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Welcome, Robin Lee Hatcher

robinleeWhen my dear friend and fellow novelist Robin Lee Hatcher’s marriage ended in divorce some years ago, she remembers being devastated. In the following years she learned that sometimes God answers prayer in the most unexpected ways. God used the pain of what appeared to be a failed marriage to draw her closer. I am happy to welcome Robin to my blog home today to talk about her new book, A Promise Kept, which was born from that difficult experience.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about A Promise Kept and specifically how your own life inspired this story?
Robin: A Promise Kept opens as Allison Kavanagh arrives at the house her aunt Emma bequeathed to her — a log home in the mountains. Her marriage of more than twenty years has ended in divorce because of her husband’s alcoholism. She was so certain God had promised to save her marriage, but obviously she was wrong. Now she is moving from Boise to Kings Meadow to start life afresh and find a way to heal from her heartbreak.

Like Allison, my marriage ended in divorce because of my husband’s alcoholism. I was devastated because I’d been so convinced God had promised me He would save our marriage. I had believed His promise through many difficult times, but it hadn’t come to pass. I knew God didn’t lie. Therefore, I must have misunderstood.

But God had many things to teach me in the following years, including that He answers prayers in totally unexpected ways and in His own time, not mine. One of those unexpected ways was realized when my husband and I were remarried more than five years later. God used the divorce to save our marriage!

Q: So how does your husband feel this book and your story as a couple kind of being out in the open?
Robin: Thanks so much for asking this question. In order to honor my husband, I made certain from the very beginning that he was on-board for me to write about and talk about our marriage — which would mean talking about him and his battles with addiction. His response was, “If my story can help someone else, use it.”

PromiseKeptQ: How much of your main character’s situation is based on your own life?
Robin: While my characters are never me — I allow them to be individuals and allow their lives to unfold in their own way — there are always pieces of me in them. Allison’s life is not the same as mine. I didn’t retreat to a mountain cabin nor have an aunt whose journals helped me discover truths I needed to know, nor did I withdraw from God during the depths of my grief as Allison does. But every lesson God teaches me eventually makes its way into one of my stories. That was certainly true of A Promise Kept.

Q: Because of what you went through, what do you say now to someone who feels like God has abandoned her?
Robin: Hold onto Him no matter what. We only see such a tiny scrap of reality. God sees the whole picture. He knows you intimately, and He loves you extravagantly. He hasn’t abandoned you.

Faith isn’t about feelings. We cannot trust our feelings. The Bible warns us that the heart is deceptive. If you are feeling abandoned, get into God’s word and do a study on His character. When you know His character, you will cease to fear that He might leave you alone in your trials.

 Q: What is the most important thing God taught you during this difficult time in your life?
Robin: Not the most important but certainly the most surprising was when I realized I had reached the place where I could thank God for my marriage to an alcoholic and mean it. Because of what happened in my marriage, my faith was deepened and strengthened. I learned to hold onto the foot of the cross so tightly that I could feel the splinters in the palms of my hands. No matter what comes, I’m holding onto the Lord, from where my help comes.

I consider my life lesson to be this: Nothing, absolutely nothing, enters my life that isn’t caused or allowed by God, filtered through His loving hands, for the purpose of making me more like Jesus.

Q: I’ve found that when things don’t work out the way we want them to, it’s pretty easy to blame God. What would you say to someone wrestling with these feelings?
Robin: Blaming God for things not working out the way we want is a fruitless action. And it means we still believe that life is about us. Me and my happiness. You and your happiness. But it isn’t. Not in the way we think, anyway.

About ten or so years ago, I was standing in my office, weeping over my husband and our marriage. Big crocodile tears that splattered loudly when they hit the floor mat. I asked God, “Why?” What I meant was, “Why me?” And after a long period of time, I felt God speak to my heart, “Why not you, beloved?” It quieted me, stopped me cold. Yes, why not me? Did I think I was so special that I could avoid what Christ told me would be true? Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Q: In your letter to readers, which appears at the end of A Promise Kept, you talk about how your divorce felt like a failure. How did God turn that failure around in your life?
Robin: When we were first married, my husband and I promised until death do us part. We meant it. So it felt like failure when God told me to “let go” of him after nearly a year of separation, even though I was acting in obedience. What I couldn’t see or understand at first was that God needed to get my husband off by himself so the two of them could work on his life without me being there as a safety net, as the strong one. I believe my husband would have died if we continued on the way we had been, but I didn’t see it that way at the time. I had to stand back and let God be God.

Q: Alcoholism played a large part in your marriage and eventually your divorce. What gave you the strength to continue to pray for your husband even when no answer seemed to come?
Robin: Strength comes from believing deep down in my soul that God is in control and that He wants the best for both me and my husband. I don’t always know what that “best” is, but He does.

Me again! Thanks, Robin, for being here! It’s always nice to have friends over for a chat. If you want to get to know Robin better, visit her at her lovely website. She is one of the kindest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. If you have a question for Robin, I know she’d be happy to answer it. Ask away…

 

It pays to pay attention

RuinsSo I know my short term memory ain’t what it used to be. I walk into a room and have no idea why I am there and I will meet someone new and within a minute of being introduced will have forgotten their name. But today’s was a first.

I figured out I am reading the wrong book for book club next week. Last month I ordered The Light In The Ruins by Chris Bojhalian for my Kindle without bothering to double-check the email from the book club prez, because of course I remembered what this month’s selection was. It was The Light In The Ruins. I started reading it, got interested, and then happened across the aforementioned e-mail.

OceansImagine my surprise when I read that the book I am SUPPOSED to be reading is The Light Between Oceans.  Sheesh. Back I go, via my fingertips, to the Kindle store to get the right book and thank God for cyberspace because two seconds later I had the correct book and still a whole week to read it.

But dangnabbit, now I’m going to have to pick up Ruins right after book club, even though I’ve a ton of other books on the TBR pile, because I just have to find out who killed Francesca. . .

Now if I had just happened to buy the wrong book that is titled the same as another, I wouldn’t feel so dumb. As in the two novels entitled Life After Life, one by Kate Atkinson and the other by Jill McCorkle, both of which  came out at the same time earlier this year (go figure). I’ve not read McCorkle’s yet, although I’ve a signed copy, met her, and heard her speak about this book at a local San Diego event.  It’s on that towering TBR pile of mine! I did read Katetwin lives Atkinson’s, though, and was blown away. It is incredibly clever, haunting, and compelling. It also just won some big awards from GoodReads and Time magazine, so I am not alone in my praise for it.

All that is to say, if you need a book recommendation, I have four. The answer is “E”, all of the above.

And please tell me you have done what I did . . .

 

Thoughts on the Orphan Train

orphantrainWhenever I read a novel of a child treated like dirt or a stray dog or a slave or an object to be used and abused, my Mama Bear instincts kick into high gear. I confess sometimes I can’t finish the book, and sometimes I am driven like a mad woman  to finish the book because I am so intent on seeing that child rescued. When the narrator is the child herself, I am even more a prisoner of the pages and the story haunts me in between readings such that I must get back to it as soon as I can, not so much because I must see how the story turns out, but I must that child vindicated, and the wrong-doers punished. Sarah’s Key, The Language of Flowers, The Hunger Games were all like that for me, as was this wonderful book, Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline.

One of the things I liked best about Orphan Train is the dove-tailing of a contemporary story with the historical main meal. It is my favorite way to write a novel, as I’ve used it for the last six I’ve written and will continue to do so as long as the ideal mill gives them to me. The present day framing of Orphan Train gives the historical chapters an emotional context that heightens the sympathetic yank  you already feel the minute you connect with the words of the young protagonist.

Here are the novel’s details on its GoodReads page: “By the The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.”

This book is a Goodreads nominee for a place among its best fiction for 2013. The site  is conducting their reader-based Best Fiction for 2013 poll. You can vote for your favorite reads right here: Sad that you can only vote for one book in each category.  Lots of great books in this category.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to  hear your thoughts. Or perhaps you can share your favorite story with a young protagonist who faces incredible odds and rises above them. Let’s chat.

 

Story by notes and posts

BernadetteThe first epistolary novel I read as a young adult, at least that I can remember reading, is C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, a classic book-by-epistle about a demon instructing a junior demon on the many ways to quietly trip up us mere mortals, and a book that will no doubt never cease to be in print. That reading was closely followed, by The Fan, a 1977 thriller-type novel about a Hollywood star slowly terrorized by an off-his-rocker devotee and the entire story is told by letters and telegrams. At least that’s what I think the story’s premise was. That particular book appears to have long been out of print.

I like the epistolary novel.  Love it, actually. My favorite of late, probably a favorite of many of you is The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, which I loved, loved, loved.

It’s an intriguing, challenging and unconventional way to tell a story. And I don’t think it’s an easy feat to pull off. I’ve used that device in my own novels and I know how limiting it can be. In fact, I’ve only ever used it to tell part of the book, not the whole thing. In The Shape of Mercy, I used diary. In A Sound Among the Trees, I used letters a Confederate woman wrote to a Yankee cousin and never sent. I remember thinking as I writing Susannah’s letters to her cousin Eleanor in Maine that she was starting to sound like she was narrating the story, not writing a letter. And I didn’t know what to do about it. Letters have a certain feel that is different from narrative.

All that said, I enjoyed Maria Semple’s epistolary Where’d You Go Bernadette. A lot. It was clever, funny, sassy, at times tender and poignant. And if you don’t look too closely at emails that read like narrative, it’s a seamless read that will seriously have you laughing out loud on modes of public transportation.

The story in a nutshell is this: To Bernadette Fox’s husband,”she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.”

Some of my favorite lines are these:

“Maybe that’s what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place.”

 

“I felt so full of love for everything. But at the same time, I felt so hung out to dry there, like nobody could ever understand. I felt so alone in this world, and so loved at the same time.”

 

“People like you must create. If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.”

A caveat, though. If you are loyal to Microsoft or you’re Canadian you might feel a tad insulted. I don’t live in Seattle so I am not in the know as to how the average Seattleite looks at the MS techno-giant or the international neighbors to the North. Every novelist has to create a context from which her characters spring, even if it’s a fabricated context or overdrawn from reality. Or right on the money. I wasn’t bothered. But I live in San Diego.

GuernseyIf you’re looking for something very different in a novel, and need some levity mixed with drama, pick it up. It’s unlike the last novel you read, I’m fairly certain of that.

Unless you’ve been shopping from this Wiki list of contemporary epistolary novels

And if you have been, do please share your favorite. Let’s chat.

 

Most quotable movie ever…

Inigo MontoyaAt my house, we like to quote movies. A lot. And I don’t mean we just randomly strike a pose and recite a line for no reason. Usually the line is offered in the midst of a real conversation; such that the line becomes part of it. Like this: someone in the house is about to leave for work or school or some other destination fraught with purpose. Instead of saying, “Have a nice day,” as they head out the door, one of us might say to that person, “Have fun stormin’ the castle!” – which, if you don’t know, is a GREAT line from the best quotable movie ever, The Princess Bride.  Today, I share with you the best quotes from this movie which we Meissners love to inject into ordinary conversation. Now, you share yours from your favorite movie…

Why don’t you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?

 

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

 

So tweasure your wuv.

 

Look, I don’t mean to be rude but this is not as easy as it looks, so I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t distract me.

 

Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

 

You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles

 

Is this a kissing book?

 

As you wish…

 

(Is that mug not the best ever?  Here is where you can get it…)

 

After Ellis…

The galleys for A FALL OF MARIGOLDS arrived yesterday, which means I have one last look at the pages before the book is sent to the printer. But while I am putting the last touches on this manuscript before it is published in February – just four months away! – I am already much involved with the next project.

After spending the last year in 1911 and one the bit of land that is Ellis Island, I am now moving forward a few years to World War II, the London Blitz, and the evacuation of a million of its children to the countryside.  I’ve just returned from a research trip to the UK with my mom, where I had the opportunity to interview eight people who were children and teenagers during the war and who remember well the influx of young Londoners into their villages, or taking the train out of the city to live with people whom they’d never met, or running for cover from the Luftwaffe bombers and Doodlebugs and rockets. Their stories amazed me and I can’t wait to incorporate these details into the book, which is tentatively titled, THE BRIDE’S BOX. For now, here is a mini photo gallery of this incredible trip. These scenes will take place early in the book… Thoughts so far?

The pastoral Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, the place where my 15-year-old heroine and her seven-year-old will be evacuated to out of London...

The pastoral Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, the place where my 15-year-old heroine and her seven-year-old sister will be evacuated to out of London…

The town I will evacuate her and her little sister to, a real and lovely place called Stow-on-the-Wold...

The town I will evacuate her and her sister to, a real and lovely place called Stow-on-the-Wold…

The bench just outside the Methodist church where she will make the plans that will change everything...

The bench just outside the Methodist church where she will make the plans that will change everything…

The cottage where she and her sister will be sent which I will call Thistle House...

The cottage where she and her sister will be sent which I will call Thistle House…

The path she will take in the middle of the night to steal away back to London...

The path she will take in the middle of the night to steal away back to London…

The station where she will wait in the dark until dawn and the first train back to the city...

The station where she will wait in the dark until dawn and the first train back to the city…

Try, try again

lifeafterlifeYou know those moments when you say to yourself – or maybe even out loud – “If I could do that over again, I’d____” and then you fill in the blank with how you would relive that moment, do it better, gain a more advantageous outcome?

Imagine for a moment what it might be like, however, to have no say in the matter at all. Imagine that you are going back and back and back to relive your life, and you are barely aware of it? You don’t have Hermione Granger’s time-turner where you’ve absolute control over how far back you go. And you don’t have it to come back to where you are now after you’ve made your changes.

Imagine that your stillborn birth is changed on the second-go-around so that you now survive. A drowning when you are a little girl  is reversed so that this time the artist on the beach sees you going under and dashes in to save you. A chance encounter with the Spanish flu which killed you before is held at bay because for some reason you know you must stop the maid from meeting up with her beau who is already infected with the virus and doesn’t know it.  Imagine you know that somehow the new chancellor of Germany with the postage stamp mustache will inflict such horrors on his fellow man that the world will be forever changed because of him. Imagine you know you will see him in a cafe before he ever has a chance to do anything truly terrible.timeturner

Kate Atkinson’s brilliantly conceived Life After Life is the imagined life of Ursula Todd. She’s a girl who keeps reliving her life, almost as if she is being handed by Providence chance after chance after chance  to alter the course of human history.  Only the reader truly knows the full breadth of Ursula’s multi-layered existence.  Because, of course, she can’t know everything, can she? Doc Brown in Back to the Future told us why. Remember this line, when Marty wants to tell Doc on the night he travels back in time that Doc is shot by the Libyans he stole from?

docbrown“No! Marty! We’ve already agreed that having information about the future can be extremely dangerous. Even if your intentions are good, it can backfire drastically!”

So our heroine, sometimes young, sometimes a teenager, sometimes an adult, keeps taking one step forward and five steps back, with strange inklings of things yet to come, inner nudges to avoid this, go after that, and all against the backdrop of the years leading up to and including World War II and the bombing of London.

Because I was on vacation and in a car for long periods, I “read” Life After Life via audio, something I rarely do. The recorded version, read by Finella Woolgar, is stunningly impacting. Ms. Woolgar aptly reads as narrator and dozens of other voices. You can see it all, every relived moment. If you’ve ever wanted to give audio books a try, I’d recommend this one.

Like all books that deal with World War II, the content can be be heavy. There are plenty of sad moments, but there are just as many subtly triumphant ones, especially when you, the reader, know — for example — that Ursula has just reinvented her life by a chance decision to rescue a dog during a London Blitz air raid.

I am always in awe of a writer who can invent a new way of telling a story. The premise of this one is so unique, and the writing is beautiful, even the most tragic parts.

And of course any book that makes you stop and deeply ponder, “What if that could really happen, and what if happened to me?” is a keeper. If language offends you, know that there are a few f-words here and there.

Here is the link to an excerpt on Goodreads.

And a few of my favorite quotes:

“There was always a second before the siren started when she was aware of a sound as yet unheard. It was like an echo, or rather the opposite of an echo. An echo came afterwards, but was there a word for what came before?”

“No point in thinking, you just have to get on with life. We only have one after all, we should try and do our best. We can never get it right, but we must try.”

“Dr. Kellet himself wore a three-piece Harris tweed suit strung with a large gold fob watch. He smelled of cloves and pipe tobacco and had a twinkly look about him as if he were going to toast muffins or read a particularly good story to her, but instead he beamed at Ursula and said, “So, I hear you tried to kill your maid?” (Oh, that’s why I’m here, Ursula thought.)”

Next week, my review of The Book Thief, which I am nearly finished with and loving to the point of dreading the finishing…

 

 

A winner!

Happy Friday to all. I’ve a winner from last Friday’s blogpost featuring Lori Benton and her debut novel, BURNING SKY.  I am happy to say (thanks to random.org) that the winner from those who left a comment is Pamela. Cue the confetti. Pamela, send me a shout out so that I can get your book to you.

Now I would normally blog today (it is Friday after all) but I am at the crazy, crucial end of the latest book I am writing; so close to the finish lineww2-85 that I fear all I would spill here (since I am positively itching to get it out of me and onto digital paper) would be the ending of the story and that would just be bad for all of us.

So I am going to hightail it out of here and get back to my poor protagonist, whom I left yesterday in war-ravaged London near the end of WW2. She’s going to have a very busy day…

Peace out

 

 

It’s National Middle Child Day!

threesisters2I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to celebrate myself  (we affirmation-seeking, validation-starved middle borns have so few chances to do that, you know) and all middle children everywhere. At left is me (wearing the most awesome red tennis shoes in the history of red shoes), obviously contemplating my place in the family, as we MC so frequently do.

Not a believer in the DNA of birth order? I urge you to check out Dr. Kevin Leman’s definitive book on the subject. It explains a lot, folks! And if nothing else, provides everyone of us who has been born (you heard me right) with all the excuses they will ever need for anything they will ever do, ever.

Birth Order 2If you want a quick look-see into what researchers and psychologists say about birth order, here’s a pretty succinct article on why you are you, from the perspective of your place in the family. Just like all generalities, there are always exceptions. I suppose there are perfectionist last-borns (though I don’t know any) and clowny first-borns (ditto). But I have found that these researchers are more often hitting the nail on the head.

So, reader, take a look at the characteristics of your birth placement listed on the linked article and let me know what you think. Yay or nay?

And of course, tell me where you fit in the fam!

 

The place where two rivers meet

BurningSkyYou probably know by now I am a fierce devotee to historical fiction – it’s the perfect backdrop to explore timeless themes. So I am happy to welcome Lori Benton to the blog today to talk about her debut BURNING SKY, a novel of the American frontier. The best part is, I have a copy of her book to give away, so do please read to the end so that you can get in on that.

Before we start, here’s just a little teaser to get you primed for Lori’s wonderfully woven story:

“I remember the borders of our land, though I have been gone from them nearly half the moons of my life. But who there will remember me? What I have seen, what I have done, it has changed me.

I am the place where two rivers meet, silted with upheaval and loss.

Yet memory of our land is a clear stream. I shall know it as a mother knows the faces of her children. It may be I will find me there.”

Abducted by Mohawk Indians at fourteen and renamed Burning Sky, Willa Obenchain is driven to return to her family’s New York frontier homestead after many years building a life with the People. At the boundary of her father’s property, Willa discovers a wounded Scotsman lying in her path. Feeling obliged to nurse his injuries, the two quickly find much has changed during her twelve-year absence—her childhood home is in disrepair, her missing parents are rumored to be Tories, and the young Richard Waring she once admired is now grown into a man twisted by the horrors of war and claiming ownership of the Obenchain land.

When her Mohawk brother arrives and questions her place in the white world, the cultural divide blurs Willa’s vision. Can she follow Tames-His-Horse back to the People now that she is no longer Burning Sky? And what about Neil MacGregor, the kind and loyal botanist who does not fit into in her plan for a solitary life, yet is now helping her revive her farm? In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, strong feelings against “savages” abound in the nearby village of Shiloh, leaving Willa’s safety unsure.

Willa is a woman caught between two worlds. As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, the woman called Burning Sky must find a new courage–the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow. Is she brave enough to love again?

SUSAN: I always ask my writer friends where the idea for their novel originated because I know sometimes the seed of a story can come from an unlikely place.  From where did the idea for Burning Sky spring?

LoriBentonLORI: Sometimes, this far removed from that moment, the original kernel or idea that inspired a story is buried under too many layers of plotting and research and day to day writing, but with Burning Sky I do retain the memory. There were two images that intruded upon me, rather out of the blue, that I consider catalysts for Willa Obenchain’s story. The first was of an old woman living in a ramshackle cabin in a clearing bounded by ridges, alone and isolated. I wondered who she was and why she seemed so sad. I knew her name was Willa.

The second image was of a young woman, taller than most women of her time and strong, striding across a mountain with a heavy basket on her back and a heavier burden in her soul. I sensed she was coming home after a long time away. I also knew these were the same woman and that the first image would be Willa’s fate… unless someone intervened. From that point the story grew as I began to ask the dozens of what ifs that come with story-weaving, and did my research into the time and place, once I’d decided exactly when that was.

SUSAN: I can tell from reading this book that your research was extensive. How did you approach the research component? Did you learn anything that surprised you?

LORI: Because I live on the west coast, I approach my initial research via books and websites, and friends and acquaintances I have who live back east. But I also have memories to tap. I spent the first half of my life on the east coast and have visited states from New York to Florida. I’m familiar with the eastern woodlands from the coast to the mountains, and still remember what a humid summer day feels like, or a dark rolling thunderstorm, or a twilight dancing with lightning bugs, though I don’t get to experience those things where I live now (thunderstorms are rare and always make me nostalgic). And there’s always Youtube and Google Earth, to help with visuals of a specific place.

The more I’ve learned about the 18th century New York frontier, before and after the Revolutionary War, the more intrigued I’ve become. I’d say my biggest surprise (confining such to the research that directly impacted the writing of Burning Sky) was how devastating the War was on the land and people of the Mohawk Valley and New York frontier, how far back east that frontier was pushed due to raids from the British and pro-British Indians, and how long it took for the largely abandoned farms and communities to recover. The landscape Willa Obenchain and Neil MacGregor enter at the start of the book was one of burned homesteads and straggling-back refugees, some of them as scarred by violence as their farms had been. It would be some years before the Mohawk Valley became again the thriving bread basket of the region that it formerly had been.

SUSAN: You describe a shade of blue in one of your descriptive sentences as the shade of ”trade beads,” which I thought was delicious! Do you spend a great deal of time looking for just the right way to describe something or does that come pretty easy to you?

LORI: When I write description, the most important thing to me is to take into account whose point of view I’m writing from. If Neil had been describing that shade of blue, instead of Willa, he would likely have picked a vivid flower to compare it to. But Willa is coming from a place where trade beads were common things. She no doubt sewed them onto clothing and other articles. It’s a description she wouldn’t have to reach far for. Knowing this required extensive research into her culture and setting, so that had to come first (though I continue researching right up through the editing phase of a manuscript). I strive to give each point-of-view character a distinctive narrative voice. Description (what each character uniquely notices and the language they use to describe it) is a huge part of that. The better I know my characters in the first draft, the easier those character-specific descriptions come, but often it’s in one of dozens of later passes over a scene that I finally hit upon the right phrase.

SUSAN: When you are asked to share what Burning Sky is about in a nutshell, how do you answer?

BSRTblurbLORI: Never the same way twice, it seems. But in a nutshell, Burning Sky is about finding the courage to trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God after experiencing devastating loss—enough to risk living and loving again.

SUSAN: What do you want readers to take away from this book when they are finished?

LORI: I want readers to hold these characters in their hearts for a very long time to come, because I love them so myself. I also hope with all my heart that readers feel strengthened in their faith in a God who has a plan for their eternal good, who entered this fallen world with all its grief and trouble to carry out that plan, in the form of His Son Jesus. Through Him we inherit blessings now, and even more eternally.

SUSAN: What did you take away from the writing of it?

LORI: A passion for telling more stories set on the 18th century New York frontier. I feel I’ve only touched the tip of this iceberg.

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

LORI: Another novel releasing from WaterBrook Press, next spring (2014). The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is set in western North Carolina (present day Tennessee) against the backdrop of that region’s bid for separate statehood in the mid-1780s. In brief: With a murdering stepfather and a spurned suitor in pursuit, Tamsen Littlejohn bargained for hardship, rough-living, even mortal danger in her Overmountain flight to freedom with young frontiersman Jesse Bird. But falling in love? That was never part of the plan.

Susan, here! Thanks for being my guest, Lori. And now for a giveaway! Just leave a comment here before Thursday, August 15 at midnight Pacific and you’re in the drawing. I will announce the winner a week from today so please stay tuned. It’s a great book, folks. (If you want to read the first two chapters, which are delicious, by the way, click right here: