Today at Inklings, I’m interviewing Marlene Sullivan, author of Gaze Into Heaven, a book on near-death experiences of early Latter-Day Saints.
1. Tell us a little about Gaze Into Heaven. Why did you decide to write a book on this fascinating topic?
I didn’t set out to write a book about near-death experiences—I stumbled upon it—and it was the best accident I ever had! I was researching for my first book, Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, when I came across a couple of near-death experiences. I was fascinated and jotted down the references and put them aside, thinking I’d come back to them after I finished my book. Then I began finding truly amazing stories about angels who came to earth to comfort, inspire, or direct early latter-day Saints and ended up writing a series of three books about people who had actually seen or heard an angel.
Then I started to write Gaze Into Heaven. It was so exciting to research and find these near-death experiences. The warm feelings that enveloped me while reading them convinced me they would make a fabulous book. It’s been such a comfort knowing that life continues on in an absolutely beautiful place and that people there are happy, active, and at peace.
2. Is Gaze Into Heaven your first published book? What else have you written?
My first two nonfiction books were Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, volume one and two. These books are compilations of true stories about people in early Church history who risked their life in defense of the gospel.
My next three books are also compilations of true stories in early Church History, and are about angelic experiences. The first book is; And There Were Angels Among Them. The second book in this series is, Visits From Beyond the Veil, and the third is; By the Ministering of Angels. Researching and writing these books made me realize how much Heavenly Father loves his children and that He is completely aware of us and our lives.
I then wrote Brigham’s Boys, which tells the life stories of sixteen men who worked closely with Brigham Young as he brought the Saints across the plains and colonized the Great Basin area.
My first novel, Light on Fire Island came next and I was so happy that it became a bestseller. My second novel, Motive for Murder, will be out in June.
3. Tell us a little about how you fit writing into your schedule? Do you have a special place you like to work on your writing? (home office, hammock, etc. )
I am fortunate to be able to write full time now. In the morning, I do housework, visiting teaching, grocery shopping, yard work, etc. until about 10:30. Then I write until 12:30, taking an hour for lunch and reading. I then take a 10-15 min. power nap before writing until 7 p.m. In the afternoons, I let my two dogs take me for a walk.
I have a wonderful area to write. We remodeled our house four years ago and my writing area is in what used to be our formal dining room. I have an L-shaped desk, which gives me plenty of room. My son talked me into getting two monitors and now I could not live without them.
Outside, I have what I call my “second” office, which is our gazebo. It’s my writing oasis in the late spring, summer, and early fall. We have a large yard and lots of bushes, trees, and lawn so I’m surrounded by nature. I had my husband put up blinds on two sides of the gazebo to cut down on the glare on my laptop. I put a little fountain in one corner, and have a cushioned swing to sit on.
4. Does music help you or distract you while you are writing? If you like to listen to music while you write, what is a favorite selection?
I don’t generally listen to music as I write. However, once in a while I’ll slip in a CD, but it is something simple and soothing, like “Sounds of the Forest” or “Rain” or “Sounds of Nature.”
5. Who is your favorite author? Can you name a favorite book?
One of my favorite authors is Maeve Binchy. I just love her writing, you get really involved in her characters and just fall in love with them. There’s a goodness about her books. She writes about Ireland and its just so interesting. I just finished Minding Frankie, which is good. Glass Lake is really amazing, as is Firefly Summer. I’ve read everything she’s written.
6. How long did it take to write Gaze Into Heaven?
I’d have to guess, because as I mentioned above, it was a on again, off again sort of thing for a while. But I’d estimate it took me nine months. And I LOVED every minute!
7. How did you learn to write?
Learning how to write is an ongoing process. I started in elementary school, did more writing in junior high, and so on. I’ve spent countless hours on manuscripts that were never published, but which helped me improve my writing. I have a bookshelf full of books on writing and every weekday morning, I try to read 2-4 pages. I underline, then later, type up my notes, and save them in a master binder so I can look them over now and then.
I also try to pay attention when I read and when I like something in a book, I think about it and try to figure out why it worked and how I might be able to get it to work for me in my own writing. I also attend writer’s conferences to learn more about the craft of writing. Anyone can write—as long as they are willing to work, work, and work on it.
8. What is the funnest thing about being an author? The most frustrating thing?
The greatest thing about being an author is simply being able to sit down and write. I’m very fortunate to be able to have my husband support my “habit.” I love to write. Sometimes I want to pull out my hair, but the feeling soon passes. I just feel driven to write. Many authors will tell you the same thing—they have this deep inner desire to write. Maybe I’m an addict! So, it’s a joy to simply be able to write and when I polish and revise and am able to put things down just right, there is a real thrill and satisfaction.
I think the most frustrating thing is the first draft. It’s difficult to get the rough draft down. The first step in writing is to come up with an idea, the next step is to plot out the story line, which I enjoy. There’s a sense of satisfaction in getting a solid foundation down. But the first draft is almost torture. It seems that I can write nothing but garbage. I know you have to get something down before you can revise, so I grind my way through it. Then comes revision, which is like taking a stone and polishing it until it sparkles. I go through the manuscript between 6-12 times before I’m satisfied.
Marlene’s book can be purchased at:
as well as the physical locations for Deseret Book and Seagull Book.
Comments Off on author interview: Marlene Sullivan