Not too many people can boast about having had their work published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Nancy Panko can! On top of that, Nancy is the author of the soon-to-be-released Guiding Missal, a novel which centers on the relationship between three generations of military men and a spirited prayer book. Interested in learning more about Guiding Missal? Stick around. Nancy has lots of interesting information to share with us today!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in the dining room of a farm house in central New York State, but lived most of my life in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. My husband and I moved to Fuquay Varina, N.C. to be closer to our children almost 10 years ago and love it here.
I’ve always been a crafty person and love to make jewelry or sew unusual things.
I’m a retired pediatric nurse, now a writer.
I started my education at the State University of New York at Alfred, but dropped out after a year. Seventeen years later, I enrolled at Lock Haven University to challenge myself with the hardest things I could take to see if I could hack nursing school. I got all A’s and B’s and it was off to nursing school. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done, but the most worthwhile and I graduated in 1982 having made Dean’s List repeatedly. As nurses, we do a lot of writing and it has to be understandable. Nurses must be good communicators, it gave me an excellent foundation in my straight forward style of writing.
In our leisure time, we love to spend time on our pontoon boat. Actually being on, in, or around the water is our favorite thing to do. I get a great sense of satisfaction in piloting the boat for the fisher people with a good book on my lap. When we reach “the spot,” the fresh air, water and quiet (until someone gets a fish on) makes for good reading.
2. When did you start writing?
I started writing professionally in 2012. We had gone on a cruise with good friends and I was telling them about a patient I’d taken care of in ICU. That patient changed my life. He wasn’t expected to live, but live he did, and he and I experienced a journey of healing. When I was done telling the story, everyone was dabbing their eyes and my friend said “That story needs to be shared. You must write that story!” She would know, as Ellen Edwards Kennedy is a writer of a lovely cozy mystery series. So, I wrote the story and “Journey of Healing” was first published in Christian Women’s Voice in California. I submitted it to Chicken Soup for the Soul and Guidepost Magazine and they both published it in different years with different titles.
That story was followed by six more stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul and two more in Guidepost.
3. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for Guiding Missal?
The idea for my novel, Guiding Missal hit me in 1994.
4. How different is the final product (the book) from your original vision?
The manuscript evolved from a short story to a full length novel over time and the characters became more three dimensional. The structure of the book changed from a three part book to stories and characters flowing along a time line. As I grew as an author, the book became better and better. It has taken about 8 years to write this story, with many stops and starts because life got in the way. About a year of that time was research because it needed to be historically correct. I did lots of personal interviews and I had men in their 80’s sharing stories in their letters about their experiences in WWII.
5. How did you arrive at your book’s title?
The title “Guiding Missal” came about during a brain storming session with friends. We knew that the prayer book was the omniscient narrator of the story and that it was carried by all three generations of military men. The Holy Spirit within the pages of the missal (another term for prayer book) guided and protected each man. At first it was Guided Missal until one of my readers pointed out that it was the missal that was doing the Guiding. Necessarily, it became Guiding Missal.
6. Does your story have a moral?
The overall theme or moral to this story is that with faith, gratitude and love, God can perform miracles even on the battlefield.
7. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
The most fun character to develop and write is that of the omniscient missal which tells and is a character in the story. I believe he’s male, God fearing, faithful but humble.
8. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Guiding Missal.
My protagonist in Guiding Missal is: Omniscient, reverent, feisty and funny.
9. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
A typical writing session for me is totally quiet at my computer in my home office. I like the mornings and early afternoons. At times when I feel overcome with ideas and a story line, I will write in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t set word count goals, but rather time goals and, with that, the word count comes.
10. How do you feel about outlines?
I don’t typically start an outline, but rather write in scenes and establish a direction. Later on I go back and fill in the details.
11. What is your favorite book genre?
My favorite genre is a mystery, second favorite is a historical novel and then a good love story. I write a lot of non-fiction for Chicken Soup and Guideposts, things that have happened to me or my family, but my novel, although based on actual events, is fiction because of the character of the missal.
I enjoy reading Ellen Edwards Kennedy’s cozy mysteries. She has a wonderful way with the English language and a great sense of humor and her books are “flinch free.” I just finished Situation Room by Jack Mars. I love anything by the late Vince Flynn, Michael Connelly and I enjoyed A Higher Call by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander. The Help by Kathryn Stockett is one of my favs. I can’t forget Wayne Stinnett’s series, enjoyed every one.
12. What is your favorite book?
Asking, “what’s your favorite book?” is liking asking who’s my favorite child. There are so many over the years. Different styles of writing, different genres, complex characters. I truly enjoyed everything James Michener wrote, he was a master of detail. I loved Stieg Larsson’s series about the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I loved Water for Elephants and Heaven is for Real.
13. Any project in the works?
The current project is getting Guiding Missal to the public and making everyone aware of how incredibly special this book is.
14. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
A story is ‘good’ if it makes me laugh, cry or feel some emotion. I’m always sad to have a good story end. If it leaves me wanting more, it’s a hit!
15. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Keep on honing your craft. Start by writing short stories, make them gripping, touching or exciting in some way. Get your feet on the ground and just keep moving forward.
And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
2. Dogs or cats?
Dogs, especially black labs
3. Summer or winter?
Summer, more boat time
4. Cake or ice-cream?
5. Car or motorcycle?
6. Ebook or physical book?
7. Living in the city or living in the country?
Living in the country
8. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
9. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
To the past
10. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
11. To find true love or to win the lottery?
Find true love
12. Reading or writing?
Writing, for sure!
13. To never read another book or to never watch another film?
Never to watch another film
14. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
Coffee, don’t take away my chocolate!