Today’s blog post is an interview of author Paul Lawrence. I don’t remember exactly where I met Paul on-line. Probably at a blog for writers that we both read and post at from time to time. I checked out him and his writing. Time for you all to know about it.
DAT: Your website bio indicates you were a computer security analyst, and that you wrote articles in your professional field. How does someone make the jump from writing computer articles to writing creatively?
PL: For many years, I dreamt of writing fiction. In fact, my wife bought a wood name plaque with Paul Lawrence (my pen name) on it about fifteen years ago for my birthday. She said, “Maybe this will motivate you.” But I stayed so busy with my work and keeping up with the changes in my chosen field, that there was little time even for reading outside my profession. I was asked to write an article for Securityfocus.com, because another writer had declined to at the last minute. Once I had written the first one, they kept asking me to write more. That helped me believe in myself as a writer.
When I retired, I decided it was time to fulfill my lifelong dream of being a novelist. But the two fields are so dissimilar that it’s quite a leap. In nonfiction, you write about facts but try to do it in an entertaining way. With fiction, you have to stir the readers’ emotions and make them feel like they are living the experience.
The first thing I started writing was a crime story with a Christian detective. The first fifteen pages were what is known as “telling”. I was writing the story as if it was nonfiction, describing the detective and his accomplishments without any emotion or action. (I may go back to that one day, but it will be dramatically different than the way I started it.)
DAT: Your book is titled “Prayers Were No Help”. It’s a provocative title. Tell us something about it. And how did you come to write it?
PL: It’s a story about a guy who is flying high, enjoying life and success, and thinks the good times will never end. Then his wife is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and his world comes crashing down. Like many others in similar circumstances, he sinks into depression and begins drinking heavily.
Realizing that he has to either end it all or find a way out of the darkness surrounding him, he travels to his family’s lake cabin to be alone with his thoughts and the bottle. But he meets a mysterious man named Toby, who’s persistence and patience lead to his healing and a positive outlook on life from a God-centered perspective.
One day, he decides to return to the lake and thank Toby and finds out Toby was not who he thought he was at all.
I was inspired to write the story, because I have been touched by cancer personally. I lost my best friend to pancreatic cancer, and five years ago my wife was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Then, while she was waiting for her surgery date, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Both of us believed she would beat cancer, and she has. She has been cancer-free for five years now. The experience, dealing with the doctors and learning about the treatment modalities, informed my writing.
The title was suggested by my editor. I had tried similar ones but liked her suggestion so much I decided to use it. I think it speaks to the questions we all have when we think our prayers aren’t being answered and we don’t understand why. I love the Garth Brooks song, Unanswered Prayers, by the way.
DAT: Why did you decide to self-publish this?
PL: Since I’m new to the business, I began by doing a lot of research. I knew it wasn’t easy to publish using the traditional route, but I tried. I was told that no one reads Christian fiction and no one wants to publish novellas. (My book is only 23,000 words, less than half the length of some novels and less than a quarter the size of many sci-fi novels.) I knew the story was complete. Adding more to it would have made it worse. So, eventually I decided to self-publish. Even if only one person reads it, it is my prayer that that one person will be inspired.
What’s next for you? I assume you’re working on a second book, if not even more than that.
Actually, I have three in the pipeline. The first, which is nearing completion, is a story about a young man from Iowa who volunteers to go to Vietnam, to carry on the family tradition. His experience there, and upon returning, shapes his life and causes him to endure a great deal of emotional upheaval. In the end, God’s love will save him and heal his heart. The title is Some Wounds Never Heal.
The second and third are in the germ stage; a story about a woman who is abused by her husband and how she finds the strength to believe in herself and God to escape from that prison, and a story about a girl who is kidnapped by a serial killer and a female FBI profiler who desperately wants to catch him before he kills again. The two together will solve the case and bring closure to many grieving families.
My cousin Susan Todd is a writer, with several books to her credit. I’ve written about her before. We used to see each other years ago, when I was so young I haven’t carried those memories to adulthood. Her father moved the family in the mid-1950s. There’s a photo of us together in 1959 in the family album. Otherwise, I had no contact with her until the late 1990s. I started working on genealogy. I had no idea where she was, so I contacted her dad, my uncle, and got an address, and wrote her.
I was just starting to write then. She’d been at it for a while. That common bond, along with the family tie, caused us to maintain contact. She even came to Arkansas and stayed with us for a couple of months.
Somehow I missed that she had a new book out last year. Shame on me. So here, belatedly, we talk about it.
Q: I see your latest book, Tangled Lives, was published in 2016. I guess I missed the book launch. Tell us something about that book.
Suz (her preferred diminutive): This book idea sat in my files for quite a long time before the reason I started it resurfaced. When I first began investigating the Internet, I was a wide-eyed overzealous sleuth as green as grass. I claimed my ticket and hopped aboard to venture to places in hopes of meeting people that I would never come to know in my limited surroundings.
Assuming that the people I encountered would be as honest and forthright as me; I dove in. Stone Blue was like no other person I’d ever met or will meet. Taking her on as a character was easy—all I had to do was draw from everything she said and did in our relationship. This woman had—issues—none of which I blew out of proportion.
She had to be written about. I couldn’t have made this woman up if I tried. Therefore, I went to a place I knew she’d fit in—under the porch with Moses Down. Thus, Tangled Lives came alive on paper.
Q: You say “there’s a thin line between fact and fiction,” and challenge your readers to tell which of the characters are real, and which are fictional. So, are you saying that some of your characters ARE based on real people, with, I presume, the names changed to protect the innocent (or guilty, as the case may be)?
Suz: I love to people watch. It’s not a new idea it’s been done on street corners, shopping malls, in families, on jobs and simply anywhere you find life. I have to confess that over the years I have nitpicked personalities. Whether from my upbringing or self-taught I seem to have trouble with some people’s behavior. Because I can’t correct or eliminate these individuals’ conduct—I write about them. On paper, I can expose their shortcomings, educate them, or simply let them be what they are allowing the reader to pass their own judgment.
The world affords a vast panorama of fictional possibilities—all you have to do is open your door or in some cases go to a family reunion.
Q: What genre do you consider Tangled Lives to be, or is it one of those books that defy genre classification? I’m assuming, even though some characters are “plucked from real life” that we are talking about a novel, not a non-fiction book.
Suz: Maybe it’s a ‘fictional how to and not to’.
Q: Your Amazon page shows nine books (I think) to your credit. They appear to be a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and memoir. What kind of author do you see yourself as, primarily?
Suz: I’m definitely a fictional author. Someone, I’m not sure who, once said that we should write so that the characters leap off the page. I tend to take my people-net and after capturing a few crazies, annoying or rare real life finds—embed them in a book. I often wonder which of my characters will some reader say, “That’s me!”
Q: I assume you’re working on a new book. Tell us about it, and when it might be out.
Suz: ‘A’ book? I’m laughing, Dave, because you know all too well that—A—book is never a reality. It’s more like, which one am I going to finish first. I hop about my files like a frog under a bug light. But I have to say that Covert Plumage and God in a Sweater are running neck and neck.
Now that I’ve finished moving and the last of the boxes have stopped calling my name to unpack them while enjoying coffee in the morning, I’m beginning to hear my characters clamoring to come out and play on my keyboard. No rest for the author in me. Who knows, maybe this year two books will make it to the finish line.
In my continuing series of interviews of other authors, this post features Damon Gray. Damon and I “know” each other from our posts at the Between the Lines blog of the Books & Such literary agency. Truth is, I don’t know all that much about Damon. I’m finding out in his answers. So let’s get to them.
Q: You say you share your “own life-experiences, bringing them alongside biblical narratives in a manner that infuses the stories of our spiritual ancestors with life.” How about giving us a brief overview of those life experiences?
That’s a heavy opener, David, but there is no way you could know that. We all speak, write, and interact with others out of our own experiences. It is unavoidable. These experiences figure largely into our world-view, our character, our personality, our tolerances.
Like many to whom I speak and write, I have dealt with numerous delightful and many painful events and issues over the years. I have endured sexual abuse, infidelity in a spouse, betrayal, six years of watching my mother die of Alzheimer’s disease. I was once incorrectly diagnosed with an ocular condition and told I was losing my eyesight. That was a shocker. I have endured severe church abuse as a pastor, been fired, and ultimately changed careers. At one point I traveled over the U.S. – Canadian border for a year to see a Christian counselor. During one of our sessions, about two months in, he leaned forward, looked me in the eye, and said, “With everything you have been through in just the last two years, I am amazed that you’re still sane,” and he wasn’t being sarcastic. He was quite serious. In 2012, I was hospitalized and faced death twice with the same medical condition just seven months apart, and was told that typically this is a condition that is diagnosed during the autopsy.
I don’t say any of that with bitterness, to sensationalize, or to elicit sympathy from your audience. But experiences like these give us tremendous insight not only into ourselves, but into the total human condition. So if we apply that to the way we approach Biblical texts and narratives, we are sometimes able to crawl inside the heads of those about whom we are reading, right?
Let’s just take the example of Hagar. She is a servant, or a slave. I get the impression that Hagar did not have much say over what happened to her. Sari, Abram’s wife, seemingly cannot bear him children, so she has Abram conceive a child with her slave, Hagar. Hagar does indeed conceive, Sari is overcome with jealously and ends up convincing Abram to send Hagar away. It’s brutal!
So, here we have the first single mother in the Bible. What is going through her head? She did exactly what she was told to do. Now she’s bounced out on her ear with no means of caring for herself and her young son.
I have not experienced that specific circumstance, but we all have to be able to draw on our own life-experiences to identify with what is happening inside these people. These are not just stories. These are real men, women, and children who are toiling their way through life just as you are and as I am.
Q: Your website says you are a dynamic speaker, a word-crafter, and I see a picture of a trombone player there. Would you say you are a man of the arts, despite your technology background?
I started playing the trombone in the fifth grade and played all the way through my university years. Then it sat in the closet for a couple of decades until I pulled it out again to play in the horn line with the worship band at church. I majored in music for the first three years in college, but decided I couldn’t easily make a living that way so I changed majors to Mass Communication with an emphasis in Radio Broadcasting and Newsprint.
But you’re right, I’ve always had something of an affinity for the arts. I still do. I did a lot of drama in high school and college as well. In fact the Dean of the drama department, along with his wife, tried to persuade me to change majors from music to drama. I declined, because the same problem exists there as does with music. There are too many starving actors and musicians!
The technology thing is just a means of paying the bills. It is something I know how to do, but not something for which I have a great deal of passion. When I reached the end of my rope with the challenges of full-time ministry, I needed a new career path, and that one seemed reasonable, so I dove into it and have been doing software development and database programming now for 22 years.
Q: Summarize your speaking ministry for us.
For me, there are a couple of key components to being able to speak to a crowd. First off, I have to know what I’m talking about. If I don’t know my subject, then it is best to just sit down. Secondly, I have to believe in the subject. I cannot speak persuasively about something in which I do not believe. That is why I could never build a career in sales. I cannot sell you something I am not persuaded you really need to have. But it works great for public speaking, because you know that whatever I am addressing is something in which I truly believe.
If those two components are in place, I can speak and teach, and I very much enjoy doing so. I have spoken to groups numbering in the single digits to those numbering in the thousands. It is critical, however, to keep it in perspective. What I mean is that you have to keep it always before you that this is not about you! I keep a quote from Randy Alcorn above my desk that reads, “The greatest danger of notoriety is you start thinking about you. People then exist to serve you, exactly the opposite of what Christ modeled.”
I have formulated a concept within the last couple of years around which I am building my ministry. I call it “Long-View Living in a Short-View World.” As believers, we must keep that eternal perspective in focus as we reach out to a world that can barely see beyond the end of its own nose. This has to be about Jesus and his eternal kingdom, and moving that kingdom forward.
“It’s not about you. It’s about your audience.” I understand what that speaker was saying, but ultimately, I don’t agree. It is not about me, or the audience. It is about Jesus, and how we all work as a single unit – his body – to move his kingdom forward. Now, to do that, I have to be healthy and functioning, just as you have to be healthy and functioning, as does everyone in your listening or reading audience. So, in that sense, what the conference speaker was saying is accurate.
Q: Your first book is Finding Faith in Slow Motion. Tell us about it.
That was never really intended to be a book, but rather it was my own personal research project. My dearest friend had been diagnosed with leukemia, and has since passed on to be with Jesus. It was gut-wrenching watching this disease relentlessly attack his body. At the time we were wracking our brains trying to figure out why he wasn’t being healed of this disease. I mean James tells us, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.”
Well, we did that – more the once. We prayed over my friend, anointing him with oil, pleading with God to eradicate this disease – and he didn’t – at least not in the sense that I wanted and expected. That’s where the research project began. I wanted to figure out why my friend wasn’t being healed of this cruel disease. And the more deeply I dug into it the more I realized I needed to wrap my mind around the most basic concept of faith.
Those notes sat on my shelf for several years, and it is my wife who eventually persuaded me to publish it, saying, “Damon, you can’t keep this to yourself. You have to share this.” So, I self-published that 2013.
Q: Your upcoming book is The Christ Saturated Life. Tell us about it, and when it will be available.
The Christ Saturated Life is an idea I started toying with as I pondered Jesus’ parable in Matthew 12. He talks about an unclean spirit that left a man and traveled through waterless areas looking for a place to rest, but found no such resting place. So the spirit returned to the man it just left, referring to the man as a house. The house had been swept clean and it was in order, but it was left empty. So the spirit, called seven of its spirit comrades, spirits more evil than itself, and the eight of them took up residence within the man. That’s a nasty state to be in!
The driving premise for me is that the man left a void within himself, and a void demands to be filled. We have to fill ourselves with something, but what? So I began contemplating the idea of being completely filled with the mind of the living Christ. I were completely saturated with Christ, filled to the point of overflowing, so much so that he radiated through my pores, what would that look like? How would that change the man I am today? I assure you, David, the Christ Saturated Life does not look like me, and that’s okay. With the ideal in front of me, at the very least, I know which way to walk. I know that toward which I am striving. I can see the target.
The manuscript is draft-complete, and I am in active discussions with a handful of agents who are considering representing it. I don’t know when it will be released. I am learning that the wheels of traditional publishing turn very slowly.
Q: I assume you have another book in the wings, or perhaps several. What do you have cooking up in the future?
I do have some ideas in the wings (there’s a drama reference for you), but in reality, you have more books actually published than I have ideas for manuscripts!
I’m chewing on one that I’m tentatively calling Swan Song of the Messiah. There is this myth that a swan will sing a song just prior to its death, so this will be a look at the statements Jesus made from the cross.
Another one I’m contemplating is based on Acts 2:42 where the new disciples devoted themselves to four specific things – The apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. My thought is that there must be something significant about those four devotions if that is what they applied themselves to.
I have been asked to consider writing a book on the believer’s response to sex trafficking in the U.S. One of the most heavily traveled corridors for young girls who have been enslaved in the sex trafficking business runs just a few miles from my home – between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s a horrifying reality that is far too easy to turn a blind eye toward. A friend of mine runs a refuge that rescues these young girls and helps them escape that nightmare.
You meet people over the Internet in many different places. Sometimes you meet them in real life; sometimes you don’t. I’ve never met Carol Ashby. We know each other a little from following the other’s comments at the “Between The Lines” blog of the Books & Such Literary Agency. I saw Carol post a comment about writing Roman Empire era books. I’m not writing about the empire, but my church history novels are set in the Roman Empire. So, I thought I’d like my readers know about Carol and her books. Hence, this interview.
DT: You say you’ve written professionally all your life, in things such as lasers and semiconductors. Now you’re also writing creatively. Tell me about what brought that on.
CA: Writing creatively; that’s a good distinction, Dave. While research is creative work because you’re pushing the frontier of what’s known, you don’t write it up “creatively.” When I was publishing in sci-tech, I was always careful to make sure it read as good science, not science fiction.
So why the switch? For several years, I’ve been watching the persecution so many Christians face in too many parts of the world, but especially now with ISIS. I was thinking about the parallels to the situation when Imperial Rome tried to destroy the followers of Jesus. Then the story that will be the second novel in the Light in the Empire series, Blind Ambition, came to me the last Friday in September in 2013. I started writing the first high-tension scene of the novel that night.
DT: Looking at your Amazon page, I see your published novel, Forgiven. The cover suggests ancient Rome. Tell us about your novel.
Forgiven is actually the fourth novel I wrote, but I decided to bring it to market first. It’s set in Roman Judea, and I had hoped to ride the wave of a blockbuster movie. Ben Hur didn’t do well in American theaters, although it did much better overseas. The wave here was more like the waves on a lake than something a surfer could ride.
Forgiven is a much better choice for my first published novel since it deals with a problem we all suffer from: how can we forgive what seems unforgivable? How do we keep our anger over something that can never be changed from poisoning the way we treat similar people who may have had nothing to do with what happened? How can we forgive them if it turns out they were responsible but didn’t mean to do it?
Forgiven takes place in Galilee only 10 years before the Bar Kochba Revolt that finally ended the Jewish hope for freedom from their Roman overlord. In AD 122, Rome had already destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, and only 5 years earlier it ruthlessly crushed the Kitos Rebellion. Jewish anger was simmering close to the surface, and the Roman troops charged with keeping the province peaceful never knew when violence would erupt.
In that caldron of unrest, a Messianic Jewish family is trying to live peacefully as they follow Jesus as their Messiah. Then the oldest son leaves to join the zealots in their guerilla attacks on the Romans. The second son goes to persuade his brother to come home, and a Roman officer kills him by mistake.
That accidental killing is the starting point of the story. Then the reader meets the brother of the Roman officer who killed the second son. He’s planning to kill his older brother for a larger inheritance and blame a zealot. His hired assassins bungle the job. When the dead son’s twin sister and younger brother are faced with the choice of rescuing the badly injured Roman or letting him die, they obey Jesus’s command to love their enemy and take him home. Rachel persuades her father to put his love for Jesus above his anger with Rome, pretend Lucius is Greek to protect him, and let him stay with them until he heals.
His brother wants him dead, her older brother wants to kill him if he’s Roman, and her father obeys Jesus’s command but struggles with having him around because he’s part of the group that killed his son. Forgiven is a story of love, hatred, friendship, and forgiveness. It portrays the emotional and spiritual struggles of more than one character leading to a deadly climax and, I hope, a satisfying conclusion.
DT: It’s part of a series titled “Light In The Empire”. What are your plans for this series?
I’m planning six to eight novels in the series. Each focuses on a deep cultural conflict based on ethnicity or class, the power of Christian love to overcome those, and the transformation of people that can result in response to that love. Each picks up one or more characters from another novel in the series and places them in challenging circumstances where decisions about living their faith must be made.
Each one is a story of hope about human love and spiritual transformation, a story about how our faithfulness can inspire another to open his or her heart to God. It’s interesting how the plot for the next novel that’s a new twist on the theme takes shape in my mind even before I finish the one I’m working on. As long as that keeps happening, I’ll know God wants me to keep writing the Roman series.
DT: You said the second novel in the series will be out by May. Tell us about that one.
Blind Ambition is actually the first novel I wrote. It’s set in AD 114 mostly in Germany near Mainz. The tagline describes it well: “Sometimes you have to almost die to discover how you want to live.”
The provincial governor has given the Christians in his province the option of sacrificing to Caesar or dying. His son, Decimus, is a tribune in the legion who’s headed for a stellar political career like his father. When he’s robbed, blinded, and left for dead, a young German woman who follows the Way finds him. Valeria knows it’s his duty to have her and her family killed, but she chooses to love her enemy and takes him home to care for him. Decimus has been raised to think of Christians as vermin to be exterminated for the good of Rome, so what’s he going to do when Valeria and her brother and sister love him like family while never hiding their love for Jesus from him?
DT: So, are you working on the next book in the series, and perhaps the next after that?
CA: I have two more novels that are finished and ready for the final editing. They should be out within the next year or so. I have another two that are fully plotted and about half written. There’s a fifth that I’ve partly written that will probably end up novella length. Plus I have some rough plans for two more. They all follow the series theme of difficult friendships growing into love coupled with the spiritual transformation of characters whose journey to faith is inspired by the faith of those who love them.
DT: Do you see yourself branching out from ancient Rome as the underlying period for your work in the future?
CA: I’m compulsive about getting the history right. I’ve got so much invested in both time and academic books (more than 60 at the moment) about the Roman period that I decided to create a Roman history site at carolashby.com with what I’ve learned. I write articles on different topics (taxation and medicine are next), review Roman-era books, make Latin wordsearch and crosswords, and post real Roman recipes with fun facts about ancient culinary practices. Each morning, I look to see where the site visitors came from during the night, and so far, they’re from 39 different countries, counting the US.
That was my first “author” website. It’s lots of fun for me, but not very personal and not a springboard to different settings. Most of my international visitors probably aren’t interested in Christian historical fiction, either.
I’ll be publishing Roman for a while, but I’ve already branched out a bit. The second novel I started writing was actually a romantic thriller set in Colorado in 1925. It’s another story about the power of Christian love to overcome differences in class, ethnicity, and the expectations of family and society, but I don’t have plans to bring it to market for a while. I set it aside while I wrote 3 more Roman novels. I went back to it and “finished” it over a year ago to enter a contest, but working on the Roman novels keeps me pretty busy.
DT: You said you are self-publishing the series What led to that decision?
CA: My husband and I decided from the beginning that we would donate the profits and offer the novels for more creative ways to support missions in Africa and the Middle East. When I learned that I would be selling all my rights to the books and not be able to use them like we wanted if I went the traditional publishing route, I took several deep breaths and made the leap into independent publishing. There’s a lot involved in doing that successfully, but if that’s what it takes to keep the flexibility that comes from owning the rights myself, then I’m willing to do it.
Every family probably has a writer or two in it. Previously I’ve interviewed a first cousin who is a writer and who’s published her books. Today is an interview with another cousin, in this case a second cousin, A.D. Vick. A.D.’s dad and my dad were first cousins. They spent a lot of time together growing up, and were in touch regularly as adults. It helped that our two families attended the same church, the Vicks sitting right behind the Todds on the first and second pews, left side.
A.D. is the oldest of three children, and three years ahead of me in school. We saw a lot of each other before college years, even at the shore in summers. I remember visiting his grandfather (my great-uncle) a number of times while his family was there also.
A.D. was from Providence, Rhode Island. In the late 1970s he moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and has lived there ever since. I got to northwest Arkansas in 1991, but didn’t know he was 30 miles down the road from me, something I learned in 1997. It wasn’t until May 2016 that we saw each other, though through the miracle of Facebook we had reconnected earlier than that.
At some point I learned A.D. was a writer. His tales could be considered part of the goth subculture, that…well, I think it’s best now to let this be in his own words.
You state you are part of the Goth Culture. But many people don’t really know what that is, or they think of it as a teenage phase. Can you give us a quick summary of what it means to be Goth?
Vick: Modern goth culture grew out of the post-punk movement during the early 1980s in Great Britain. The music that came to be called goth rock and dark wave had a darker feel to it than the better-known new wave that enjoyed a lot of popularity at the time. If the goth culture has a theme song, it would have to be Bela Lugosi’s Dead, by Bauhaus.
Goths in general, see beauty in darkness and accept darkness as a part of life. Yes, many enjoy the macabre, like to spend time in cemeteries (as do I) and enjoy dark fashion, which exists in great diversity. We are a harmless lot however, and would rather spend time reading, watching horror movies, drinking tea in graveyards, or writing poetry than causing any trouble.
Contrary to belief, there is no age limit to goth. While there’s little doubt that for some teenagers, goth is just a phase, many embrace the culture for a life time. It’s who they are.
You have a book out, Tales of Dark Romance and Horror. Tell us a little about it. How did you come to write it?
Vick: I see Tales of Dark Romance and Horror as sort of a documentary on my writing style. The book contains 12 short stories and one novella. I’m a romantic at heart and most of the material in the book reflects that. Still, I can look at the work contained within its pages as a reflection of my evolution as a writer.
My greatest literary inspiration is Edgar Allan Poe. I can vividly remember being stretched out on my bed reading his fiction as a child, and I firmly believe that it was he who inspired me to stay firmly in the realm of the short story. Other inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft, Anne Rice, and Charles de Lint.
I can still remember being taken somewhere with my parents as a child and at times, sitting and writing fiction to amuse myself. I always enjoyed writing and have indulged myself in many different aspects of that craft over the years. Still, I really like using grammar and punctuation creatively, which is something you simply cannot do if you’re doing technical writing, for example. So, between my love of fiction, my enjoyment of the macabre, and my love for romance and the creative use of language, I decided to write the book.
Are the stories stand-alone, or are they part of a series?
Vick: Some is part of a series and some is stand-alone. Three stories comprise my Raven series. Raven is a dead woman who comes back to this reality from the land of the dead to meet with her love, who still lives in the flesh, and to play violin in a metal band. Then, there’s my Sea Haven series, which I place on North Carolina’s outer banks. These two stories center around a couple of goth women who are best friends and the last of what was once a thriving culture in their locale. There are two other stories contained in the book that belong to my A Fall From Grace series. This is vampire fiction.
Even though the other stories are stand-alone, there are ways in which some of them intersect. For example, both my Raven series and the novella Rosalie center around a fictitious town I call Fox Grove, which I place in Newton County, Arkansas. The characters differ but I like using that locale.
Give us an idea of a typical plot. Take one story and walk us through it.
Vick: My style seems to be evolving and I’m not sure that there is a typical plot. The one constant, however, is that most of my material involves a mix of both romance and horror. So, I would like to use Night of the Harvestmen, which made me the 2014 Writer’s Workshop winner at Horror Addicts Dot Net.
The story, which is told in the first person, opens with the protagonist shouting with glee as he watches his house burning down. After the opening scene, the plot flashes back to a seemingly chance encounter he has with a young woman on a street in North Charleston, South Carolina. The lady has an incredible effect upon him and it takes days for him to get over her; this, even though nothing of significance took place between them.
Our hero returns to his rural home to find that he must deal with an infestation of harvestmen (daddy long legs), which seem to be gaining control of his house. After a week or two of battling with them, his abode is finally free of them. A friend reminds him that there is a goth music festival coming up on the weekend; and after battling the harvestmen for so long, he’s excited about attending. Upon his arrival, he spots the same lady he’d briefly encountered in North Charleston. They hit it off and she goes home with him. Our hero has found the love of his life and is in bliss until something goes terribly wrong.
What’s in store next? Are you working on more stories, or another book?
Vick: I’m currently working on a story called The Arrival of Narkissa Laveau. This is to be the last story I’ll write for a new book. This new publication will be smaller than the first and will contain seven stories. Still, I feel that it would be advantageous to get a second book published. While I haven’t settled on a title for this upcoming publication, I’ve arranged for someone to do a bit more art work for it and I have a picture that I believe will serve as an excellent cover photo. I hope to publish by the end of winter or early spring.
I may have two college degrees, but sometimes I have trouble putting two and two together. I’ve been Facebook friends with author Lori Ericson for a couple of years (I think), having “met” through some FB writing groups for this neck of the woods. I was also aware of Lori Ericson, city planner for the City of Rogers, Arkansas. Since I don’t deal with cities much any more, in my capacity as corporate trainer, I hadn’t actually worked with Lori the planner. But I knew about her, and knew others in our company worked with her.
Well, we had Lori and some other people in to our office a couple of weeks ago to hold a panel discussion for us on the city planning process. While everyone was here, having lunch right before the session, I heard someone say something about Lori’s books. As an civil engineer who hopes to be a writer when he grows up, my ears perked up. While the panel discussion was going on I looked for Lori the author on my phone, and found her. I discovered we were Facebook friends. I’d just never realized this is the same Lori. And, checking her out in Linked In, I discovered we live kind of close to each other.
Okay, that’s much too long of an explanation/introduction. Lori has two novels published, and has had some short stories anthologized. But she has many more writing credits than that. So on with the interview.
Lori, your bio indicates you held positions as a print journalist for a number of years. Now, however, you work as a city planner by day and a creative writer by night. Why the change?
I saw changes in the newspaper business that didn’t match the type of journalism that I wanted to do. As a newspaper reporter for 20 years in Northwest Arkansas, I had covered planning issues in both Benton and Washington counties and knew the basics of the field. So, it was a good fit for me when I saw the opening. The change also gave me a chance to concentrate on my dream of becoming a novelist. It was hard to come home and write at night or on the weekends when I’d been writing all day as a journalist.
So, the bug to write creatively bit you, as it did me. I was diagnosed incurable around 1999. You?
I wanted to be a writer when I was a child. I read a lot and wrote short stories since I was in elementary school. Then in junior high they did some testing, asked us about our dream job, etc. I said I wanted to be a writer. The school counselor pushed me toward journalism, saying I’d need to make money. I didn’t know how true that was! I joined the school newspaper and then majored in journalism and English in college.
Tell me about your first novel, A Lovely County. What is the genre? Give us a teaser of what it’s about.
A Lovely County is a thriller/mystery. It’s about a reporter in the Ozarks who has moved back to her hometown after being fired at a statewide daily newspaper. Now working for a weekly paper, she stumbles across a big story when a young boy’s murder turns out to be at the hands of a serial killer. Reporter Danni Edens struggles to beat the competition to the story and redeem her career while she’s out trying to sort out the facts of possible corruption at the county jail. All the while, she’s also dealing with her mother’s mental illness and rumors that could hurt the reputation of her family-owned cemetery.
And now, you have a newly released novel, A Lovely Murder. Is it a sequel? Tell us about it.
Yes, A Lovely Murder is a sequel, but it can stand alone as well. Here’s the jacket brief on it:
Life is finally coming together for reporter Danni Edens. Her mother’s mental illness seems to be under control, her career is taking off after a major setback, and she’s found love.
But a mistake from her past comes back to rob her of that newly found happiness and possibly more.
As Danni struggles with the biggest loss of her life, the challenges start piling up. She fights to keep her grief at bay while searching for the killer who took her fiancé, but soon realizes the culprit wants more blood. Her vehicle is deliberately sabotaged causing a wreck that injures her best friend. Then she’s accused of murder and forced to defend herself. All the while, more bodies are piling up.
How can she prove her own innocence, protect her family and friends, and rebuild her life when a killer lurks? Will she lose all she holds dear, including her dream of a happy future? Or even her life?
What’s in store for the future? If you’ve released novel 2, you’re probably well into novel 3, and planned novel 4.
A Lovely Grave is in the works and set for release late 2017. It involves the investigation into the disappearance of young women, most of them students at the state university. Danni Edens has finally made the leap back to a daily newspaper, but struggles with some sexual harassment may have her wishing she was still working at the weekly, even though she’s proving her worth as a reporter by beating everyone to the punch on the facts of biggest crime spree to hit her Ozarks hometown in years.
You can take the boy out of Rhode Island, but you can’t take Rhode Island out of the boy. Even 42 years after leaving there, I keep up with news from the state (as best I can in fly-over country), with old friends, and occasionally make a new friend or contact. Lori Roeleveld is one of them. I “met” her, the self-proclaimed “disturber of hobbits,” if I recall correctly, from an on-line writers group at Yahoo. Seeing she was from my home state, I made contact with her. We’ve attended the same conference, but I don’t know if she was there the year I was. If she was, we didn’t meet in person. I asked Lori if I could interview her for a blog post. Here it is.
Oh, but first, here’s a link to Lori’s author’s page at Amazon.com:
DAT: “Disturber of hobbits”? You’ll have to explain that one.
LSR: Why Disturber of Hobbits? I care about hobbits, ordinary people, common Jesus followers like me just trying to survive from the ground to glory. Hobbits are all of us who like to be comfy and cozy, eat our meals on time, and who resist unsettling adventures. The problem is that settling in interferes with traveling on the narrow road to the heart of Jesus Christ, our true home. I write posts about faith designed to disturb the hobbit in all of us and inspire us to forget second breakfast long enough to join the adventure. I write to incite the faltering believer to join the ancient adventure.
The adventure is upon us. We are those who refuse to skim across the surface of faith. I write for all of us who have been unsettled from comfortable places and moved to follow Jesus into the adventure of our times. We may be common souls from small places and simple lives, “But, we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Hebrews 10:39 ESV
DAT: When and why did you begin writing creatively?
LSR: I’ve always written, as long as I can remember. When I was in first grade, back in the sixties, I could read on an 11th grade level. I sped through my classroom work and my teacher would send me to the library to “read a book and write about it.” That went on through my elementary years until by high school, I was writing book reports about books that didn’t exist. My first published work were two poems in American Girl Magazine when I was fourteen.
DAT: Your first book, Running From a Crazy Man, was published in late 2014. Tell me something about it.
LSR: Running from a Crazy Man (and Other Adventures Traveling with Jesus) is a siren call to the modern believer that the God-adventure can happen even when, like King David, you’re running from a crazy man. Some Christians leave their relationship with God in a sealed box like a collectible that will be worth something “someday.” I write for believers who exercise their faith and break open the box, those who wholeheartedly answered the call to follow Jesus. But then, something happened and now they’re gasping beside the narrow road. They thought they were on the God adventure but suddenly it feels as if all they’re doing is running from a crazy man. Still, they seek the strength to continue the journey.
Crazy Man is a series of short, non-fiction chapters adapted from my most popular blog posts. It isn’t reading for the happily comfortable. These are words for the restless Jesus lover, the long-suffering disciple, the openhearted believer. Be forewarned. The challenges inside are designed to unsettle as well as to incite readers to relish the narrow road even when trouble is their travel companion.
DAT: What is the main takeaway you hope readers will have from RFCM?
LSR: I want readers to walk away convinced they can continue walking with Jesus even though they’ve encountered trouble, trial, or tribulation, and they can live the adventure they dreamed, even in the midst of trying circumstances.
DAT: How has the reception been for it?
LSR: Running from a Crazy Man has received all five and four star reviews on Amazon and I’ve heard from many readers who are in their second or third reading. Some use it as an unconventional devotional. Many are sharing it with their small groups or book clubs.
DAT: I see that your next book was Red Pen Redemption, which was published in late 2015. What’s that about?
LSR: Red Pen Redemption is a novella that takes place entirely one Christmas Eve, much like A Christmas Carol. What would you do if God took you up on a dare? Helen Bancroft’s led a good life and feels no need for her daughter’s Savior. When God accepts Helen’s dare to edit her autobiography and prove her righteousness, she’s in for a lesson in her own history. One woman’s journey from unbelief to acceptance turns into the Christmas Eve adventure of a lifetime beneath the red pen of Christ’s mercy and grace.
I wrote this story with love for all my friends who pray for unsaved parents and hold out the hope of Christ to them even into their eighties and nineties. God has surprises for us even when we think the adventure is close to an end. If you love history or could use a new perspective on your own history, you’ll love Red Pen Redemption!
DAT: Was it difficult to switch from writing non-fiction to writing “holiday” genre fiction?
LSR: Not at all. I like to choose the genre or literary vehicle that is best for each message or story I want to tell. Red Pen’s theme is most engaging through fiction.
DAT: You have a new book coming out in September. Tell me about that.
LSR: Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life) is my second non-fiction book. I started by asking the question, What if a fairy tale and ten Bible verses could free you to live an effective, fruitful life in Christ?
We live in a world populated with giants. Giant obstacles to sharing faith. Giant barriers to godly lives. Giant strongholds of sin. We come from a long line of giant-killers so, why aren’t we dodging more fallen giants? Jack and the Beanstalk could hold part of the key.
Jesus and the Beanstalk explores 2nd Peter 1:1-10 using fairy tale, humor, and modern culture to show today’s believers how to unleash that promise of an effective, fruitful life. Designed for both individuals, discipleship, small groups, or ministry retreats, readers will find this fresh take on spiritual growth engaging and motivating.
DAT: What do you see in the future for your writing? Since book 3 is in the publishing queue, I imagine you’re well along, or perhaps even finished, with book 4.
LSR: I have several fiction projects I’d like to write (or rewrite) and I’m developing a follow up non-fiction book in the vein of Jesus and the Beanstalk – right now titled, “Jesus through the Looking Glass.” And, of course, I keep on blogging. This summer, I’m taking a master class in screenwriting, so, who knows?
Faith Blum, who is a fellow member at an Internet writers site, has a book out that I suspect some readers of my blog might be interested in. It’s The Solid Rock, which is available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Solid-Rock-Hymns-West-Book-ebook/dp/B01CWCDBJK DAT: The Solid Rock sounds like a title for a non-fiction Christian book. But your book is a novel How did you come up with that title? Faith: All of the novels in my series are named after hymns and the hymns are woven in throughout. I chose The Solid Rock because the theme of the song fit the theme of the book so well. I didn’t know exactly how well until I finished the rough draft, though. It was perfect! DAT: Give us a 60 second tour of the book. Faith: The Solid Rock is a Christian Western Mystery about a talented detective with a mission to find his kidnapped colleague who ends up working undercover with a heinous outlaw who has more plans than first meet the eye. DAT: The description of the book at Amazon gives no hint of any romance element. Is there one? And if so, tell us a little about it. Faith: There are a couple of slight romance subplots in the story. I’ll try to tell you about them without giving spoilers away. One is between the daughter of the missing detective and another young man. He’s been waiting for God’s leading to ask her father’s permission to court her and finally gets it. There are also five mail order brides in the story, although their romances are mostly told in the three novellas that will be coming out this summer. The other romance subplot happens mostly in the final chapters and epilogue, so I can’t really tell you anything about it without major spoilers. DAT: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Faith: I hope readers will see that Christians aren’t perfect and that’s okay as long as they continue to let God guide them.
DAT: This is book five in the Hymns of the West series. What are your plans for this series? When might we expect the next book in it?
Faith: For now, I plan to end the series with The Solid Rock. My spin-off series, Hymns of the West Novellas, still has three novellas coming this summer, though. And I am currently writing a series called Orphans of the West about some of the orphans who have been introduced in either a novel or a novella. I am also planning to write two other series’ about the descendants of characters from either the novels or novellas leading all the way up to current times, and possibly a slightly futuristic novel or two. That will depend on how long it takes me to write the other series’. So even though this particular series is coming to an end, the characters will live on.I hope some of you will buy Faith’s book. Check out her website:http://www.faithblum.com/and her series page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HymnsoftheWestOh, and Faith is doing a giveaway: a full set of paperback books! Fill out this form to earn entries to the giveaway. Each entry gives you one point, plus there are opportunities for bonus entries.