Heather Norman Smith is a Christian fiction and devotions author. Her goal is to use the written word to entertain and encourage while illuminating the redemptive love of God. She also enjoys writing songs and singing about Jesus. Heather is a proud life-long North Carolinian and aims to present the beauty of the Tar Heel State in her fiction. Her home is just outside Winston-Salem, N.C., where she lives with her husband and their four children, and several pets.
In this interview, Heather talks with us about her latest novel, Songs for a Sunday.
FF: What inspired the story in your book?
The story started with the title. The words Songs for a Sunday popped into my head one day while I was in the shower, and I felt it was the title of a story or book I was supposed to write, so I had to work from there to figure out what the book would be about.
There are many things about the main character, Missy’s, life as a mother of four that were inspired by my own life. Her love for singing is also autobiographical.
FF: What can you tell us about the main characters in your book?
There are two main characters—one in each timeline since it’s a dual timeline story. In the present day, the main character is Melissa Robbins, a stay-at-home mother of four who lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Missy harbors jealousy toward her younger sister who is chasing her dreams as a back-up singer for a country music star in Nashville. The main character in the 1960s timeline is Annie Hall, who is Missy’s grandmother. Annie has a promising future and big plans to manage a dance studio in Winston-Salem, until her younger sister who has special needs gets pregnant, and Annie makes a big sacrifice for the sake of family.
FF: Which character surprised you the most?
I was most surprised by minor characters that had a bigger impact on the story than I expected. In the present-day story, the character is Henry, a church choir director who encourages Missy to sing again. In the 1960s story, the minor character that helped sway the plot in an unexpected way is Annie’s aunt Brenda, who lives in Georgia.
FF: Why do you think storytelling is such a powerful way to share truth?
Through story, we’re able to see examples of truth, rather than just being told what is true. My characters of course aren’t real, but the way in which they experience God’s goodness is realistic, and I think it gives people a reminder, or new hope, that they can have similar experiences in their lives.
FF: What can you tell us about your next book?
I’m about 75% finished with the manuscript for a contemporary Southern Fiction that centers around a thirty-seven-year-old man with a severe facial deformity. The character was inspired by a real person from my town, and the setting is very much based on my small town of Lewisville, North Carolina, which is right outside Winston-Salem, though I’ve given the town a different name. The tentative title of the book is ‘Something Worth Believing.’
FF: What kind of research did you do for this book?
I did quite a bit of research about Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the 1960s, especially the creation of the North Carolina School of the Arts, which was the first public arts conservatory in the country. I also researched the creation of Hanging Rock State Park. My main character’s father in the historical timeline was part of the CCC camp responsible for building the park in the 1930s. I had to learn about ballet terminology as well.
FF: What do you want readers to take away after reading your book?
I hope all my writing will call to mind Romans 8:28 for readers, even though the stories are Fiction: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I hope readers are encouraged to not let people’s perceptions define them, but rather to find their identity in Christ.
FF: What are the biggest challenges for you as an author writing in your specific genre?
I think Southern Fiction/Women’s Fiction tends to be less popular than Romance and Mystery/Suspense, and finding readers willing to take a risk on a story that’s not part of a series or that’s from an author without a huge backlist of similar books is also difficult. I’ve written two books that, aside from being “Southern Fiction” in tone, would be classified as General Fiction. Since that genre is broader in definition, it seems harder to reach readers who are looking for a very specific kind of story.
FF: What authors or books have inspired you as an author?
I was first inspired by Margaret Mitchell when I read Gone With the Wind in either seventh or eighth grade. I started reading the book to prove to myself that I could finish a 1,000-plus-page book, and I was quickly captivated by the story. As a young adult, I developed an appreciation for the storytelling style of Fannie Flagg. When I felt the pull to write a book in my late thirties, I knew I wanted to point people to Jesus through my stories, though I was not an avid reader of Christian Fiction myself at the time. Now I purposefully seek other Christian Fiction authors that will inspire me, and I’ve recently found that in reading Michelle Shocklee’s books.
FF: How has your faith or world view impacted the way you tell stories?
I think my stories are filled with hope because of the hope I have through Jesus. In every story I write, I aim to tell people about the love of God in some way.
Songs for a Sunday
Heather Norman Smith
Iron Stream Fiction
Genres: Southern Fiction
Release Date: February 7, 2023
Two sets of sisters, generations apart—can one big sister’s sacrifice teach the other about love and forgiveness?
1963: Twenty-year-old Annie dreams of managing the dance studio where she has trained since childhood and of marrying her high-society boyfriend. But when her younger sister with special needs gets pregnant, Annie is forced to set her dreams aside for the sake of family.
Present Day: Missy Robbins has always lived in her younger sister’s shadow. When given the opportunity, Missy steps out of her comfort zone as stay-at-home mom of four to prove she’s as good a singer as Erica. Missy’s new pursuit puts her on a path to self-discovery and reclaiming her discarded faith. Until she discovers her grandmother has a sixty-year-old secret.
Will Missy conceal Grandma Annie’s deception or will she be forced to reveal the hidden truth.
Buy Songs for a Sunday from the FF Store HERE!
Buy Songs for a Sunday from Amazon HERE!