Member Spotlight: Claudette Renalds

What type of writing do you do?

I write romance stories about real life issues that breathe hope, light, and possibilities into dark places. Currently, I am published through Elk Lake Publishing, Inc., a traditional publisher located in Plymouth, Massachusetts. In February 2019, the publisher launched my debut novel, By the Sea, a contemporary romance. The book is a finalist in the Selah Awards to be awarded in November 2010.

A second novel, Journey to Hope: The Legacy of a Mail-Order Bride, was released in June 2020. Though this historical romance began as a short story for one of our writer’s fellowship compilations, Legacy, my agent encouraged me to expand the story into a book. A third manuscript, Jonah’s War, is under contract and scheduled for release in early 2021. Though a stand-alone, the book continues with some of the residents of Shell Island, the setting for By the Sea.

What inspired you to begin writing?

Though reading had been a favorite pastime since childhood, the desire to write didn’t materialize until the age of sixty-seven. While helping my sister compile our mother’s biography, we discussed recent books we’d read and the need for quality Christian fiction. She had the beginnings of her own novel and encouraged me to move from reader to novice writer.

During a sermon series based on the book, The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson, our pastor challenged us to circle the goals God had placed in our hearts. As I retired person, I didn’t feel particularly inspired until I remembered my sisters challenge. Encouraged by a Life Group friend, I went home from church and wrote the first five chapters of what would become my debut novel, By the Sea.

Using the Expertise of Others:

My first story sounded great to my untrained ears, but my panzer writing style, lacked technique, expression, and pacing—I needed help. Knowing this, I researched online for writing tips and joined what is now the Capital Christian Writers’ Fellowship. After numerous critiques and workshops, I signed up for a writer’s conference in pursuit of an agent. I didn’t find the agent that weekend, but I found a traditional publisher interested in my story and a wealth of knowledge to improve my writing skills.

Since those first few paragraphs, I have been supported by a dedicated group of beta readers, individuals from my writers’ fellowship, and the wonderful editors at Elk Lake Publishing. These capable individuals provide encouragement, resources, and honest critiques. Along with hard work, I learned to appreciate the necessity of a teachable spirit—a willingness to accept constructive criticism and to learn from my mistakes. I couldn’t let pride keep me from releasing those wordy paragraphs or from engaging in numerous rewrites.

Do you have an agent?

Before my first book was published, Deb Haggerty, encouraged me to find an agent. After several rejections, The Seymour Agency assigned me a young inexperienced agent to walk me through my first contract. Before my agent could find a publisher for the historical novel, she chose to leave the profession. Since then, my publisher has allowed me to work without the benefits of an agent. I’m not opposed to an agent, but for now, I’m okay without the additional expense.

Who are your favorite authors and why?

Reading has been a favorite pastime since early childhood. In my teen years, I was introduced to my first Christian fiction writer, Grace Livingston Hill. Our church library carried most of her books, and knowing how my sister and I loved to read, the administrator saved each new release for us. As I grew older, I discovered authors like Jan Karon, Karen Kingsbury and Francine Rivers who told true stories about life and love. Being a romantic, I love to see God’s plan fulfilled through the characters. Besides, I love happy endings!

What do you find most challenging about writing?

Unlike days gone by, authors published by smaller companies are expected to engage in marketing. I had no successful experience beyond recruiting teachers for Sunday School, but I scrolled the internet for workshops and ideas. One such session suggested the importance of a website. After a little research, I secured one through Word Press. Regretfully, my website: suffers from gross neglect. Occasionally, I feel inspired to publish a blog and wait for the response. Depending on what’s trending at the time, my words usually attract minimal attention. To the contrary, posts on Facebook or Twitter seem to engage more followers.

What are you working on now?

My work in progress becomes the third book to revisit the characters of Shell Island. The story describes twin brothers who attended seminary together. After graduation, their denomination sent them to the Atlanta area to establish new churches designed to target young adults living and working in that area. Under their leadership, both churches flourish, and the brothers remain close, but something happens to one brother which drives him away from God and destroys the strong bond the brothers had enjoyed since childhood. The book addresses some of the trials facing today’s pastors, broken relationships, pre-marital sex, problems in the Middle East and the challenges of missionaries working in those countries, sex-trafficking and single parenting. Writing about such difficult subjects has presented a challenge. Regardless, I hope to finish writing Two Brothers (the title still undecided) within the next few months.

What would you like to share with other authors?

Don’t despise small beginnings. Never feel you are too old to reach for your goals, and always be willing to accept constructive criticism. Lastly, keep God in the center of your writing. Because he has given me the desire to write, I feel challenged to be the best possible representative for his kingdom. At the beginning of both published books, my first acknowledgement goes to the Holy Spirit. Without God’s inspiration and anointing, even a well-written manuscript would be worthless.

Claudette Renalds

Published Author

Claudette grew up on a dairy farm in South Georgia where reading became her favorite pastime. When she didn’t have access to a good book, her imagination took her to places she only visited in dreams. Though she worked in positions that required writing skills, she didn’t attempt her first novel until 2012. Her first book, By the Sea, a contemporary fiction, launched in February 2019, has been selected as a finalist for the Selah Awards for 2020.
Claudette makes her home in Haymarket, Virginia, with her husband, Charles. When she isn’t writing she loves spending time with her friends and family, including her six grandchildren. For the link to her books, visit her Amazon Author’s page.

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