New from Lisa Wingate & a giveaway

WingatecoverIt is my distinct pleasure to welcome my dear friend Lisa Wingate to the blog today to celebrate and chat about her new book, The Story Keeper. Lisa is a gifted storyteller, so believe me when I say you will want to read to the end to see how you can be in on the drawing for a signed copy of this wonderful book. Lisa’s books have held positions on many bestseller lists, both in the U.S. and internationally. She is a seven-time ACFW Carol award nominee, a Christy Award nominee, an Oklahoma Book Award finalist, a Christianity Today Book Award nominee, an Inspy Award nominee, a two-time Carol Award winner, among others. Lisa can be found on her website and also as a regular contributer to the SouthernBelleView Daily blog. And now for the chat!

Lisa, every book has something for us in the way of a lesson. “The Story Keeper” is a powerful tale. What are the lessons behind the book?

In many ways, The Story Keeper is an examination of self-identity. It’s about the many masks we wear, where those masks come from, and whether we can leave them behind and become fully authentic. So often, in rejecting the roles our childhood experiences have taught us, we only put on other masks. In the story, Jen believes she has left behind the girl who was raised in poverty in Appalachia and forced to comply with the harsh and cultish practices of the tiny Church Of The Brethren Saints. But in reality, even hundreds of miles away in New York city working her dream job as an editor, Jen’s in hiding from her past and all the painful questions of her childhood.

When she discovers the partial manuscript of The Story Keeper on her desk, she comes face-to-face with the tale of a young girl living a similar life over 100 years ago. That discovery breaches the mask. What Jen really finds in that manuscript isn’t the story of a 16-year-old Melungeon girl trapped in Appalachia at the turn of the century; it’s her own story. That’s why Jen is compelled to go back to the Blue Ridge Mountains in search of the rest of the story. She’s looking for her own truth, for the self she abandoned due to the wounds of her childhood.

The Appalachian setting becomes almost a character in the book. Why did you set the book there?WingatePisgahMtnA

Appalachia is a place where the air fairly whispers with stories. So much of the world has grown too fast paced these days, too busy for sitting and listening, too preoccupied with the future to devote effort to retelling the past. But in Appalachian culture, there’s still a reverence for it. There are still storytellers who can entertain a crowd at a ramshackle café, on a back porch or at the kitchen table over coffee. That tradition of the passing down of stories is part of The Story Keeper.

Appalachia is filled with mist and mystery. It lends mood to a story. The mountains are dotted with isolated communities where people can live differently, undisturbed by outsiders. It’s also the place where mysterious “little races” like the Melungeons lived historically, and in some cases still do. I knew that the historical tale of Sarra would have to do with her Melungeon blood and the myths, legends and prejudices that sort of heritage would bring. Even today, the heritage of “blue-eyed Indians” discovered in the Appalachians by the first English and French explorers remains a mystery. What were the origins of their Caucasian blood? Were they descendants of shipwrecked sailors? Journeying Norsemen or Turks? The progeny of the Lost Colonists who vanished from Roanoke Island without a trace, decades before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock? The mystery fascinated me, and it pulled the story from me, and yes, the place became a character in itself in the book.

This new novel tells a story within a story, as did your last novel in the series, The Prayer Box. These are my favorite kinds of stories to read – and to write! Do you find dual-time frame novels a challenge to write?

It’s always a challenge to balance dual time frames and a story within a story. It falls in the category of double-the-work and double-the-risk, but also double-the-fascination and double-the-reward. There’s twice as much research, but in doubling the research, you also discover twice as many interesting historical facts, unanswered questions, and nearly-forgotten bits of history. Those things weave new threads into the story loom. For me, the biggest challenge was balancing the two stories, ensuring that both would be fully satisfying, and that the historical story would serve a purpose in modern-day characters’ lives.

WingatePubPic2014-3So, how did you write 20 books in 12 years with a family to take care of?

I’ve always loved to write, but I didn’t get serious about freelance writing and selling until after I’d graduated college, married, and started a family. I wrote and sold various smaller projects in between naps, diapers, and playgroups. And when the boys were older, during soccer practices, in carpool lines, while helping with homework, and in all sorts of other situations.

People often ask me if I need quiet in order to write. With boys in the house, if I’d waited for quiet, the writing would never have happened. I learned to lose myself in a story amid the noise of life and I loved it that way. I asked myself what makes a story last, what really makes a story worth telling and worth reading? I wanted to write books that meant something, that explore the human soul.

One day, I came across a notebook in which I’d written some of my grandmother’s stories. I’d never known quite what to do with those stories, but I knew they were significant in my life. When I rediscovered the notebook, I had the idea of combining my grandmother’s real stories with a fictional family who is like and unlike my own family. That little germ of an idea became my first women’s fiction novel, Tending Roses.

Now that the boys are grown and the house is quiet, I’m redefining the writing routine again. Just as in books, life is a series of scenes and sequels, beginnings and endings, and new discoveries.

Can you give us a sample from the first page of the book?

This is the glory hour. This is the place the magic happens.

The thought fell quietly into place, like a photographer’s backdrop unfurling behind the subject of a portrait. Its shimmering folds caught my attention, bringing to mind a bit of advice from Wilda Culp, the person without whom I would’ve ended up somewhere completely different. Someplace tragic.

It’s strange how one person and a handful of stories can alter a life.WingateOldHomestead

The trick, Jennia Beth Gibbs, is to turn your face to the glory hours as they come. I heard it again, her deep-raspy Carolina drawl playing the unexpected music of a bygone day. The saddest thing in life is to see them only as they flit away.

They’re always a passing thing. . . .

My first afternoon in the war room at Vida House Publishing was a glory hour. I felt it, had an inexplicable knowing of it, even before George Vida shuffled in the door and took his place at the head of the table to begin the weekly pub board meeting—my first at Vida House. This meeting would be different from all other such gatherings I’d attended over the past ten years at a half-dozen companies, in a half-dozen skyscrapers, in and about Manhattan.

There was magic in the air here.

George Vida braced his hands on the table before taking his seat, his gaze strafing the room with the discernment of a leathery old goat sniffing for something to nibble on. His survey paused momentarily on the pile of aging envelopes, manuscript boxes, and rubber-band-wrapped papers at the far end of the conference room. The odd conglomeration, among so many other things, was Vida House’s claim to fame—a curiosity I’d only heard about until today. One of the few remaining actual slush piles in all of New York City, perhaps in all of publishing. In the age of e-mail communication, paper-and-print slush piles had quietly gone the way of the dinosaurs…

Delish! Readers, for a chance to win a signed copy of The Story Keeper, just leave a comment below by answering this question: Have you ever been in a place that seemed to whisper stories, like Lisa said of the Appalachians? Tell us where! Those that answer will have their names put in a hat and will draw a winner at 10 AM Pacific on Sept. 12. Good luck and I can’t wait to hear your places. Mine is Ellis Island….


Author: Susan

This post has 33 Comments

  1. Penny Abel on September 5, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    On a family vacation to The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson near Nashville, Tennessee where my mothers family is from. As we toured the Mansion and the grounds I wondered what my life would have been like back then. One of those if the walls could talk what stories would it tell. It has stuck with me for many years.

  2. Melissa Henderson on September 5, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    My Daddy passed away in 1998 and my Mama passed away in 2013. However, every place that my husband and I have moved to, I feel Daddy’s and Mama’s presence at times. I have caught the scent of Daddy and felt the touch of Mama on my arm. And then, I think of our life stories together. Those life stories/experiences are precious to me and I am able to share them with my family. 🙂

  3. Anna Weaver Hurtt on September 5, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Mexico Beach, Florida. My hubby and I have driven through this quaint little town several times and each time we do, I can see story ideas unfolding. 🙂

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  4. Linda Lines on September 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    I believe every day there are stories blowing in the wind, if we just take that moment to sit and listen.

  5. Katrina Epperson on September 5, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    I was privileged to be born and raised in eastern Kentucky which is part of the Appalachians. Yes, they are a different society. I grew up knowing all my neighbors, helping without being asked, you knew all your cousins, Sunday was sacred and so was family. After moving away I came to realize all I had taken for granted while growing up there and how much I missed it.

  6. Susan on September 5, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    I love hearing these stories! Keep ’em coming!

  7. Patricia on September 5, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    I grew up in the mountains, of western Virginia, and there are so many stories…you only have to look around…to remember.

  8. Abigail Sands on September 5, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    The backwaters and marshes of Southern Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay, are the areas that grabbed me during my childhood and wouldn’t let go. The stories and characters have churned within me for 50 years. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to publish one of them as an ebook short story on Amazon.

  9. Ellen B on September 5, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    the forests of New Hampshire National Forest – we walk through and it is so quiet – I often wonder about people long ago who also walked through

  10. PaulaCrews on September 5, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    In my grandparent’s 1880’s home

  11. Susan Wilson on September 5, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    My “place” isn’t really a physical place. I’d say that my place is when I’m doing research on my dad’s ancestors. There seems to be a mystery there and I haven’t been able to uncover it yet!

    Thanks for the opportunity to win one of Lisa’s books! You two are awesome storytellers!

  12. Barbara Taylor on September 5, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    I never traveled much, so I haven’t experienced such a story-rich area as the Appalachians. But I worked for four years in an art deco building that had served as the city library since it was built in the 1920s.My favorite times there were after hours when I felt all the stories whispering to me. I also loved my turn at working “the stacks” where all the rare books and manuscripts were kept.

  13. Bonnie Janke on September 5, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    When we visited Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Felt so familiar. Like I had been there.

  14. jill hoke on September 5, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    When I was little I visited a dock on Cape Cod where my mom grew up. My great uncle showed me a figure head of a woman looking out at the ocean, waiting for her husband to return. It was beautiful, but it made me sad, too.

  15. Lisa Harness on September 5, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    In any old house, especially abandoned ones!

  16. Jan H on September 5, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    I can’t say that I have. But I don’t have a very active imagination. But, I am a voracious reader.

  17. Janet R on September 5, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    We got to visit Germany/Switzerland about a year ago… the castles are incredible, the stuff of many stories!

  18. Susan on September 6, 2014 at 2:31 am

    What beautiful stories…

  19. KayM on September 6, 2014 at 2:31 am

    I agree with Lisa about the stories in Appalachia, for that is the culture in which I live. Though I am not a native of this area in East Tennessee, I have lived here for over 40 years. The mountains, valleys, and “hollers” have many stories to tell.

  20. bn100 on September 6, 2014 at 3:56 am

    Don’t think I have

  21. Margie Lundy on September 6, 2014 at 5:28 am

    I agree with all on the Appalachian mountains! But I also experienced it often here in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas. It’s a peaceful, slower paced area with lots of stories to share. Thanks for the opportunity and for sharing more about this book!

  22. Sandy leonard on September 6, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Would love to read this book

  23. Leanna Morris on September 6, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    The first thing that comes to my mind is being in the Smoky Mountains…and another is being in the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville. Both places seem full of “ghosts of the past” with stories to tell!

  24. amyc on September 7, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    I live in the Appalachian Mountains and just walking out my back door I just hear those stories.
    campbellamyd at gmail dot com

  25. Cindy on September 8, 2014 at 12:07 am

    My family took a cross country car trip where we roughly followed the Oregon Trail and you felt all the history of those first settlers.

  26. Sharon Mannion on September 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    The old family farm in Michigan. We’d visit there each summer and I’d enjoy the passed-down family heirlooms and hear tales about who each thing belonged to, etc. Then in the barn, sunlight would sift through the ancient oak board siding and I’d think about all those Belgian workhorses they raised, putting up silage for the cows, all the farm chores, etc. It always seemed as though all those old structures had stories just whispering out…

  27. Melissa on September 9, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Traverse City State Hospital, Traverse City Michigan

  28. Amanda G on September 12, 2014 at 1:00 am

    Alaska!! We lived there for 6 years and the glory of God was all around us.
    I’ve found that same peace and wonder here on our farm. (Central Arkansas)

  29. Susan on September 12, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    Congrats to Margie Lundy! selected you as the winner of Lisa’s book! I will be emailing you.

    Thanks to all who entered!

  30. Sonja on September 13, 2014 at 1:23 am

    I know a little town called Midway, UT and it totally speaks to me!

  31. Margie Lundy on September 13, 2014 at 1:57 am

    Yay! Thank you so much! 🙂

  32. Susan Keeper on July 5, 2016 at 5:41 am

    Hello Lisa, I may be interested to read your book The Story Keeper as this is indeed my birth name and am keen
    to keep books i enjoy with my name. I have read the The Dove Keepers and my Sisters Keeper.
    regards Susan Keeper (Australia)
    Ps> please do not publish my comment or email address as I am a very private person.

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