Talking To the Dead

A few months back I was asked read Canadian writer Bonnie Grove’s debut novel, Talking To the Dead. The evocative title and its beckoning cover convinced me to say yes. I am so glad I did. I was blown away by Bonnie’s stellar yet subtle storytelling. She paints a stunning, picture of a grieving, betrayed widow whose sorrow leads her to imagine she hears the voice of her dead husband.. And never fear. It’s not creepy. It’s tender, raw and completely believable, and Bonnie’s writing style draws you in from the first line.I asked Bonnie to stop by the Edge today to talk about her new book. And I have a copy to give away. If you post a comment, you are in the drawing to win it. I’d post a comment if I were you!

Edgewise: Where did the idea for Talking to the Dead come from?

Bonnie: My inspiration for Talking to the Dead is difficult to nail down. The novel came in bits and pieces – I’d love to say I was so smart and savvy I had it all planned out, but that’s simply not what happened. In part, the story came out of my experiences as a counselor, sitting with people who were attempting to articulate their pain and distress. It occurred to me that many of the things these people were doing (the behaviors I saw) were often an attempt to accomplish something very different that what they were doing – in other words, behavior didn’t match intentions. It caused me to truly see why Jesus commanded us not to judge others. We simply don’t know what’s going on under the surface.

The second inspiration for the novel came from watching how God was always present in the messy lives of these people who were hurting. He mingles with our humanity. And that is the story I wanted to tell; God in the midst of our messy lives.

Edgewise: Kate’s pain, grief and sense of betrayal seem real, which is of course your novel’s main strength – among many! How did you tap into that kind of emotional nightmare?

Bonnie: Thank you, Susan. I drew from different sources – those of the people I’ve counseled (not their actual experiences, of course, but their descriptions of grief, loss, etc). It has been a privilege to sit with these people in the midst of their pain. Also, I’ve lived a fairly messy life myself. I didn’t mean to – but I’ve experienced some significant losses and betrayals in my time, and I’ve discovered the costly grace of God is there, always, chasing me down and drawing me closer to the One who knows me.

But, before you picture me sobbing at my keyboard, reliving the pain of my past, let me say it wasn’t like that. I don’t believe God called me to write in order to rip open old wounds – rather, I believe that God has allowed me to write in order to bring healing, hope, and humor.

Edgewise: What did you learn about grief while you were writing it?

Bonnie: Grief is a shifting thing. It doesn’t come all at once. This is a good thing; if it did it would crush us. And over time, our grief changes. I dislike sayings such as “In time you’ll get over it,” or “you need to get on with your life.” What I prefer is to speak of grief in ways that accept the “new normal” of loss. And I often speak to people about asking God to come into the center of grief and bear it with us. There is a scene in Talking to the Dead that communicates that sentiment (I won’t give it away!), the idea that God weeps with those who weep.

I was also reminded that God truly is healer – it just may not look like the kind of healing we would expect.

Edgewise: Did Kate ever surprise you? Did the storyline progress like you originally planned?

Bonnie: Kate surprised me often in small and big ways. Once, as I was writing a scene between her and another character (Maggie), I was picturing the scene in my head and Kate turned to me and said, “This is boring.” She was absolutely correct. It was boring! I asked her what she’d rather do instead, and was stunned by what she decided. Her version of the scene made the book – mine went into the dustbin!

As I wrote, I thought I was certain what Kate’s main issues were, but one day, as I was writing Kate sat down and had a talk with me. She had a secret – and now that the book was nearly done, she was ready to share it with me. I can’t tell you what that secret was – I don’t want to spoil the book for you! – but it changed the book a great deal.

Edgewise: Why do you think a story like this needs to be told?

Bonnie: It’s good to be reminded of some of the reasons why God tells us not to judge people. We simply don’t know what’s really going on within them – we can’t tell by looking. That’s one reason for a story like this.

But the main reason I think it needs to be told is because God is real, and He loves us. All of us, without exception. It isn’t about being ‘good enough’ or ‘worthy’. It’s ‘just cuz’ love – that kind that never changes, never dims, never pulls the rug out from under us. God isn’t waiting for us to say the correct words in the right order, or to organize our lives in tidy compartments. He’s just waiting for us to look toward Him and ask, “Who are you?”

Edgewise: What’s next on the horizon for you?

Bonnie: I’m finishing work on another novel. No title yet – I’ve been affectionately referring to it as Gabby Wells, the Musical! It’s all the drama, fun, and intrigue of a musical without the singing. Or dancing. Or music. The kernel of the idea came from a question I asked myself; what would it look like to follow Jesus no matter what? So my protagonist, Gabby Wells, has been thrust into a daunting situation to find out. It will be out (with a title!) next June. And the pot is stirring for another book that will explore the themes of good and evil, love and obsession.

Thanks so much, Susan, for having me on your blog. I’ve enjoyed it!

Edgewise: Thanks for stopping by!

Here’s the link to Bonnie’s very cool website where you can find a video trailer for Talking To The Dead. And please let me hear from you by noon Friday if you’d like to win the book, ‘cause I am heading out of town and the Edge is going quiet next week.

See you Friday.

Author: Susan

This post has 22 Comments

  1. Debra Ullrick on June 15, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Excellent interview. This book sounds so good–different, which is refreshing. Besides, I've heard fabulous things about it.

    Please add my name to the drawing.

    Thank you.

    christianromancewriter at gmail dot com

    Debra Ullrick

  2. Wendy on June 15, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I love some of Bonnie's responses, “He mingles with our humanity.” “God has allowed me to write in order to bring healing, hope and humor.” “Grief is a shifting thing.” Excellent. Great interview and count me in. Sounds like a book I'd enjoy reading.

    I like to write stories that reveal our humanity as well.
    ~ Wendy

  3. carla stewart on June 15, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    I've heard wonderful things about Bonnie's debut book. Would love to be on the list to win this! Great interview.

  4. Linda W. on June 15, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Yes, I've heard many good reviews of this book. Please enter me in the drawing.
    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

  5. Anonymous on June 15, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    I loved this interview and the author, Bonnie, sounded so soothing and wonderful. I would LOVE to win this book, but if I don't, I am buying it!!!!!

    Thanks for doing such a stellar job asking the poignant questions.

    Gayla Collins

  6. Becky C. on June 15, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    I would love to win and read this book!

    Please enter me in the contest.

    Thank you,

    Becky C.


  7. Janet on June 15, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Put me down for the book drawing. I've been chasing it all over the Net, but so far no luck. ;o)

    Yesterday was Library Day at church. They set up tables with books they'd like to add to the church library and invite us to purchase them.

    I bought The Shape of Mercy, which means I get first crack at it once it's catalogued. :o)

  8. Carly Kendall on June 15, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    I would love to win a copy of this book. I have seen it in the bookstores and it looks wonderful. Please enter my name in the drawing. Thank you.

  9. Carly Kendall on June 15, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    I forgot to leave my email address, sorry 🙂

  10. Nicole on June 15, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    I'm game.

  11. Bonnie Grove on June 15, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Debra: Thanks so much! Good luck in the draw!

    Wendy: Bless you! So kind of you to say. Good luck to you!

    Carla: Glad to hear you've heard good things! Good luck!

    Linda: Yeah! Maybe you've been talking to Carla? Kidding! Good luck!

    Gayla: Hurray! If you win it you can just ask all your friends to buy it! 🙂 Good luck to you!

    Becky: Good luck!

    Janet: Fancy meeting you here! You've got to win sometime, right? Good luck!! 🙂

    Carly: Thanks so much. Good luck! (That is a lot of luck, eh?)

    Nicole: Good luck to you too! 🙂

  12. Brittanie on June 15, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Hi Susan
    Enter me into the contest please. This looks like a very interesting novel. 🙂
    treewaterduchess (at) yahoo (dot) com

  13. Mocha with Linda on June 16, 2009 at 12:57 am

    I'm intrigued!

    And it made me snicker and remember my chat with you at the Expo at the part in the interview where the character “told” the author that the scene was boring and had her change it! That's priceless!

  14. peachykath on June 16, 2009 at 4:00 am

    This book sounds really interesting and intriging. Please enter me in the book drawing.


  15. Lindsey on June 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Wow, after reading this interview I know I'll definitely have to read this. Please enter me in the drawing! 🙂

    ladyufshalott at

  16. Cheryl on June 16, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful book! Please enter me in the contest! My email addrss is shryackmom[@]charter[.]net

  17. Carole on June 17, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    I definitely want to read Bonnie's book, as it sounds different and is the type I enjoy. Thank you so much for the giveaway.

    cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

  18. Patty on June 18, 2009 at 3:12 am

    The title scares me at first, but as I read about the book I am more intrigued and it just draws me into the concept so much that I want to read it.


  19. LauraLee Shaw on June 18, 2009 at 4:03 am

    Okay, THIS sounds totally amazing. I'm completely and utterly intrigued. THANK YOU for sharing this book and interview.

  20. Mary Classen on June 19, 2009 at 2:45 am

    Your conversation really makes me want to read this book. Grief is such a personal trip. I like it that grief is not something that is defined, but experienced.

  21. Rannza on June 19, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Thank you Susan and Bonnie for a fascinating interview.

    Please enter me in the book drawing- I've heard so much about Talking to the Dead that I can't wait to read it and haven't seen it for sale here in South Africa yet.

    Thank you

    Ruth Dell
    ruthdell [at]

  22. Susan Meissner on June 19, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Thanks to ALL who entered! Patty L is the winner!

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