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Interview: Joy DeKok

It’s been said that writers must first be readers. Do you enjoy reading?

I love to read. When I was little, my mom read books to us at night, and sometimes during the day when we’d run out of steam playing. While I enjoyed the pictures, it was the words on the page that fascinated me. I’d snuggle in and listen. During one of those times, it dawned on me that the white space between the letters meant the end of one word and the beginning of another. I was four, and as mom read, I learned to read watching the words as she said them, memorizing them along the way. She tested me by giving me a book she’d never read to me before; I read it to her without a mistake. Somehow, I just got it. Reading is a priority in my life. It teaches me about life, entertains me, takes me places I may never get to go, and helps me become a better writer.

Reading for fun is also reading to learn – I don’t try to separate the two. I keep my journal nearby so I can jot down lovely lines an author has written, a thought about my own writing, or a life lesson revealed. I’m not necessarily studying each book I read, but I’m open to being taught. A few years ago, I made it so hard. I’d read a book first for fun and then again later to learn. It was rigid. Also, I lost the beauty and delight I used to get from a first-read. Now, I gently experience each book savoring the discoveries along the way. It’s a much gentler way to live. This change happened with I started reading a Kindle. I no longer highlight, although I can. I read and jot and immerse myself in the reading without all my old tools: highlighter, flags, and stickers. I still stop to read beautiful parts out loud, I love it when an author interrupts the story this way.

What genres do you read most?

I try to read 50% fiction and 50% non-fiction, but don’t always manage that. Fiction is my favorite and with all the great new authors I’m reading, it’s harder to fit the non-fiction in. I also enjoy reading poetry. We live in the country and I like to ride our John Deere Gator around our land. (We have 35 acres) One of my favorite lunches out is a trip to the bog. In my bag I take a long a book of poetry, my journal, a Bible, a peanut butter sandwich, and a bottle of water. When I read a poem or passage of Scripture that touches me, I read it again – out loud. Not the animals, birds, or bugs, but to God and for my own benefit. It’s wonderful fun to verbalize the beautiful words on the pages.

Who are your favorite authors, and what makes them special to you?

I have several new authors whose books are now on my favorites list: Julie Saffrin wrote a wonderful non-fiction book titled, BlessBack – Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life. Reading it was life-changing for me. Another non-fiction book on the top of my list is Michigan and Rookie by Barbara Marshak & Joaquin Guerrero. My brand new favorite fiction author is hands down Barbara Ellen Brink. I have all five of her books, and they are fantastic. I also enjoy Ann Voskamp, Davis Bunn, Kathi Macias, John Grisham, Kathy Herman, and Dean Koontz to name a few out of the dozens I read.

When did you decide you wanted to write?

When my mom was reading those Little Golden Books to me. I multi-tasked; I listened, watched the words and dreamed about the day I’d put my own words on paper. I used to trace the words and tape those pages together. These were my first “books.” I’d add pictures from Mom’s magazines. They messy creations, but I was doing my best to live my dream. I gave up writing for a few years and then my husband encouraged me to do what he believed I’d been born to do.

How many books have you written, and how many of them have been published?

8 are written and in print, and I have 4 more in the works. Then, there’s my idea book.

Can you tell us what you believe has had the greatest influence on your writing?

This answer has two parts – sort of.

First, it’s the dream. I tried to put it away, but the words would not leave me alone. When my husband believed in me, I didn’t anymore. That confident little four year old with the attitude that dreams are meant to come true still lived inside me, but I was determined not to listen to her. I stepped into professional writing with far more certainty in Jon than in myself.

Second is my faith. At first glance this might look out of order; like I’m putting my husband’s word ahead of God. The truth is, God not only knew writing was part of His purpose for me, He knew I would listen to Jon. I married one of the most honest people I have ever met. When Jon told me it was time to write again, in the core of my being God was speaking to me through him. I wanted to ignore them both – there was too much risk, too much rejection ahead of me. I knew I had talent, but I also knew the industry had a lot to teach me. When Jon urged me to follow my dream again, a wall around my heart fell down – much the way I picture the wall around Jericho crashing to the earth.

From that evening on, I’ve been a writer.

What genre do you usually write?

From the time I was a little girl, I wanted to write kid’s books. Growing into the profession, I wrote and had articles published. Still the dream of writing for children lingered. I bought how-to books, read hundreds of books for kids, and outlined the ones I wanted to write. Then, opportunities to write a devotional book and a novel presented themselves. I tucked the ideas for kids away, promising myself I’d return to them.

I did.

I’ve been told the best writers stick to one genre. I think that’s changing as favorite authors like James Scott Bell and Jill Elizabeth Nelson write across genres. I write non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and for kids.

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?

Although Rain Dance is not my latest book, it’s my more recent re-release. I didn’t want to write this one. I was going to write children’s books – not a novel about a woman who has an abortion and another woman who can’t have children. One is an atheist, and the other a conservative Christian. I had plans to write about a wonderful dog, three kids who learn about creation, and a raccoon rescue and release. Abortion and infertility didn’t sound like very much fun.

However, the book is making a difference, one woman at a time. I’m getting letters, emails, and phone calls from women who have found healing for their wounds. Others are contacting me to let me know the book helped them discover understanding for two women they couldn’t “get” before.

This fact stuns me every month: thousands of women are reading this book. I’m not just living a dream here – I’m living a calling. I thank God through my tears and take my husband out to supper – both are my way of celebrating this small, but significant success.

How do you get an idea for a book?

Ideas find me. I clean house, walk, ride my John Deere Gator on our land, have lunch with friends, watch a movie, hear a song, or listen to family stories. In my life, ideas are everywhere.

What one piece of advice would you give to a beginning writer?

Write what you believe the way you believe it is meant to be written. You can change it later, but work each project this way through the final draft. Stay true to your dream and the story.

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Joy started writing as a little girl. She carries a large purse so she can take her journal and an assortment of pens with her. She has eight books in publication and is working on a novel series featuring main character, Olivia Morgan. Joy is also developing a writing group called, Write Yourself Strong, for hurting women. Faith is a vital part of Joy’s life. When she was sixteen, Joy asked God to find her and He did.

3 comments on “Interview: Joy DeKok

  1. Barbara Marshak
    September 5, 2012

    Great interview, Joy! I especially enjoyed that you shared that you wanted to be a writer since you were 4 years old. How cool is that! When God puts a dream in our hearts, it’s there from Day One, isn’t it. I was quite a bit older when I started my first novel–8 years old to be exact!🙂 My journey is similar…I didn’t get the chance to start writing until I was in my 40s, and I’m so thankful I did. Trusting that “voice” opened a whole new wonderful world, one that includes the best writing friends of all.

  2. Barbara Sutton Brink
    September 5, 2012

    Loved the interview, Joy! It’s always fun to learn more about author friends. God has definitely given you a gift for writing and touching lives. I wish I’d met you in grade school. Can you imagine the critique sessions two wannabe-writer six-year-olds would have? I have got to get me one of those John Deer Gators! Sounds like you think up your best writing ideas on that:)

  3. Joy DeKok
    September 5, 2012

    Thanks friends! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate friends who “get” me!

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This entry was posted on September 3, 2012 by in Author Interviews and tagged , , .

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