My good friend Mary DeMuth has just released her critically acclaimed debut novel, Watching the Tree Limbs onto the Kindle format. I’ve been getting my out-of-print novels onto Kindle as well, and I can say I am thankful to have a place for books like these to find new readers. (My Blue Heart Blessed made it to e-book form just last month) I thought we’d catch up with Mary today on what was transpired in her writing life since Watching the Tree Limbs made its inaugural appearance.
Here’s the story in a nutshell: Amid the red dirt and pecan trees of East Texas, nine-year-old Mara struggles to find her way through a painful and mysterious family situation. Who were her parents? Is her aunt Elma really her aunt-and does Elma really have a tumor? What will happen to her if her aunt dies? The pain in Mara’s life multiplies when she meets General, the teenage neighbor who repeatedly abuses her, threatening her life if she tells anyone. DeMuth captures the horrific situation-from Mara’s inability to keep her body from shaking to her determination to watch the tree limbs to keep her mind off of what is going on-while providing hope of redemption and healing.
EDGE: What has been the most amazing thing that has happened because Watching the Tree Limbs is out there in the world?
MARY: It’s been heartening to see lives changed as a result, mostly folks realizing that they were no longer alone. And seeing Mara walk through a semblance of healing and rescue helped them see their abuse in a new light, I think. Plus Tree Limbs was my very first novel to be published, so it opened up doors for me to write The Defiance series which is also very dear to my heart.
EDGE: What has been the most challenging thing? MARY: I felt far more exposed when I published Tree Limbs than most any other book (with the exception of Thin Places, my memoir). After the first draft, my editor said I didn’t allow the main character, Mara, to have emotions as a little girl while chaos and pain swirled around her. The problem was, when I was young, I wasn’t allowed the luxury or emotions either. So I had to assign the emotions to my character I hadn’t been allowed to show. Quite cathartic, actually.
EDGE: Do you feel the same way about these characters that you did when you first wrote it?
MARY: I have a distance from them now, but I still really love Denim the radio man so much. He is flawed but a hero.
EDGE: How did writing this book influence or affect the novels you wrote after it? MARY: I overwrote Tree Limbs (too much description, too much flower), so I didn’t (thankfully) take that into my next novels, but I did take with me my narrative voice, my love for flawed characters, and difficult subject matters.
EDGE: Tell us about the new cover for the e-book version. MARY: My friend George at Tekeme Studios designed it for me. The girl is actually my youngest daughter that I took from above in a tree. I worried a bit about having my daughter as a model, but she was happy to do it, and I believe she did a great job of looking haunted.
Watching the Tree Limbs as an e-book is a great buy at just $2.99. It was nominated for the Christy Award in 2007 in the category of First Novel and Publishers Weekly says it’s a “thoughtful, powerful reflection on a difficult topic and… a compelling story.”
Highly recommended, Edglings! Hope you have a great week. See you Friday. . .
Today I welcome to the Edge the dearest of friends, Mary DeMuth, so that we can chat about her new novel, The Muir House. Mary is a gift to me; she is a master wordsmith, wise about so many things, and truly loves God with all her heart. It is always a pleasure to welcome her here. Her latest work of fiction, The Muir House, is set in her current hometown, Rockwall, Texas, and centers around a house and woman with memories hidden inside it. (Stay tuned! Giveaway details at the end of the post!) The main character, Willa, returns to Rockwall, Texas, after turning down a marriage proposal to a great guy. Something in her past prevents her from being able to say yes and she is compelled tofind out what it is. She journeys to Muir House Bed and Breakfast, a former funeral home. From the publisher’s description: “But the old place holds her empty memory close to itself. Willa’s mother utters unintelligible clues from her deathbed, and the caretaker of the house keeps coveted answers carefully protected. Throw in an old flame, and Willa careens farther away from ever knowing the truth. Set in a growing suburb of Texas, The Muir House explores trauma, healing, love new and old, and the life-changing choices people make to keep their reputations intact.”
Edgewise: Where does the name Muir House come from? Mary: From my brain. Actually I did a little research on the word “wall” and found Muir to be a variation of that. Le mur is a French word, meaning The Wall. There is a house redecoration metaphor throughout the book, and Willa, the main character, has many internal walls guarding her heart.
Edgewise: Very good advice, that. What does Willa want and how did you discover how to give it to her? Mary: She wants to be whole, but she’s pretty confused and needy. I took the journey with her, and found that the steady love of some surprising people in her life helped her find wholeness.
Edgewise: Steady love always moves us into restoration, doesn’t it? What did you learn about yourself in writing Muir House? Mary: Actually, that I love a good love story.
Edgewise: Ditto, sister!! Did you learn anything new about God? Mary: He is very, very, very patient with humanity.
Edgewise: Double ditto. What was it like using the city you are living in as your setting? Mary: It was a blast. Just yesterday I walked around the downtown square and gave the book to several merchants. I love my town, so this was my way of giving back.
Edgewise: Did any of these characters surprise you? Mary: Blake, Willa’s other love interest, had a lot of surprises up his sleeves.
Edgewise: I love it when a character knows how to make good use of his sleeves. Is there a common thread between Muir House, a stand-alone, and your two trilogies? Mary: Yes, I always seem to write a mystery with some suspense built in, and I tend to focus on outcasts, so those elements are certainly there. The setting continues to be southern.
Edgewise: I love it that you have a heart for the outcast. My oldest son is like that. And it’s very Jesus of you. That was what people in Jesus’ day understood the least about him; that he offered grace to people like the promiscuous Samaritan woman, the hated tax collector, a demon-possessed prostitute, a Roman centurion. What was it like writing a stand-alone story? Mary: Liberating. Joyful. Fun.
Edgewise: Tres magnifique! I do believe that’s French for “Awesome!”What’s next on the horizon for you? Mary: I need a vacation! I think I need to come to San Diego to Cher Meissner and look for hidden treasures at the beach. In terms of writing, I’ll be writing a nonfiction book that might just kick my behind. And I’ll continue to promote The Muir House (Link: http://amzn.to/lQUf0x ) and my first ebook, The 11 Secrets of Getting Published (link: http://bit.ly/jvgGsi)
Edgewise: I am going to wash the guest towels in preparation for your visit!! And yes, you and I both know God likes to use the beach, that sandy, steady place that is touched by the temporary every morning and later afternoon. You never know what the tide will bring you!
And lovely reader, you can be the lucky recipient of a copy of The Muir House! Just include a comment here or on the Facebook page where this post appears! A random winner will be drawn at 9 a.m. Pacific on Wednesday, July 20!!
I know what conventional wisdom says is the oldest profession in the world, but I simply don’t agree. I think storytellers have that spot, and I think history will back me up on that. Before there was paper and ink, or even commerce routes and trading posts, there were stories.
Oral tradition is as old as hunting and gathering. We’ve been endowed by our storytelling Creator to respond to Story as an art form that transcends art. Story is more than just “Once upon a time, something happened, and they lived happily ever after.” Story allows us to interpret life; record-keeping just observes it. Story lets us pass on what we learn to the next generation. And so on, and so on. It’s the “something happened” part that is the heart of story, not the “Once upon a time” part.
A few months from now I will join other storytellers (novelists like me: Mary DeMuth, Jenny B Jones, Nicole Seitz, and Lisa Wingate) at a Proverbs 31 SheSpeaks pre-conference offering to help women of faith and influence hone their storytelling skills. I can’t wait to get there. Story is the heart of communication. We haven’t all had the same experiences in life, but we can all imagine the same experience and learn from it if there is a storyteller to guide us.
I’ve asked Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon, the engineers behind this pre-conference storytelling track, to join me here on Edgewise to chat about this very thing. Marybeth and Ariel are gifted novelists as well as part of the conference design team and founders of the SheReads component of P31.
EDGEWISE: You both are devotees (as I am) of the power of Story to communicate truth. I am often asked why that it is so. Why do you think Story speaks to us in a different way that mere exposition?
MARYBETH: In some cases I think story can tell a less imposing, more clear explanation of a topic than non-fiction. I once read a quote that basically said that truth coming from our characters’ mouths is so much more powerful than truth coming from our (the writers) mouths. And I think that’s true. To witness a character going through the full range of a story is so compelling– we are drawn to the journey with them. I have heard people say “Oh I don’t read fiction. It’s a waste of my time.” That makes me sad for them. They are missing the power of a well-told story.
ARIEL: There is an old Jewish saying that goes, “What is truer than truth? The story.” I think the power behind story comes from the fact that it is disarming. It sneaks up on you and then lingers. Because stories are so emotional, we take ownership of them.
EDGEWISE: Does the nonfiction author need to know the anatomy of a great story? How come?
MARYBETH: I think that whether we’re writing fiction, nonfiction or speaking, we’re obligated to tell our stories in a way that is compelling and engaging. When we know the proper elements we can make it more so. Do they have to? No. But their writing will be more powerful when they do.
ARIEL: I think that anyone who communicates for a living needs to understand the anatomy of a story. To grow an idea from beginning to end, there are a minimum of seven steps: Weakness/Need, Desire, Opponent, Plan, Battle, Self-Revelation, and New Equilibrium. Even thirty-second commercials follow this structure. Whether you tell the story in front of an audience, in a novel, or a work of non-fiction these steps don’t change. We often hit them without even realizing it but when used intentionally, they become the storytellers’ most powerful tool.
EDGEWISE: What has Story taught you about life and life’s purpose?
MARYBETH: I want my life to tell a great story – one full of tension that includes overcoming obstacles. And yet the obstacles and tension are the very things I shy away from. Learning about the elements of a great story has made me realize that my full and complete “character arc” can’t be accomplished if all the elements are not there. It’s made me see that God’s writing a great story through my life and I need to just go with the flow of my personal story and not resist out of fear.
ARIEL:Story has taught me that “the middle” is the hardest part of life. I know where I came from and I know where I’ll end up, but it’s right here – in the tension of now – that things are hardest. All I can do is slow down and enjoy the story.
EDGEWISE: What prompted you to include this component into the SheSpeaks experience?
MARYBETH: As fiction writers, we see what power story brings to any audience. If you go hear a speaker, you will often come away unable to repeat the three points that speaker made, but you will almost always be able to repeat the story they told. I believe our brains are hard-wired to connect through story. Jesus knew this because He is our Creator. He made use of it and we want to more effectively as well.
ARIEL: I think the one thing we fail to tell aspiring writers is that there is a huge difference between Writing and Story. They are different art forms and we must master them both. We wanted to offer a storytelling track at She Speaks specifically to explore the art of Story – what you say, not how you say it. Writers conferences abound. Storytelling conferences? Not so much.
EDGEWISE: What are you hoping women who attend this pre-conference treat will come away with?
MARYBETH: Inspiration and encouragement to pursue their unique writing/speaking calling. We have gathered the best fiction writers to impart the strongest teaching and make this time worth their valuable time.
ARIEL: Story is the shortest distance to the human heart. I’d love to see these women moved and inspired not only to become better storytellers, but to live a better story.
EDGEWISE: Thanks, gals, for stopping by. Dear reader, the first 50 spots at this pre-conference track were filled before it was even fully advertised. An instant waiting list prompted organizers to get a bigger room and expand the enrollment capabilities to 100 but those spots are expected to fill fast. If you have a speaking or writing ministry and are wondering which conference to go to this year, may I recommend SheSpeaks? It’s a great conference, and not just because the value of Story is known there! The dates are July 22-24. All the info is on the p31 website. Hope to see you in North Carolina this summer.
All through my growing up years, my busy parents (my mother, especially) made sure we all sat down together for the meal known as dinner (that’s West Coast for supper). I didn’t think it was an odd thing to have that meal with my parents and my two sisters, all in our usual places, nor that we used that time to talk about our day, life in general and to laugh and play silly word games. But as I grew up, and then continued that practice with my own kids, I learned family meal time around one table is not the norm anymore for many, many families. I kept coming across families whose practice at meal times was to eat when you could, perhaps with one or two other family members around you, and the TV might be on or someone might be reading a magazine or newspaper while a couple others ate. The meal was just that. And only that. A time to eat. For me, it had always been so much more than that. I didn’t fully appreciate how important that family connection time around the table was until my kids grew up and I realized we still have really great lines of communication. I like to think it was because we connected around the dinner table, night after night after night. The food was incidental, though it seemed at the time that it was the only reason we were all there at the same time. That’s why I can’t say enough great things about my friend Mary DeMuth’s new book called 150 Quick Questions to Get Your Kids Talking. She carefully lays out, in a very quick read, why the Table invites intimate conversation and why conversational parents are parents whose children grow up trusting them and staying in communication. She includes fascinating conversation-starters that go way beyond “So how was your day?” (Not a bad question, but it invites a one word response, not dialogue). Take a look at some of these questions:
Why do some people tease others?
What is one thing you wish you had this year that would make it the best one ever?
If we had extra money this year, how would you like us to spend it?
If you could have anyone over for dinner, who would it be?
Why are some people poor and some rich?
If you could be amazing at any sport, what would it be and why?
How would your best friend describe you?
Do you think Hollywood stars are happy?
These are just a handful of the discussion starters in Mary’s book. There are categories of questions including questions that help your children explore their aspirations, their fears, their philosophies on life – and believe it or not, even a five-year-old has a philosophy on life. If the idea of a family meal together with no TV, no texting, no newspapers scares you, just remember all you need to get a conversation going is something to talk about that matters. And you’ll find 150 of them in this great little book! The table has always been a place where great ideas have been discussed, plans made, dreams imagined, fears released, and laughs shared. It waits for you and your family! I seriously doubt anyone comes to the end of their life saying, “I wish I hadn’t spend so much time with my family around the dinner table.” So there you go. Bon Appetit and a whole lot more. . .If you’re a parent with kids still at home, get the book. Make dinner time connection time. I doubt you will have regrets.
My dear friend and comrade in writing armsMary DeMuth (author of ten books, including Thin Places), recently returned fromCapeTown as a delegate to the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. Her daily Facebook posts while she was there made me feel like I was a part of something way bigger than myself, and I was reminded all throughout her sojourn there that the Church is not a building; it isn’t even an institution. It’s an organism. It lives and breathes. It is human.
I asked her if I could share one of several of her after-Cape Town blog posts, and she very quickly said yes. Here she is, in her own words:
“I came here [Cape Town] hoping to have a pliable heart, hoping to have my views changed by a holy God. I know I can’t possibly know everything there is to know about God, His church, and this world. So here is a listing of things I’ve learned about Him and His mysterious ways during my stay here.
God is bigger than my country (or even my state, andTexasis BIG). He is not an American or a South African or an Egyptian or a Croat, or Japanese. He transcends culture.
We get a clearer picture of God when we interact with people of different cultures. The best part of other cultures (for instance, the friendliness of folks fromGhana, the communal sense of those fromMalaysia) reflects their Creator. Could it be that we’re missing out on God’s fullness by isolating ourselves from other cultures? Could it be that we have a corner of the picture of God where the totality of cultures make the picture complete? What has our ethnocentricity cost us in terms of understanding the diversity and beauty of a creative God?
God is close to the humble. And He is far from the proud. There’s room for only one God.
Geopolitical boundaries do not exist for God. He transcends them by loving every single person, even those we perceive as our enemies.
God’s Gospel enables us to love people the world tells us should be our enemies. It was in Jesus dying on the cross who said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they’re doing” that paves the way for true reconciliation.
God hears our prayers. Even our “little” ones. I prayed I’d meet someone fromGhana. I did. And I prayed I’d meet a persecuted believer. I did. I love how God orchestrated every single conversation at the congress.
God has a heart for the immigrant. Why? Because He left the beauty of heaven to be the Ultimate Immigrant on earth. He knows what it means to feel separate, outcasted, different, misunderstood. Therefore He calls us to reach out to people who feel the same way.
God must be very patient. He listens to us all. And we sure say a lot. And often we don’t listen (to Him, to each other.)
God often moves in supernatural ways to those who have lost all natural resources, wealth, relationships, and freedom.
God sings over us, and He sings in every single language on this earth.
God empowers wounded healers. I’m so thankful for this. He takes our brokenness and heals us for the sake of our broken brothers and sisters around the world.
God is better than money. If He is not, then money has become your (my) god.
God is bigger than the boogie man (to borrow a Veggie Tales song). Though Satan’s plans are aplenty and his schemes deceptive within and without the church, God is Victor over it all. He reigns sovereign and supreme over every single worry we have.
God gives second chances (and third and fourth and fifth chances.) We simply need to abandon our need for controlling our reputations, repent (both privately and publicly) and truly, truly, truly accept His ready, yet costly, grace.
God uses other believers, often even those unlike us, to share His love with us.
God’s glory is beyond imagination.
The justice and mercy of God shake hands at the cross.
God doesn’t put our pictures up on magazines so the world can see how beautiful we are. He places a window before our heart, looks inside, and stands back as a gentleman, waiting for us to long for Him to create beauty there.
God set a precedent on the cross. His death on our behalf enables us to stand up for Him (even if it means martyrdom) and die on His behalf.
No pedicure known to man (or woman) can create beautiful feet. Only a willingness to believe in and walk humbly before the God of the gospel will suffice. God’s strength lived out in our obedience creates beautiful feet.
A light snow was falling and there was no wind. My car idled outside my kids’ school as I waited for them to emerge. It was two weeks before Christmas 1993 and nearly a year since my husband had been without a job. I’d already wrapped hand-me-down toys for the two younger kids – lifted from the older two’s toy trove from better days – as Christmas gifts. Wasn’t sure what we’d do for the older two.
In the hush of the falling snow, where every sound was muffled and indistinct, I felt alone. Forgotten. Unemployment is a very isolating phenomenon, on many levels. Christmas music played on the radio but those carols also seemed indistinct to me. A random thought poked me. I muttered it to my quiet Redeemer. “What the heck was that manger all about? Was a bed really too much to ask for?” And out of the strange silence, He spoke from that thin place stretched between Him and me. You are the manger, He said to me. You were cold and dark and empty. I came to the very center of your need. And I filled your need with Me. That’s what I do.
A different kind of hush fell as so much finally made sense. The manger wasn’t to keep the Infant King in obscurity. It had more to do with me than with Him. It’d been the perfect metaphorical place for God to invade, to slice through the membrane between Him and me, and make His home. And He was there still.
We’re still celebrating Mary DeMuth’s release of Thin Places! Write your own Thin Place memoir in 259 words. You might win a Kindle! All the details are right here
Think of all the times in your life when you felt as if all that separated you from the truly Divine was just an opaque membrane of gauze. Most of us think those were the times when life was as good as it gets. At those moments we were just this side of Heaven. Life is beautiful.
How often do we think the same when life is crazy-tough, when every ounce of our energy is engaged to simply just stay afloat? How thin is the membrane then, when life is hard?
My dear friend Mary DeMuth, an amazing writer of both fiction and non-fiction, has composed her memoir, entitled Thin Places. It releases this month. Her publisher sent me a free copy to read and review with no strings attached, but I would’ve bought this book anyway. It’s an honest embrace of what we do when both the good and the bad drive us to glance up to Heaven to see Who is watching from the other side of the gauze. And since it’s memoir, it’s different from a low-impact how-to book with sidebars to keep it casual and practical. It’s a life story with heartache all over it, and yet hope appears everywhere that heartache shows up.
The Edge has the pleasure of Mary’s company today to talk about Thin Places. So let’s get right to it:
Edge:What is a thin place to you? How would you define it?
Mary: ‘Thin places’ is a Celtic term for a place on earth where the veil between heaven and earth is thin. In other words, you experience God’s presence in that place. I use that as a metaphor in my own life, and I’ve come to find that the places in my life God comes near are often the painful places. A current thin place is in my career, where I’m sensing God’s presence as I surrender my will, my desires, my plans, my way I thought things should unfold in His hands. I’m experiencing His favor and presence in that waiting place.
Edge:What compelled you to write Thin Places?
Mary: I felt sufficiently healed from my past, which had been a long, long journey. And in that healing, I knew I had the perspective I needed to be able to communicate my story with hope. In the past, I’d vomit my story of sexual abuse and neglect on any poor soul who’d listen, not with the intention to help her grow through her story, but to gain empathy.
But now I marvel at the path God’s brought me on, how gently He’s led me to this place of wholeness. From that abundance, I share my story. Why? Because I believe sharing the truth about our stories helps others see their own stories.
While I recorded the audio book for Thin Places, the producer asked me why I’d splay my life out this way.
“Because I don’t want folks to feel alone,” I told him.
“You’ve given a gift,” he said.
I sure hope so.
Edge: In this memoir you give readers a candid glimpse into your upbringing. Was it hard to share particular parts of your story?
Mary: In some ways, it was easy. I’ve shared my story over a decade now. What was hard was giving myself permission to say it all, to not hold back, to explore the emotions I experienced during the rapes, the drug parties, the feelings of loneliness.
Oddly, though, it was harder for me to share what I’m dealing with now as a result of my upbringing than the actual initial trauma. It’s hard to admit that I’m still so needy, so insecure. After reading the book aloud, I saw I still had areas of growth, particularly in being so hard on myself.
Edge: What do you hope readers gain from reading your memoir?
Mary: I hope they see hope. I hope they realize how profound and surprising and radical God’s redemption is. I hope they’ll see the irresistibility of Jesus.
Edge: You chose to write your memoir while many in your family are still living. Was that difficult?
Mary: Extremely. In many ways, agonizing. You can be assured that I prayed through every word. I’m thankful for my critique group who walked me through the writing and my stellar editor who helped shape the manuscript into a redemptive story. My goal was not to impugn or point the finger at what went wrong way back when, but to shout about God’s ability to transform a needy, incomplete girl.
It’s never easy to tell the truth, and I know my words may hurt some. But, thankfully, I’ve sought God’s heart in this and I can rest peacefully in knowing that.
Anne Lamott says, “Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.”
Thin Places is my answer to her quote.
Edge: Why examine the past? Especially if you feel healed from it?
Mary: Yes, of course we must move forward. We must move beyond our pasts. But in order to do that, we must mourn the reality of what happened, not bury it under a rug. I love what Sam says in The Two Towers movie about the importance of telling our stories, no matter how dark: “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.”
It’s my sincere hope that my story will stay with readers, not because of its sordidness, but because the Light of Jesus has shined so brightly upon it.
Edge: What encouragement or cautions do you have for those wanting to write their story?
Mary: First, prayerfully consider if this is something you need to do for therapy rather than publication. It’s very exposing to write a memoir. And sometimes we mistake the compelling feeling we have with publication. God sometimes calls us to write unpublished words, to get everything out on the page for the sake of our own personal healing.
Many of you have read memoirs that are self-indulgent or a poor-me fest. You need to evaluate whether you’re at a good place of healing before you embark on writing your story for everyone to read.
Edge: What fears have you battled as this book released?
Mary: Because this is such a personal book, I’ve worried about negative reviews. In some ways that’s good because it will force me to find my security and love from the One who made me, rather than the opinions of others. I’ve received some great endorsements, but also some harsh reviews. And those are the ones that knife me! Because the book’s about me!
I worry that I’ll be misunderstood. Or that telling the truth will hurt others. I’ve made a point to disguise nearly everyone and everything in the book, but of course the potential for hurt feelings is high.
I fear opposition by the father of lies. Since this is a truth-filled book, displaying authentic struggle, I have a feeling he won’t like it. I’m thankful for a specific, targeted prayer team around me to pray for protection regarding the release of this book. It’s humbling, actually, to see how God brought those pray-ers together.
The Edge: Thanks for being here, Mary.
For an up-close-and-personal look at Mary’s heart, take a look at this beautifully-composed book trailer:
And hey, before I go here’s a very kool kontest to win a Kindle! Here are all the details:
In Mary DeMuth’s memoir, Thin Places, she walks us through her journey from hurt to healing as she developed a deep, joyful relationship with Jesus. Thin places are those times where the division between this world and the eternal fades; they are snatches of holy ground, tucked into the corners of our world, where we might just catch a glimpse of eternity. Now, we invite you to tell your story of a thin place in your own life . . . and we’re giving you the opportunity to win a Kindle reader for doing so!
Here’s how to participate: (this is open to US participants only – sorry!)
1) In exactly 259 words – the retail value of a Kindle reader – tell us about a time you experienced a “thin place” in your life. These would be aha moments, beautiful realizations when the Son of God bursts through the hazy fog of our monotony and shines on us afresh, times when God has reminded or reassured you that he is real and present.
2) Post your essay on your blog or website. Once you’ve posted to your blog, add a link to your post in the Mr. Linky widget found at http://www.blogtourspot.com/2010/02/thin-places-blog-tour/. If you post to a Facebook account or do not have a place to post, then submit your essay in the body of an email to email@example.com. Your entry must be received (either by Mr. Linky or email) by midnight, Friday, February 12th to be eligible for the contest.
I am going to give this a go! Come back to Edgewise on Friday and I’ll have something here for you!
On Monday next, more neato stuff about Lady in Waiting. Have a great week!
Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Mary DeMuth to the Edge to chat about her new book A Slow Burn, a richly told story of regrets and redemption. Mary has a wonderful book trailer forthis book, which you can find right here. A Slow Burn takes us back to Defiance, Texas – the setting of the first book in this series, Daisy Chain. Here, we enter into the shadowed, hollow world of Daisy’s mother, Emory Chance – a woman who wishes for all the world she could have what her name suggests – another chance.
Mary, Where did you get the idea for the book?
I wrote the series of stories based on hearing friends of mine talk about their Christian homes that appeared great on the outside, only to hide abuse on the inside. This really bothered me. Daisy became the inciting incident to explore three people’s stories relating to authenticity and hiding. In book one, Daisy Chain, I explore a teenage boy’s perspective to a family in crisis. In book two, A Slow Burn, I examine what would it be like to have deep, deep mommy regrets enough to want to be free from them. In book three, Life in Defiance, I tell the conclusion of the story through a battered wife’s perspective.I am not a teenage boy. Nor am I a neglectful mother. And I’m not a battered wife. But I’ve interacted with folks who are. It’s for them that I wrote these stories.
What’s the significance to you personally of the town’s name, Defiance?
Several characters in different ways embody the act of defiance. Hap, certainly. But even Emory has her own form of defiance convention. Muriel, who is battling cancer in the book, certainly defies it, defies untruth. Hixon is the gentlest form of defiance I can think of, more of a Martin Luther King Junior defiant than an in-your-face Hap defiance.
What are the major themes of the book?
You’re never too far from God’s grace and love and forgiveness. That God is a pursuing, redemptive, relentless God. He loves His children, even when they run far, far away. That Jesus comes to us in surprising packages, and sometimes we’re so bothered by appearances that we miss Him.
What kind of research did you have to do for A Slow Burn?
I had to figure out how a drug addict acted and thought. I had to research what drugs do to a person, particularly the lure and the trips they take folks on. I had to get into the mind of a drug addict, which wasn’t easy for me, someone who is terrified of drugs. I created Defiance from my head and my two-year stint in East Texas.
In your first book in this series, Daisy Chain, we spend a lot of time in the point of view of young Jed Pepper. In A Slow Burn, Daisy’s mother is continuing the story. Did you find Jed wanting to “talk” to you during the writing of A Slow Burn?
No, weirdly. He didn’t say much, probably because I was so entrenched in Emory’s head. I tend to absorb myself in my point of view characters. But I did miss Jed. Great kid!
Did you ever see yourself as a child in your portrayals of Daisy? What did you draw from to form her character? In some ways, yes. Daisy was much more of a free spirit, less afraid than I was as a child. Perhaps she’s how I wish I would’ve been. She faced her own world head on, not too concerned about her problems. And she found a really good friend who made everything so much better. I could relate to Daisy’s home life situation, the neglect, the drugs. So that part came more naturally to me.
Where does your inspiration for writing southern drama spring from? From my own southern drama! Just kidding. Not a native, I’m fascinated by the south—its sometimes-darkness. Its secrets. It feels like the perfect place to set the types of novels I write.
With which character do you, personally, identify most and why?
That’s really hard. I see myself in all of them. When I feel guilty about my parenting, I relate to Emory. When I feel like an outcast, trying to do the right thing, I understand Hixon and Muriel better.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
That God is bigger than our sin, our regret, our hopelessness. He takes delight in intersecting the darkest of circumstances. He is there, available.
You can find Mary at home on the web right here. And you can find A Slow Burn right here.
The first time I heard the word “postmodern,” I very much furrowed the proverbial brow. How can there be such a thing right now as the “postmodern” age? An age after the era of modernity? I am living in modern times. They can’t be over. They can’t be post.
So what the heck does it mean?
Well, I figured out the “post” in postmodernism doesn’t really mean “after.” It isn’t about time at all. It describes instead a reaction to modern thinking. There is a mindset in our culture that is contrary — reactive—to what we’ve long called the modern way of thinking.
The arguably informative Wikipedia tells us “postmodernism tends to refer to a cultural, intellectual, or artistic state lacking a clear central hierarchy or organizing principle and embodying extreme complexity, contradiction, ambiguity, diversity, and interconnectedness or interreferentiality.” I think that translates into, “It’s all relative. Absolute truth included.” Or as one blogger said, “Postmodern means never having to say you’re sorry.”
Call it what you will. I can see that we live in a world were relativity is where it’s at. We who are parents are raising kids in a world where situational ethics are the order of the day. Which means we have our work cut out for us. Ethics, if they are what we say are, should transcend situation.
My good friend, Mary DeMuth, has penned a new book that unpacks this notion. It’s entitled Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture. I’m happy to be a part of the blogtour promoting this new book. Mary joins us here at the Edge to tell us more:
Edgewise: Who did you write this book for? What kind of parent?
Mary DeMuth: I wrote it for any parent, particularly parents with kids under their care, who want to see their kids become Jesus-followers and authentically reach their culture for Jesus Christ.
E: Some in the CBA world get a little edgy about the word “postmodern?” Why do you think that is so? What obstacles does the postmodern parent face that his grandparents didn’t?
MD: Folks equate “postmodern” with liberal theology, and therefore deem it dangerous. Postmodern is simply a descriptor of the mindset of today’s world. There are great things about postmodernism that gel with the Gospel, and there are things that don’t. It was the same with a modern perspective. I think folks are simply afraid of what they don’t know. The parent in a postmodern world has to learn how to translate the gospel to a generation that is highly skeptical, and balks at the idea of knowing all truth. In this storytelling generation, we need to learn how to approach our kids with stories alongside Biblical truth.
E: I am more intrigued by the word “authentic” in your title than “postmodern.” What does it mean to be an authentic parent? What is the opposite of being an authentic parent?
MD: I call them “image parents”—parents who are more concerned about how the family looks to others on the outside than how Jesus sees the family behind closed doors. An authentic parent asks for forgiveness when he/she fails. He/she shows kids that we all need Jesus, we’re all frail, we’re all on a spiritual journey and none of us have arrived fully sanctified.
E:What prompted you to write this book? Why did you think you were the one to write it?
MD: I still feel small and unworthy to write parenting books. I didn’t grow up in a home I wanted to duplicate, so I learned how to parent by trial and error and a heavy dose of Jesus. What prompted me to write the book was my own journey trying to find a different way to parent in this culture, particularly when we parented in hyper-postmodern France. I long to help parents deeply connect with their kids, to have such life-changing conversations with their kids that they don’t want to rebel when they leave the house.
E: Which chapter was the most difficult to write? Why?
MD: Probably the conversational parenting chapter because it’s so very hard to live. I re-read it before an interview and was convicted by my own words! This crazy, crazy world is so busy (particularly in America) that it takes concerted effort to deeply connect with my kids.
E: What are the qualities you admire most in an authentic parent?
MD: An authentic parent:
Tells the truth
Doesn’t gloss over their own sin
Love their kids enough to set limits and boundaries
Yet knows when to let out the leash
Is deeply committed to Jesus and knows its his/her relationship with Jesus that will ultimately make for better parenting
E: My kids are either teenagers or in their 20s. It is too late for me to read your book?
MD: No. Because the book is so relationally and culturally focused, I think you’ll get a lot out of it. (At least I hope so!)
You can learn more about Mary’s thoughts and ideas on her blog relevantprose, and you can also order Authentic Parenting there as well as view the other books on her authorial bookshelf. The guide for this blog tour is right here, if you’d like to see what other bloggers are saying about Authentic Parenting.