First, be sure to check out Lisa Samson’s blog today. She’s written a lovely piece that had me begging the Lord for forgiveness. http://lisasamson.typepad.com . Look for “Broken Pieces.”
Second, C.J. Darlington has put together a beautiful tribute to writers and their mothers. See it here: http://www.titletrakk.com/mom_advice_authors.html .
And finally–I don’t know how it’s been in your area, but we’ve had smoke from the fires that are burning in Florida and Georgia. Last Friday I sat in my office and peered out the window, amazed to find that I could barely see the house across the street. The rising sun shone through the window and dappled my carpet–but the sunspots were orange, not golden. Truly strange.
VEIL OF FIRE, a new novel by Marlo Schalesky, has just been released. Here’s a blurb about it:
A Raging Firestorm . . .
A Light in the Hills . . .
And a Mystery Rises from the Ash.
In 1894, the worst firestorm in Minnesota history descends on the town of Hinckley. Heat, flame, and darkness sweep through the town, devouring lives, destroying hope. In the aftermath, the town rises from the ashes, its people determined to rebuild their lives.
But in the shadows, someone is watching. Someone is waiting. Someone who knows the secrets that can free them all. A rumor begins of a hermit in the hills – a person severely burned, disfigured beyond recognition. Doubts rise. Fear whispers. Is the hermit a monster or a memory? An enemy or a love once-lost?
Based on historical events, Veil of Fire beckons to a time when hope rose from the smoke of sacrifice, when trust hid behind a veil of fear, when dreams were robed in a mantle of fire . . .
What Others are Saying about Veil of Fire:
Reading Veil of Fire is like feasting on a banquet of rich words and vivid images.
─Tricia Goyer, award-winning author of five novels, including A Valley of Betrayal
Moving. Heartbreaking. Compelling. This beautiful, sensitive story of pain, loss, and, ultimately, healing touched the deepest parts of my heart.
─Laura Jensen Walker, author of Miss Invisible and Reconstructing Natalie
For more information, a preview of the entire first chapter, and discussion questions for groups, please visit www.marloschalesky.com
Purchase Veil of Fire here.
An Interview with Marlo Schalesky
Q: Where did you birth the idea for this book? When? How did it come about?
A: People often ask where I get my ideas for my books. My answer? You never know! For Veil of Fire, the idea was birthed at my favorite Mexican restaurant in the mission town of San Juan Bautista.
Q: LOL! That must have been some spicy food!
A: There I was, sitting with my family, nibbling chips and salsa, when a wedding party came by. The bridesmaids were dressed in beautiful turn-of-the-century style gowns. As they passed, my mother-in-law began to tell me of the dresses that her great grandmother, who lived in Hinckley, used to sew for the rich ladies in Minneapolis and St. Paul. From there, came the story of the great Hinckley fire and the rebuilding that this woman, my husband’s great-great-grandmother, was a part of. And finally, I heard the tale of the mystery figure in the hills, a person burned beyond recognition. A person never identified, living as a hermit until one day he just disappeared.
At that moment, the first inklings of the story that would become Veil of Fire were born in my heart. Who was the hermit in the hills? What happened to him? And how would I solve the mystery if I could? As I pondered those questions, I knew that I had to write the hermit’s story. Had to explore what it would be like to lose everything, even your identity. Had to hear the hermit’s voice in my mind, and hear the story for myself.
So, the writing of the book became for me a process of discovery, as I hope it will be for my readers. I hope that as the mystery of the hermit drew me, so too it will draw others to this story of how fire can change you, take from you, and in the end, may just set you free.
Q: Can you explain your research process?
A: The research was particularly fascinating not only because of its link to my personal family history, but also because of the incredible first-person accounts of the fire that were written by people who were actually there. These stories are compiled into a book written entirely by survivors who recount their personal experience of living through the firestorm that swept through their town. I read about a man whose hat lifted from his head and exploded above him as he ran through wind and fire. I read about another whose horse raced beside the Eastern Minnesota train as fire billowed around him. The horse swerved into the smoke, and the man was never seen again. I read about a boy racing down the tracks, falling, and surviving as the fire roared over him. I read about fire on the surface of the Grindstone River, darkness broken only by bursts of flame, the St. Paul and Duluth engine backing up to Skunk Lake through blinding heat and smoke. I read about a train trestle disintegrating into flame moments after a train passed, about Jane Tew praying on that train, and the brakemen who saved them all.
Those eyewitness accounts, as well as information gathered about the fire from other sources, created the realistic feel of the fire and its aftermath in Veil of Fire. Plus, you can be sure that if something seems almost beyond belief in Veil of Fire, it will be drawn from an actual account that came directly from the research, so amazing were the real stories of the fire on that day!
Today, a number of books about the fire, as well as artifacts, photos, and other articles can be seen at the Hinckley Fire Museum in Hinckley.
Q: Wow. I’ve never been in a fire, so that seems unbelievable. What takeaway points do you hope your readers pull from this book?
A: Once, when we were children, we believed in miracles. The impossible was only a prayer away. Fairy tales were real, and dreams were free. Where did we lose the ability to trust? When did we stop daring to believe? What happened to us?
Life happened. Failure, discouragement, pain, loss. Somewhere, somehow, life burns us all. And we realize that this life we live is not the one we once dreamed. The realities of life scar us. Doubts rise. Fear whispers that hope is gone. And what was once a simple faith can fail in the face of that fear.
In the midst of life’s disillusionment, choices appear. Do we retreat? Hide our hurts far from probing eyes? Do we embrace bitterness and cynicism? Do we use deceit to try to obtain our goals? Do we give up, give in, forget that we ever dared to dream?
Or is it possible to reach the high places of faith in the low valleys of life’s reality? Can we still live a life of bold faith, of fierce hope, when fairy tales don’t come true? How do we live this life that God has given us when it’s not the life we dreamed?
These are the questions I wanted to explore in Veil of Fire. These are the questions which underlie each character’s journey in the aftermath of the great fire of 1894.
So, for those burned by life, for those who carry scars that cannot be seen, for those who have retreated for fear of more pain, this story is for you, this journey from the hidden places of pain to a new hope in the unhidden truth of Christ’s love.
Q: Can you share with your readers something God has been teaching you lately?
A: Through some recent tragedies and through writing Veil of Fire, God is showing me that I cannot measure his love by my successes and failures, or even by my happiness. Who I am on the inside, how I am being shaped into the likeness of Christ, the character of my life – the color and beauty of it – are what are important to God. And to create that color and beauty, sorrow is necessary. Hurtful things happen.
So, I’m starting to understand that my life, too, is a story that God is writing. And since the best stories have conflict, disappointments, and plenty of action, I shouldn’t be surprised when my life takes a turn and my faith is challenged once again.
And yet, my sorrow matters to God, my tears are counted by him as precious. He does not leave me alone in my hurt. He touches me, he heals me, he creates beauty from the ashes of my pain.
So I’m learning to walk through the fires in my own life. And to dig deeper – not to answer the question of why but the question of who – who is God really, who am I, and who is he making me to be? Those are the questions that matter. Those are the things that help me to face my own fires, accept my own scars.
Q: I understand that like me, you’re studying theology. What’s your favorite reading these days?
A: Why, the New Testament, of course . . . in Greek! Now, before you start thinking that loving Greek makes me too scholarly to write a decent novel, you should know that even though I just completed my Masters at Fuller (that’s a Masters in Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary – so cool!), it wasn’t my desire for an “A” that made me fall in love with New Testament Greek. After all, most students get through Greek class as fast as they can and then forget it. I might have too.
But one day, as I was sitting there in class, learning forms and tenses, my professor happened to mention something interesting. “Did you realize,” he said, “that the Greek word for truth and the word for unhidden share the same root.”
Ah, in that moment an idea came to me, a little whisper from the heart of God. Truth. Unhidden. Truth. And I began to see the connection between truth and what it means for those who hide in their pain.
That idea became the basis for the theme in Veil of Fire. So you see, I can’t help loving the Greek. I can’t help wanting to read the New Testament that way. After all, who knows what I might discover next.
Q: What book project can we expect from you after Veil of Fire? Can you give us a sneak peak of the storyline?
A: After Veil of Fire, I’m writing 3 contemporary novels for Waterbrook-Multnomah. All of them are “Love Stories with a Twist!,” a new type of story that I think will knock readers’ socks off.
Q: If they still have socks–sounds like our might be “burned off” by reading your latest. Thanks, Marlo, for dropping by!