CKN Christian Publishing is pleased to welcome L. L. Ward and her All Roads Lead Home series! L.L. Ward has a deep love for her Savior, Jesus, and has a burning desire to share the interesting ways He heals the broken. Ward lives in Oklahoma with dogs, cats, turtles, squirrels and writes books.
CKN Christian Publishing: I know you began writing the series because you missed your brother, but how did you come up with the whole plot?
L. L. Ward: Honestly, it began showing itself in the second book. I know that sounds crazy. Who writes a book without knowing where it’s going? All I can tell you is by the time I reached about the third to almost fourth chapter I began understanding these folks had a tremendous tale to tell. It was then I started questioning myself if I had the ability inside me to do it. And give them all they deserved. The best I could and can do is hang on for the ride.
CKN: When you went back to finish the story, 17 years later, did you start off finishing the original plot or did things change drastically over that time span?
Ward: Not at that time.** I had to reread it again to acquaint myself with it. But I picked it up from there and went with it. Surprisingly to me, especially at that point in my life, because I was a very broken person, I completed not only the last half of Book One but wrote almost two-thirds of Book Two. It just poured out of me. Afterward, I understood God used it to begin healing my brokenness. And I found that an incredibly cool thing. That sounds lame. But I am truly in awe of Him and His loving, gentle ways.
**When I wrote the first part of Book One, which was only three chapters, my mom and dad were alive, and chapter three – as it is now – did not exist. In ’05, that and chapters four and five came three years after their deaths. And then it went on a shelf again. God sent me on a long journey in a wild direction for several years. I picked it back up six years later in 2011 after another devastating blow left me wondering what was going on and if I could or cared to continue this thing called life. Want to hear something interesting? Less than six months later, after finishing Book One and two-thirds of Book Two, a tumor presented in my low abdomen the size of a golf ball. I sought medical help and awaited surgery for what they deemed a cancerous tumor. In three weeks it was the size of a football. The rapid growth was confirmation. If the surgeon’s bedside testimony of his astonishment that it stayed intact for him to remove it wasn’t enough, the staph infection eight days later that went systemic from my internal stitches did it for him. He said I shouldn’t have lived through it and I had to have received help from somewhere. I don’t know if he was a Believer. I think he might’ve become one. It was during that time I had a serious discussion with God. I had the choice to go home or complete what I am to do here. You can see the choice I made that day in my recliner in my living room, six years ago in August.
CKN: Do you know how/why your mom chose the “All Roads Lead Home” title originally?
Ward: How I do not know. After Mom read what was the first three chapters at the time, and I asked her what title came to her, I watched as she briefly thought and simply answered, “All Roads Lead Home.” (I still remember seeing her head cocked to the side, pondering.) I asked her why. She said, “that’s what came to me.” That settled it for me. I can tell you I considered changing it over the years. Every time I was stopped, so I thought nothing more of it. Later, I’ve had three people separately tell me I should change it. You know how you know something, but you don’t know the why? This – “All Roads Lead Home” remaining the series title – is one of those things for me. I finally decided about a year ago it may have something to do with our road to our ultimate home. And then I heard a few preachers say, “All roads don’t lead home.” I began questioning it, my theory of the title, and why it had to remain. Until a few months ago. God just simply said to me one day, “It is true only one road leads home. But just as you have traveled many roads to get to the one you are on, so are many others like you.” That settled it for me.
CKN: Do your characters come to you whole or in bits and pieces?
Ward: I’d have to say bits and pieces. Funny thing, I usually hear and see their names first. Like they introduce themselves. And then I find out who they are in the stories, what their strengths, weaknesses, and their hang-ups are, as well as what their motivations are with the others. I don’t usually see what they look like until farther down the road with them. I’ve found I don’t like everything about people I’ve met in life. No matter how phenomenal they are or not. Such as it is with these folks. I will say that I’ve learned to find the good, something good, in everyone – fictional or non-fictional – no matter how much some will act like a stinker. Because I see that as something positive to build upon and use for a foundation. I’ve met a lot of folks in my travels. And I use little things I remember here and there to help a character along in showing who they are.
CKN: Are you ever surprised with where the characters take you?
Ward: All the time. All the time. And that is the very thing that keeps me interested. I am not a person given to sticking with something like this; not something that is so all-consuming as a novel. Let alone a twenty-one-novel series.
CKN: Do you plan to write anything besides the ARLH series?
Ward: I have one that keeps surfacing from time to time about a young adult raised in the isolated mountains of Oklahoma. After all her family is gone, she ventures outside her primitive, yet, sustaining life she has ever known. Yes, believe it or not, we do have some mountains in Oklahoma. I’m hoping she will have her story told. And I have written another novel. A mystery set in 1978 Oklahoma, which involves the previous ten years of the story.
CKN: Is this series intended for Christians or those who have yet to find the Lord?
Ward: Most definitely both. ARLH is also intended for those who do know Jesus and struggle with the world we live in while maintaining a relationship with Him. We beat ourselves up way too much. We beat each other up too much. All too often we use the Bible in doing it. That’s not what it’s for – Good News is supposed to be just that; Good News. The Gospel of Jesus is the best news I ever heard.
CKN: What are you currently reading?
Ward: Well, this may sound like the standard Christian answer, but it’s the Bible. I am a desperate person. And I need the Holy Spirit’s influence and guidance while I’m here in this body. I’ve been down many roads. Time is running out. I cannot afford any more rabbit trails. No offense to any other authors. I just know how I’m wired. Finally, that is.
CKN: What’s your writing process like?
Ward: Hmm. I think this answer could tie in to my last one. I go about my day, and if I hear this series inside me, I know it’s time to get the laptop out. Sometimes I sense the Holy Spirit nudge me in a direction. And I may not feel anything in the physical sense verifying that, yeah, it’s time to write, but when I do get after it, well, it has a funny way of flowing out. I can tell you every time I’ve purposed myself, telling myself I should write and go to do just that… nothing flows. Or I write a bunch of pages I end up doing nothing with, so I learned to wait. And that’s something God has had to help me a lot with because I’m a “let’s get this show on the road” kind of person. I don’t outline. I tried that. It only left me confusing myself. I will say that I have countless junk mail envelopes that have names, short paragraphs, long ones, and thoughts scribbled on them. I had that begin happening in the first book. I’d gather them, try organizing the scraps the way I thought they should go. Sometimes that worked. Often, I am surprised that I’m wrong there. If there is anything closely resembling an outline, it might be that I learned to enter the content of my junk mail envelopes inside the chapters I’m working on at the time. I capitalize and bold them with asterisks and then expound upon them. And I usually work between two-three chapters that way. I suppose you could look at it like I’m a dyslexic quilter.
Overall, I do have one ritual, when I’m writing a first draft – any writing for that matter. I do my daily routine early, taking care of what I need to, and then I spend time with God. After that, I listen to teachings on the Word where He has me at that given time while exercising and then walking on the treadmill. After that, I go out in my backyard with my dogs, cat, and laptop. And then I let what’s speaking inside come out of my fingers. Amazing breaks happen when squirrels get my dogs’ attention. I have to tell them to knock it off and leave them alone, or when I see one squirrel (I call them all Charlie) stealthily running along the top of my fence back to their nests in the tree after stealing one of my tomatoes from the vines. Then one of my turtles walk by, pass under my chair, and pause to say ‘hey’ as they resume their travels. I can’t think of a better life. I’m so grateful God never let me go or gave up on me so that I can partake of it. He never gives up on any of us.
CKN: What advice would you give to someone who has a story but no motivation to write it?
Ward: Spend time with your story. It might take a lot of time. No matter what you’re doing throughout your day, ponder your story when you can. The more you allow your story, the characters, to unfold uninhibited inside the theater of your mind – your imagination – the characters and what they have to say will carry you. When you see that happening, don’t just jump in and start writing beginning to end. Allow your characters to do their job. See yourself as the spectator, the reporter. Take it easy and enjoy the journey.