Author of several books, Frannie Watson was born and raised in Atlanta, GA, where she still resides with her husband, Doug, and dog, Sally.
In this interview, Frannie shares about suspense and mystery, her writing process, and overcoming a potentially debilitating learning disability.
Alternate Arts: You’ve worked in education, corporations and manufacturing, and you’ve served with a mission group in France. What drew you to writing, and when did you know you had an interest in it?
Frannie: I never really thought about writing because I have a brain disability in language arts.
As I aged, I couldn’t find a job. Everybody said I had too much experience in academics and stuff. I turned to the Lord and said, “What am I supposed to do?” That’s when he started speaking to me about possibly writing and I said, “Lord, you do remember that I have never been very good in this area?”
Then I said, “Okay!” and “What?” That’s when I started the first book about codependency and addiction because they have always been an issue in my family of origin. So, that was a real natural place to go.
Alternate Arts: What timeframe was that, Frannie, when you started your first book?
Frannie: Let’s see. It was when my company moved up to Minnesota and I couldn’t go there. It’s too cold. It was the first part of 2008.
Alternate Arts: Following up on that, what convinced you to go ahead and write professionally?
Frannie: Well, finances were a big part of the issue. Writing that first self-help book, it was a real hard thing for me to transition into. I had a lot of friends who helped me, and, after it got in a place of readability, that’s when I met my editor.
Alternate Arts: Was that book published soon after you wrote it or was that a fairly involved process for you?
Frannie: It was really long. Because of my learning disability in language arts, I just wasn’t able to communicate in a way that other people could understand. When you’re writing, you’re writing to an audience that needs to understand what you’re saying. So, it went through a whole lot of transitions before it even got to my editor.
One gal in particular, a friend of my husband’s, helped me get it in a place of understandability. There’s a lot of books out there about codependency and addiction. Some are very, very heady, which is wonderful, especially if you want to understand that aspect of it. But from an emotional place of people who haven’t had a college education or maybe haven’t even finished high school, on a more emotional level of, “You can get through this. You can, with God’s help, go through this and find a way to have victory over it,” that’s who I was wanting to communicate with.
So, that’s how I went with it, and I think it was a little abnormal in regard to how people were thinking. But my husband’s friend had known me awhile. She knew how my brain worked. She was able to help me to start communicating with the general population, which is what you always have to think about as a writer, as you well know as a blogger.
Alternate Arts: Could you describe your drafting process?
Frannie: One draft after another! I started in 2008, and the book was released in (I think) May 2012. It was a long, long process, but you learn as you write things over and over again. I was really glad when it was done.
I didn’t know non-fiction was not my forte until my neighbor said, “Well, try another genre,” or “Why don’t you try fiction?” and I thought, “Yeah, that’s great!”
I always liked suspense. I wanted to offer the suspense of a good mystery thriller that didn‘t have the awful profanity and sexual things and terrible violence. So, that’s what I offered up to people, just a real good story.
Frannie: Yes, Pursued but Shielded.
Alternate Arts: And it sounds like the process of writing that book wasn’t quite as arduous to you.
Frannie: No, it was wonderful! I had the best time writing that. I mean, it was just a real honor to work with the Holy Spirit to show me how to do that and how the story would pull together.
Alternate Arts: Do you have a third book?
Frannie: Yes. When I was doing research for Pursued but Shielded, which is about a serial rapist based in Atlanta, I kept running into the topic of sex trafficking. When I finished Pursued but Shielded, it seemed like a good transition to move over to sex trafficking. I have two characters that run through all of my fictions, so I developed the female part of the duo in the sex trafficking book.
Alternate Arts: That third book, is it fiction or non-fiction?
Frannie: It’s fiction.
Alternate Arts: In your research, you learned more about sex trafficking in the Atlanta area?
Frannie: I just kept running into it with my research. Most suspense or thrillers are from the villain’s perspective. But I am a victim-driven writer. All of my books are from the perspective of the victims or people who are helping the victims.
Alternate Arts: You may have already answered this Frannie: Is there a common theme that runs through your last two books?
Frannie: Someone comes to the Lord. They might not know it’s redemptive but it sort of runs to that. If there is one theme that runs through all of my books, it’s probably that I’m working to that end and also to show people that they’re not the only folks that have hard times and can come out of it.
Alternate Arts: A couple of questions that are somewhat similar to each other. We will start with this one first: Who or what are your influences?
Frannie: I guess it’s just the leading of God or the Holy Spirit because – with the first book, you know, I had addiction and codependency issues in my family of origin. That was a natural place to go.
The reason why I chose sexual crime is yes, it’s real hard, too, but I just didn’t want another book full of killing and murder and violence. I did have a murder to start off one of my books because I had to show how awful the main villain was. But normally I try to stay away from violence.
Alternate Arts: So you avoid graphic descriptions?
Frannie: As much as I can, even with sex trafficking. I did have to go into some, but I really do try to tell the story of the people more than highlight the acts of violence themselves.
Alternate Arts: A lot of people would say by avoiding the overt graphic approach, that forces a level of creativity in how things are communicated.
Frannie: I’ve heard that. But I really think a lot of Christians who want to read thrillers or suspense works are happy that I’m not going there.
And I don’t ever shy away from how the violence has affected the characters. You have to do that. You have to talk about that. But I don’t have to highlight or glorify the actual violence of it.
Alternate Arts: And as far as now, who or what inspires you now?
Frannie: I guess once again, it’s just the inspiration from God. You know, because my background is not one that this was something I wanted to do. I really have to lean on him for how to go in the story, what’s his plan, and what’s really thrilling for me. And I guess that’s why I enjoy writing fiction.
My editor has challenged me to stay in one place in my next book, stay in one town, because I like real fast-moving books to read, and so that’s how I write. The first two novels are that way, now she’s challenged me to stay in one place, one city.
So, for the project I’m working on now, I chose a soup kitchen in Griffin. The book will be called Griffin Soup Kitchen. I go into some more detail of the characters, and the villains are not quite – in this particular work – are not as highlighted as you have to have them when you’re trying to run away from them or try to catch them.
So it has been real nice to have this particular project with the soup kitchen.
Alternate Arts: How does the pacing feel to you then?
Frannie: Well, I think what my editor wanted me to see is you still can have levels of heightened senses. You know – what’s going to happen.
It has been real interesting for me to see how God has done that. What’s great following the leading of God is that you’re writing the story, but you really don’t know where it’s going or how it’s going to come out.
So when I started writing this one on the soup kitchen, I thought I was going in one direction, but then the story moved and turned. It started highlighting that God has a plan for your life. It was amazing to go back and see how there were things, even in the things I had written before I realized that’s what was taking place, that were talking about that.
There’s a theme that runs all the way through. What’s so exciting and so cool is that he shows you how to move through stuff, but he’s putting things in, and you don’t even realize he is.
It’s just so cool because he’s the best storyteller that ever could be.
Alternate Arts: How would you describe the emotion of what that feels like?
Frannie: Complete joy and gratification. I would say both of those.
Alternate Arts: Can you share some thoughts on your actual writing process, your structure or process? For instance, where do you write? Do you write at certain times?
Frannie: Well, I think every author has a process that works best for them, and it really is totally up to the individual in how they work. I’m sort of a night person. I usually don’t even start trying to write until after lunch.
I’m a big believer in what almost all of the professionals say. Writing is my job, and so I do it every day. I have a goal of writing between 1,000 to 2,000 words a day.
Sometimes I might not feel real great, and so I might not reach 1,500 or even 1,200 words. But I do try to reach the 1,000 words.
In Snatched but Followed, the one on sex trafficking, there was a part that I needed to inform the audience of how these young girls, these 11, 12, 13, 14-year-old girls – what their stories are and so I thought, “Well, I don’t exactly know how I’m going to do that.”
I put them on a freighter to go over to Europe, and so I had to do a whole lot of research about freighters. Not the big ones that carry all the big semi-truck things that are piled up high; it’s a different kind of freighter. I had to do a whole lot of research to figure out what kind of freighter and how it would have to be structured.
I got it all the way down to exactly what I was looking for and where the girls could be and where they could be safe. So, that’s an issue of your research. You think you might have captured it but then you realize, oh, I haven’t captured this.
How I do that is, I’m still writing those 1,000 or 1,500 words a day. I keep on writing and then when I finish the research, I go back and I plug it in.
Alternate Arts: What’s your biggest challenge as a writer?
Frannie: Well, it’s just really how to connect with your audience. My writing is an obedience to the Lord to write down the story he has given me. Most folks are looking for the kinds of suspense and thrillers that are not as much victim-driven as they are criminal-driven. So it’s a very special audience of people who want to read victim-driven works. That’s the difficulty of trying to find your audience.
Alternate Arts: What’s your biggest joy?
Frannie: For somebody to come up and tell you that God really used your book in their life. There’s nothing better than that.
Alternate Arts: What do you wish people knew more about you?
Frannie: I think that as much as I read the different websites that I’m on, they sort of see what kind of person I am. I’m just like them, you know? God has called me to do this; I’m a vessel that’s really not…. it’s the blending of my story and my editor’s incredible ability and technique that makes the whole book. She makes my stories come alive, and I couldn’t do it without her.
Alternate Arts: That’s a very gracious thing to say.
Frannie: We’re a team.
Alternate Arts: If you could go back and be face to face with your younger self, how would you encourage yourself?
Frannie: Through how other people encourage me: Keep pressing forward! You can get through difficult times and not give up, even with a learning disability. It really was difficult in college and graduate school. Don’t give up. Just keep pressing forward, even if you have to do it again.
When I first got into college, my background was terrible. So the college suggested that I go back and take remedial courses in English and Math. When I started taking college English, I had to repeat it three times just to get through the first level. Like I said, I’m not an English person! But I have a great story. I have stories.
Alternate Arts: Frannie, is this the same encouragement you’ve offered to other writers?
Frannie: There’s someone that just came into our writer’s group last month. She has just graduated from high school, and yet her work is probably better than a lot of works that I’ve seen from people who have been professionally writing for a long time. It’s a gift. She’s going to succeed because she has got a gift and she loves God.
For people like me that have always struggled, maybe there’s a story that’s been burning in their heart for a long time. You just need to sit down and write it, and then ask God to show you who to get help from. Don’t ever push away what God has put in your heart to do. You’ve got to do it. He shows you. Believe him for showing you the right path to go down.
Alternate Arts: How would you describe the reward for putting it out there?
Frannie: Well, there’s a lot of consequences of putting things out there because, with the internet and everything, you’re exposed in areas that you didn’t quite think you were going to be.
The reward is in people coming back and saying, “That really helped me see God like I never had seen God before,” or “I became a Christian through reading your book,” or something like that. Those are the things that you might hear.
Our age of technology helps you do that with reviews on different websites and stuff. But you write because that’s what you were shown to write, and even if you don’t think you can, you just sit down and start doing it. The reward is in finishing it.
Alternate Arts: That’s so well said, thank you. We’re coming up to a close here. In a minute, I’m going to ask how people can learn more about you. But I was wondering if you had any other thoughts or encouragement you’d like to share?
Frannie: Editing is the purification that we as Christian writers go through. It just makes a better work. It makes you a better person. Don’t throw up your arms and say, “I don’t really want to do this anymore.” I’m in the editing process of Griffin Soup Kitchen. So I’m right there. I’m having to say that to myself.
Alternate Arts: That’s very helpful. Thank you. And spoken from experience, so that carries some weight.
If people want to learn more about you or your books, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Frannie: The Scribblers website, Scribblersweb.com. There’s a page for each author. We’re all just a whole conglomeration of genres, non-fiction and fiction. It’s great for people who want to find a good book in their interest.
You can read more about me or purchase my books by visiting my Scribblers page.
Alternate Arts: Thank you Frannie!
Frannie: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.