Up close to From a Distance

My good friend Tamera Alexander is stopping by the Edge today to talk about her new book, From a Distance.

Here’s the teaser from the back cover: “Determined to become one of the country’s premier newspaper photographers, Elizabeth Westbrook travels to the Colorado Territory to capture the grandeur of the mountains surrounding the remote town of Timber Ridge. She hopes, too, that the cool, dry air of Colorado, and its renowned hot springs, will cure the mysterious illness that threatens her career, and her life. Daniel Ranslett, a former Confederate sharpshooter, is a man shackled by his past, and he’ll do anything to protect his land and his solitude. When an outspoken Yankee photographer captures an image that appears key to solving a murder, putting herself in danger, Daniel is called upon to repay a debt. He’s a man of his word, but repaying that debt will bring secrets from his past to light.
Forced on a perilous journey together, Daniel and Elizabeth’s lives intertwine in ways neither could have imagined when first they met . . . from a distance.”

Edge: Your character Elizabeth Westbrook is a proponent of women’s rights – a suffragette and a woman aspiring to be the first photographer/journalist for the Washington Daily Chronicle. However, you chose to afflict her with a lung disorder that reminds her often of her true weakness and mortality. Where did the idea come from?
Tamera: While the dichotomy grew out of Elizabeth’s developing character, it was also a conscious choice on my part. I just didn’t know at the outset what her physical weakness would be. When I first started “getting to know” Elizabeth Westbrook, I quickly discovered she was a strong-minded woman. Not a current day feminist, per se, but she was determined to achieve her goals, wanting above all to be the woman God wanted her to be. And yet, even in that earnest and honest desire, her perspective was skewed. Part of her journey in From a Distance is learning what it means to give God her dreams, to surrender her aspirations for His.

Edge: What drew you to freed slaves and the Civil War as issues to set alongside the infant feminine movement?
Tamera: Being born and raised in Atlanta, I’ve long held an appreciation for Southern history, and for the Civil War in particular. I’ve looked forward to writing a book where I could blend the rugged backdrop of the Colorado Territory with that of the antebellum South. I’ve read numerous accounts and diaries from men and women of that era and have a deep respect and appreciation for what they endured, and for their contribution to this country’s rich and diverse heritage. Josiah’s story is truly one of mercy and grace in a person’s life. He tells Elizabeth, “Knowin’ Jesus has already sifted through what’s comin’ before it gets to me…Well, I reckon that ought to be enough.” This is not an easy lesson for anyone to learn.

Edge: Do you think this is the key to understanding why people have to endure suffering?
Tamera: I truly believe that a faith like Josiah’s has to be refined by fire, as it says in I Peter 1:7. By trials. I know that, personally, I grow closer to God in the hard times more so than the easy times. Writing Revealed (my second book) was a healing journey from sexual abuse for me that I hadn’t anticipated. But God knew. I believe that when I first created Annabelle Grayson’s secondary character in Rekindled, God knew I’d write Revealed, and He was already waiting for me in that moment a year later as I wrote Annabelle’s story, even as He was with me in that current moment when her character first “stepped onto the page.”
And something more… I believe that years ago—even as a man lured a little six-year-old girl into a bedroom and sinned against her—God was already setting into motion a plan for her healing. And that He knew I’d someday answer His call to be a writer, and that His glory would be made known through the story of a prostitute who was abused at a tender age. I never could have written Revealed, I never could have gone to those dark places in the human heart, had I not experienced such pain. And then later…such amazing joy.

Edge: Daniel, Elizabeth and Josiah all reach a point where they either choose to share or are forced to share the truth about their circumstances. How important was this to their story?
Tamera: It’s hard to take off the mask and let people see who we really are—warts and all, as the saying goes—because it makes us vulnerable. And when we’re vulnerable, we can get hurt. All over again. And who wants to intentionally open yourself to more hurt? And yet, when we’re vulnerable, we’re real. (Writing this makes me want to run grab my copy of The Velveteen Rabbit and read it all over again!) Being real, being authentic, is such an attractive quality in a person. As I get older, I see God most through these difficult times in my life, and yet my seeing Him, sensing and witnessing His presence, doesn’t always help me to understand the “why” behind something He allows. I’ve long ago surrendered the quest to figure out why God does something. Searching for the answer to a “why” has never led to a deeper faith step in my life. Choosing to trust Him despite not knowing the reason why something happened, choosing to trust (in the words of Job) “though He slay me”….does.

Cool. Tamera is a finalist for this year’s Christy Awards (for Remembered), and the winners will be announced this coming weekend in Orlando. I’ll be there to cheer on many good friends who are among the ranks of finalists this year.

So, if I am late in posting on Friday, you’ll know why. But I have something very exciting to share with you so I sure hope the hotel room has wireless. . .

See you then. . .

Author: Susan

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