In this episode, Belinda Pollard, Alison Young and Donita Bundy interview Kristen M. Fraser, author of 14 Christian romance novels, including several in the Potter’s House series. Kristen talks about how she manages her writing life as a busy mother of four children, and where she finds inspiration.
Scroll down for audio, video, and a full transcript,
or subscribe to the podcast on your favourite podcast player
or on Apple Podcasts here: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/gracewriters-podcast/id1519376330
In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, writing coach, accredited editor with qualifications in theology, and Gracewriters founder
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of young adult urban fantasy
Topics covered in this episode:
- How Kristen finds plot inspiration in the struggles and successes of everyday people, including difficult topics.
- How Kristen became involved in the multi-author self-published series, The Potter’s House.
- Kristen’s thoughts on the value of Gracewriting.
Please scroll down and leave a comment.
Please use the sharing buttons at top and bottom of this post to share on social media or directly with Christian writers you know.
Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. Find us on your favourite podcast player and at Gracewriters.com.
Today on the podcast, we welcome a special guest, Christian romance writer, Kristen M. Fraser. I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and writing coach with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. Find links to my books, blogs, and courses at belindapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I live in south-east Queensland. I’m a former early childhood educator. I have four adult children and I write romance under the pen name Alison Joy. You can find my information on alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy. For the past 20 years I’ve been using my theology degree to inform my teaching and preaching and more recently, my writing and blogging. To find out more about me you can go to donitabundy.com.
Alison Joy: Well, welcome Kristen. Now, Kristen lives in south-east Queensland and she’s a mum of four, like myself. She has published 14 romance novels and takes inspiration for her writing from people’s everyday lives. Their struggles, their successes. She writes to encourage others and to share the message of hope found in Jesus.
Kristen M. Fraser: Thank you for having me.
Donita Bundy: It’s great to have you with us, Kristen. And I’m about to subject you to the rapid-fire five. Are you ready?
Kristen M. Fraser: I hope so.
Donita Bundy: Alright. Who is your target audience?
Kristen M. Fraser: So, my target audience is probably Christian women. Although I know that men have read my books and also non-Christians have read them, but mainly Christian women.
Donita Bundy: Okay. And what is your main genre?
Kristen M. Fraser: That would be Christian romance. There is an element of women’s fiction in there as well. But, yes, Christian romance is the main genre there.
Donita Bundy: Cool. When is your optimum time for writing?
Kristen M. Fraser: In the morning before everyone gets up, which doesn’t really give me much time before the day sets in. If I can get all my writing in before midday, that’s great. Any time after 8 o’clock at night I just can’t function. I also try and get snippets of my editing or plotting done when the kids are at their after-school activities. But, yes, mainly in the morning is when I’m most alert and most functional, I guess.
Donita Bundy: Cool. Where is your favourite place to write?
Kristen M. Fraser: So, a few years ago my husband bought me just an old style rolltop desk just as an encouragement gift. So, that’s become my favourite place to write. We don’t have a study or an office as such, just all the rooms are taken up by people, so the corner of our loungeroom and everyone knows that when I’m sitting at the desk not to bother me. So, that’s where I write. Yes.
Donita Bundy: Sounds perfect. And why did you get into writing?
Kristen M. Fraser: I’ve always loved writing. I was an only child and we grew up without a TV in the house, so it became like my little creative outlet, making up stories, escaping, whatever. And when I had my kids, I started blogging. Became a mummy blogger, I guess. I had postnatal depression and four kids under six and a husband that worked away from home. It became a platform for me to explore and just deal with that season of life. But I always knew that I wanted to write fiction so that kind of grew from there.
Alison Joy: So, Kristen, why romance writing and why, in particular, Christian romance?
Kristen M. Fraser: I guess romance, it’s kind of the bit about ‘write what you know’. Not that I’m an expert on the topic but I read romance novels, I read women’s fiction so it kind of drew me to that. I don’t particularly like sci-fi or fantasy so I wouldn’t be great at writing that, much to my family’s disgust because they’re all into sci-fi and fantasy! Christian romance, I think I just enjoy relationships. I enjoy seeing how people work through issues and I also wanted to show people that romance doesn’t have to be all the hot and heavy stuff and cringeworthy. That Christians can still experience, like to read all that stuff, but Christians still can enjoy romance, but it doesn’t have to be all the other stuff that a lot of secular books hold. So, I just wanted to be that difference there. And also, just write something that if my pastor’s wife picked up that she wouldn’t get a bit hot under the collar with it. So, I think that’s why I chose that genre.
Alison Joy: So, you’ve been at this a while now.
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes.
Alison Joy: 14 books. Congratulations!
Kristen M. Fraser: Thank you.
Alison Joy: I’ve just done my second so I’m a little behind you but what’s your journey been like for you so far. What have you enjoyed the most or what’s been the most challenging for you?
Kristen M. Fraser: So, I first self-published back in 2016 and then kind of had a break, life got busy. I had a bit of imposter syndrome.
Alison Joy: We all do!
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes. And then didn’t publish again until 2017. I’ve described my journey like the tortoise, just very slow and steady and plodding along. And just working also outside the home, aside from writing, has taken up a lot of time as well.
Belinda Pollard: So, you published 14 books in five years?
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes. Probably a couple more, but yes.
Belinda Pollard: Wow!
Kristen M. Fraser: But it’s self-published, it’s not traditionally published. So slow and steady. I’ve enjoyed engaging with readers. That’s been a big thing that I’ve really enjoyed, and I’ve enjoyed bringing stories together. Coming up with a story idea and seeing how God can use my words to encourage other people. And just hearing from readers has been really enjoyable so far.
Frustrating things has been, I guess, my expectations on myself and I guess when you self-publish, the marketing side of things, there’s always so many new things to learn and feeling like you need to be keeping up with everyone else. But one of the things that I’ve learnt over the time is just to try and keep focused on my own lane and where God’s got me right now rather than what everyone is doing.
And I’ve also had times where I’ve been under spiritual attack with my writing which has been really frustrating. Like I’ll have deadlines that have come up and everyone’s got sick in the house and when you’ve got four kids they all fall down like dominoes. So, you can have weeks of sickness. Just things like that. So spiritual attack has also just been quite a big thing in my writing that I’ve noticed. Yes. The slow and steady is my journey.
Belinda Pollard: It’s interesting that you feel that you’re drawing enemy fire by what you’re doing.
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes, for sure. Yes.
Belinda Pollard: And I think there’s a truth in that, Kristen, because we are invading enemy territory.
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: When we write, even just snippets of truth. As Gracewriters we all write different types of things. Some of us are writing blatantly Christian works and some of us are writing mainstream works with grace notes. I think it’s a good point that you raised. We need to be aware that this is a battle. We’ve been told that it will be. And sometimes we don’t necessarily see sitting down writing novels as part of the battle, but I think it is. Do you agree, Donita?
Donita Bundy: Absolutely. And like we talk about Gracewriters changing popular culture one word at a time, where we want to bring that change for the glory of God and, of course, that regardless is going to draw attack.
Belinda Pollard: Kristen, you’ve written some stories for the Potter’s House series. What is that all about and how did you get involved in that? I was just actually noticing that you have 60, I think it is, great reviews for one of your Potter’s House books, so tell us more.
Kristen M. Fraser: Okay. So, the Potter’s House series is like the brainchild of fellow Australian author, Juliette Duncan. So, she was inspired by Isaiah 64:8:
We are the clay, and you are the potter.
And also in Jeremiah 18:2-4 where it’s talking about the potter’s house and working with the clay. So obviously we’re the clay, Jesus is the potter. So that was the theme of the series, and the sub-theme was writing stories that promote redemption and second chances.
We had creative licence to do whatever we wanted within that theme and there were seven other authors. So, international, American and I think South African in that series. We each put out three books. So, the first series was 21 books and I think the second series we’ve just done has been 24 books or 23 books. So, we’ve done two series all writing different stories. Some authors connected their three books together. Others connected their books with stories that they had previously written outside the series. I just wrote individual books and may choose to write further series from them later on.
Belinda Pollard: So, this is a self-published series?
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: So, it’s multiple authors in a series.
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: They’re all self-publishers.
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: You all own your own work, and you all get your own royalties per book.
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes, that’s correct. Yes. I know some anthologies and things like that they split the royalties at the end, but this was all our own but under the banner of the Potter’s House. There is a third series coming up which I’m not involved in. I just needed to take a step back from that and focus on other things that I’ve got in the pipeline. But it was a good experience and also working alongside some big names in America was a bit daunting.
Belinda Pollard: That’s a massive opportunity.
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes. And just establishing some newer friendships via that experience has been great. Yes.
Belinda Pollard: I love that. That’s a great concept.
Alison Joy: How did you get on board with that? Was it something you applied for as it were, or did you get asked, or how did it all come about?
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes. Juliette Duncan is an Australian author, so she asked me if I’d be interested in doing that. And I can’t even remember when the first one went out. Maybe 2018 or 2019, I think. Back then, yes.
Belinda Pollard: Do you publish them under your own publishing imprint and your own ISBN or are they put out through a group account of some sort.
Kristen M. Fraser: So, on Amazon, the Potter’s House are just exclusive to Amazon. So, we haven’t gone wide so it’s all just on Amazon and we do the paperbacks, so they do the free ISBN’s and everything like that. So, it’s just self-published.
Belinda Pollard: Do you publish your three books in the series through your account?
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: Right. So, in this case the branding of Potter’s House?
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: That’s very creative. That’s very interesting because you’re achieving some critical mass in terms of being able to market and promote one another and promote the series.
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes. It’s been good. So, we have ourselves as the primary author and then Potter’s House is like the contributing author on Amazon and look at the page for the books.
Belinda Pollard: It’s very, very creative. That’s a great idea.
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: Because marketing is one of the hardest things. It’s like people say anyone can write a book – which is not true, incidentally – but even so it’s almost like writing the book is the easy part compared to what comes after.
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: Writing a book’s hard enough. Yes, so that’s very, very creative. I love that. Thank you. Yes.
Donita Bundy: So, Kristen, the Gracewriters slogan is, Christian writers changing popular culture, as we mentioned before. How does this challenge you?
Kristen M. Fraser: I really like that slogan because we’re all in a position as writers to influence the world around us. And just with the technology available to us now. Our books can get in front of so many people that probably wouldn’t even pick them up in a bookstore. I know I’ve had non-Christians read my books and when I’ve had a sneaky look on Goodreads and had a sneaky look at other books that they’ve read, it might be some steamy books or erotica or something and then there’s my book. And I’m like, “What’s that doing there?” but they’ve read it and I don’t know the message that that’s had for them. So, I think that’s a great opportunity for us to be able to, as Christians, to be able to write and influence culture with our words.
Belinda Pollard: That’s a great thing, isn’t it? Because if you think about it, back in the day when people could only get a Christian romance novel by going to a Christian bookstore, how many of those particular readers would have been exposed to Christian romances? That’s exiting! That makes me excited!
Donita Bundy: Kristen, how does your faith impact how and what you write? Like you were saying before some of the things that you choose to leave out but how does your faith impact that aspect of your writing?
Kristen M. Fraser: I think I have to look at my Why. Like, why I write what I do, what my purpose is and that’s just to share the hope found in Jesus. And I try not to be too preachy in my books. I try and use the situations that we all face in life. Like we’re all broken. We all deal with this stuff. And I just try and weave elements of faith through that, all pointing to Jesus. Pointing to the hope that we have in Him rather than writing out sermons or things like that.
Some of the characters that I’ve had have dealt with things like pornography or domestic violence or unwanted pregnancy, but I try and write in a way that’s sensitive but also showing the hope that we have. Yes.
Belinda Pollard: What sort of reactions do you get from your readers when you include some of those more controversial topics and themes?
Kristen M. Fraser: I’ve actually had some people tell me that I actually need to write a bit more about it and I’ve tried to be sensitive. I’ve had some people tell me that some things could not possibly have happened even though I’ve used real-life situations that have happened. So, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but overall it’s been quite positive.
Donita Bundy: Would you say most of your inspiration for these different topics comes from real-life experience or are some of them other things? Where do you draw that inspiration from for those different topics?
Kristen M. Fraser: Some of it is like real-life stuff that I’ve heard of or have experienced, or I might hear just a brief thing on the news. One of my books, I heard just a news story, this woman and her children were last seen at a train station and my brain just went, “There’s an idea for a story.” And I just ran with that. I don’t know the whole surrounds of that actual news article, but my brain just went, “Well, I could do something with that,” and that was like a domestic violence situation that I ran with. Other times it’s just my brain just overthinking things probably!
Belinda Pollard: That’s the writers gift though, isn’t it, overthinking!
Kristen M. Fraser: Overthinking.
Donita Bundy: So obviously all of these issues and topics are couched within the genre of romance but how do you decide what to put in in terms of ethics and behaviours of your character, keeping it withing that genre?
Kristen M. Fraser: So, it is a tricky one. You still want the romance. You still want a little spark there but also need to keep it PG rated so that the readers aren’t going to be offended and to still have good Christian values there. I guess I just try. I don’t really know what my answer is to that. I would feel uncomfortable writing really heavy themes, so I keep that out. In terms of the ethics or behaviour, I deal with their brokenness and just try and resolve that by the end of the story. Not that that’s how real life works because it doesn’t always work out that way. I don’t know if that’s answered your question.
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes.
Donita Bundy: So, you mentioned before that you wanted your pastor’s wife to be able to pick up and read the novel. When you write, do you keep one person in mind like you’re writing for a particular person or an audience? Is that what helps keep you making those decisions about what to put in and put out? Or do you have a wider range that you write for?
Kristen M. Fraser: I don’t particularly have any one person or a group of people in mind. I think I just try and just write. I’m not so much of a plotter in writing. I don’t sit down and have a specific person or group of people in mind, I just see where the story takes me.
Belinda Pollard: It’s interesting what you say about the writing towards a happy ending and how real life isn’t like that. I always remember one of my philosophy lecturers when I was doing my theology degree. He said, “The reason that we like happy endings in movies, books, whatever is because we were created for a happy ever after.” That made me feel a whole lot better about the fact that I really enjoy books and media and creative presentations with that happy and hopeful ending. So, go for it! You have the authority of my philosophy lecturer!
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes. I know I don’t enjoy reading books or even movies where they don’t end how you want them to. So, part of the expectations from the readers is that they do end up all tied up in a neat package. Yes.
Belinda Pollard: Very much. And you’ve got to stick with your genre expectations, haven’t you?
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes
Belinda Pollard: Any last questions for Kristen?
Alison Joy: When you finish, do you have beta readers? Do you have editor, proofreader? How does it work?
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes, so I have some editors that my book goes out to, and I also have what’s called an ARC team or Advance Reader Copy team and a proofreader. My ARC team sends back any extra things that they’ve picked up that haven’t been picked up by the editors. And then it goes and it’s published.
Alison Joy: Do you write certain word count per day or how does it work?
Kristen M. Fraser: Yes, I try to. I’ve got a monthly view calendar that I sit down and at the start of each week I try and plan out the week and the days that I can actually get some decent writing in, and I try and meet those targets. Like last week I’d aimed to get about 15,000 words in, but I didn’t because life happened! I try. I put it all on my calendar and keep track of the word count and things like that. Yes.
Alison Joy: Good. Well done you! I’m very impressed. Cover design, do you do your own or do you get someone to do it?
Kristen M. Fraser: My husband actually did a few of them a few years ago but I do have a cover designer now. The Potter’s House ones we all just had the template and went with that. We could choose our own covers and everything, but we had the template but most of my covers now I have a cover designer for.
Belinda Pollard: Thank you very much for all of that, Kristen. It was really very interesting and lots of thought-provoking things that you’ve contributed for us and for all the listeners. How about I pray for you before we finish.
Kristen M. Fraser: Okay. Thanks.
Belinda Pollard: Heavenly Father, we thank you for this opportunity to talk to Kristen and to learn from her. To learn what she has discovered and some of these very intriguing ways of operating. We thank you that you’ve provided these things for her. We pray that you will continue to bless and encourage her as she seeks to honour you through her creativity. We pray that you will open more doors and give her more opportunities and also protect her and her family as they step forward into this battle. And we also pray for all the other authors out there listening. Particularly the romance authors. We pray that you might give them that opportunity to bring some of your truth and your hope into stories that people enjoy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Alison Joy: Amen
Donita Bundy: Amen
Kristen M. Fraser: Amen.
Belinda Pollard: Kristen M. Fraser, thank you for joining us on the podcast today. Thank you also Donita Bundy and Alison Joy. I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
Continue the conversation in our free online forum. Please like and share the podcast to help other writers find us and SUBSCRIBE on your favourite podcast player. Read transcripts, join the forum, and connect with us at gracewriters.com.