, anything to support my writing habit: Fast food, mowing golf courses, Mosquito Control (wading, but mostly falling into swamps to kill Mosquito larva), daycare, and accounting (my dad’s office). Now I work at an elementary school as a kindergarten bouncer; that’s what I call it. I’m also the recess supervisor, and I LOVE IT! Maybe it gets my aggression out, or maybe it’s just a power trip, or maybe it’s all the new elementary school friends I’ve been making, but I can never get enough of recess. And of course, I continue to base my writing on some of the crazy situations and people that I meet on an everyday basis.
“Now I write for Schooled Magazine and besides my many articles on the foils of single life, I write Prank Wars: a saga of pranksters that take their pranks very seriously…so seriously that they have no love lives…or any social life for that matter. It’s sorta based on my roommates and my ward (oh wait, don’t get me wrong, they do have a life), and all of the crazy pranks that we’ve done. The best part of writing Prank Wars was grabbing a ton of my friends and doing a photoshoot for Schooled Magazine. We got to dress up in tough military outfits and look really cool.”
My friends, I give you Stephanie Fowers.
1. What prompted you to become a writer?
Even before I could read, I’ve been telling stories. Whether it was talking late into the night with my sisters, laughing about school and work, or just trying to make things more exciting, I could never stay quiet. In second grade, it became my goal to get my class to laugh so hard they’d be crying. And it wasn’t too long afterwards that I won some Young Author’s awards and actually got to skip school to go to some conferences. I loved writing because it was pure escapism. I could do anything I wanted to do, be any hero, say any line, go anywhere. . .and it was a way to reach out to people. I was actually a pretty shy kid (not now so much), but if I could get someone to read my writing, I could actually connect with them. It’s been that way ever since.
2. What is your routine, on a daily basis, as far as being a parent and a writer?
Well, I’m not married or a parent yet, so that’s not too much of an issue right now. However, I work as a special ed assistant in Kindergarten, and as soon as I’m done with work, I go work-out to clear my mind and then I go home and write and write and write! Finally, that leaves me free to do whatever I want at night (meetings, FHE, or whatever). BUT, even though I don’t have any maternal responsibilities, I am still a sister and a daughter and an aunt, and so I make sure that I keep in touch and visit my family every once in awhile (even though they live pretty far away) to make sure they know I love them more than any of my books. I also steal their names for my characters (at their request) and I run manuscripts past them to get their input, depending if they’re my target audience or not.
3. What is your genre and why did you choose it?
I actually wrote science-fiction/ fantasy before I wrote LDS chic-lit. I loved fairy tales and so it’s what I naturally turned to. However, I’ve always loved romance too and like I said, I love to make people laugh. So, when I couldn’t write a sci-fi book short enough to make the publishers interested, I decided to write about my life in the form of chic lit. Okay, so ‘Rules of Engagement‘ isn’t EXACTLY my life, but it’s basically the world that I live in right now. It’s a satire of the LDS singles’ dating scene, which I know a lot about. And to be honest, we just needed some books out there where we can just laugh at ourselves, and not take ourselves so seriously. I’m tired of the drama. Besides, dating is the funnest thing you’ll never want to do again!
4. Tell me a little about the books you’ve written.
When I wrote ‘Rules of Engagement,’ I knew that since I had graduated from BYU, I needed to get a book published or concentrate on other interests in my life. The pressure was on. I decided to stay in Provo (away from concerned parents and other friends who thought I should be doing something more practical with my life), and I signed up for substitute teaching. While I waited for my first call, I wrote the book. I’ve never written a book quite at this speed before (and still can’t do it now), but it came straight from my heart and with pure urgency to succeed. The very next day after I finished my rough rough draft of ‘Rules of Engagement,’ I got a call for my first substitute job. I was definitely grateful for the help from above. It just felt good that even though it wasn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things that I succeed at writing, that at least Heavenly Father cared enough to help me with something I thought was important. Afterwards, I took my book and put it past tons of people from my single’s ward. The guys pointed out spots where they guys weren’t acting like real guys and gave me some good pointers for basketball and ultimate frisbee lingo, and the girls told me the parts that were the most romantic and told me to slash the boring parts. They even started a book club and put my manuscript on the list…even though it wasn’t even published! Eventually, I turned it in and Covenant Communications loved it. I couldn’t believe it. They were the first publisher that I sent the book to and for once I wasn’t rejected!
5. What do you have on your website and why did you choose those particular topics?
My friend helped make my website (in return for some Taco Bell), and we were crunching for time because I was writing for Schooled Magazine and they wanted to put my book on a ‘wish list’ for the Christmas issue, complete with a website referral. My friend helped me whip something up (made the background pink, which I thought was very appropriate), and he slapped some pictures on and I put the blurbs of my next books (including the children’s and sci-fi) along with an ‘about me’ section. I’ve also added some links to some newspaper articles about ‘Rules of Engagement‘ and some links to LDStorymakers and TimeWaster’s guide (two writing groups that I belong to). Check out my goofy personality at www.stephaniefowers.com
6. What advice do you give to those struggling to become published writers?
DON’T GIVE UP! It’s so easy to give up, but if this is something that you really want to do, keep working at it. Who knows? Maybe no one sees your potential, but you. Maybe everyone wants you to grow up. That definitely happens to me sometimes, but you just have to believe in yourself and work hard for your dreams to make them a reality. Even if you are in school or have work, find time to write. Even if you think you’re too young or too old, never think the odds are against you. Don’t ever believe the odds. They’re not for you.
7. Who are your favorite authors and why?
I love Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and James Herriott. I’m a music junky, and I love U2 and a lot of foofighters (ha ha, not all). As for movies, I love romantic comedies: ‘Just like Heaven,’ and action adventure: ‘Lord of the Rings,’ and comedies, ‘What about Bob,’ and dramas, ‘Life is beautiful.’ And the latest broadway musical I love right now is the Wizard of Oz spoof, ‘Wicked.’ Basically I love clever dialogue, good jokes, and thoughtful themes. Entertainment is a way for me to get lost in a completely different world for a couple of hours and come away feeling great.
8. Is it difficult to maintain your standards as a writer in today’s market? Why or why not?
I think it can be difficult if your priorities aren’t in the right place. If you want to fit in and be like everybody else, if you want the easiest gag, or if certain values aren’t a part of who you are, yeah, it could be easy to fall. That’s why you have to decide what you want now. There’s no way that I want to slap my name on something that I’ll feel ashamed about afterwards. I’ve got nieces and nephews, younger siblings, and future children to think about. I don’t want them to think that they can give in because I gave in. Besides, I seriously believe that I can make better art by being true to myself.
9. How does your faith play into your writing?
Well, if I’m not writing specifically for the LDS market, I at least have my characters show good values, even if they don’t talk about it. Sure, they have their tragic streaks, but sometimes that’s because of the disappointment they feel when they aren’t reaching their full potential. I believe that everyone has an innate desire to do good in varying degrees, and usually that’s what stories deal with anyway. You see it in ‘Les Mis,’ you see it in ‘A Tale of Two Cities,’ you see it in the ‘Count of Monte Cristo.’ Anyone who says that good literature doesn’t deal with religion had better look again. What’s ‘good verses evil’ anyway?
10. What is your funniest memory in recent years?
My funniest memories (and there are seriously so many to choose from), either come from some prank I’ve done or because I’m completely accident prone. I used to work at this place called, “Mosquito Control’ in Washington and we would wade into swamps in our thigh high boots and kill mosquito larva. I swear they kept me around for entertainment value though because I was always in some scrape or another, getting stuck in the mud, picking up a ‘poor’ convict, accidentally swallowing Golden Bear (a mosquito kill’n chemical), getting chased by cows, falling into sewage drain-offs that I didn’t know were sewage drain-offs, getting stuck to trees. Anyway so one day I was spraying this area with my work partner and suddenly we both smelled something awful. My partner thought that the farmers were cooking some weird onion breakfast and we just wrinkled our noses. But the closer I walked to her, the worse the smell got…until she realized it was me. I had been sprayed by a skunk! Well, that wasn’t so bad, we just had to get out of the swamp and I had to go take a tomato bath or something…after the other workers had a good laugh of course. So with this in mind, we climbed out of the ravine and some tough cowboy drove past us in his pick-up. He was kinda creepy in a snaky way, but he smiled at us with all the charm he could muster and suavely rolled down his window…and then suavely rolled it back up and drove away. We laughed until we cried.
Go learn more about Stephanie at www.stephaniefowers.com.