Do you hear Bette Midler singing when you read that title? I do! Anyway, my pal Tammy Alexander has a new book out, FROM A DISTANCE. And I thought it might be nice to let her talk about it a little . . .
Q: Elizabeth Westbrook is a proponent of women’s rights – a suffragette and a woman aspiring to be the first photographer/
A: While the dichotomy grew out of Elizabeth’s developing character, it was also a conscious choice on my part. I just didn’t know at the outset what her physical weakness would be. When I first started “getting to know” Elizabeth Westbrook, I quickly discovered she was a strong-minded woman. Not a current day feminist,per se, but she was determined to achieve her goals, wanting above all to be the woman God wanted her to be. And yet, even in that earnest and honest desire, her perspective was skewed. Part of her journey in From a Distance is learning what it means to give God her dreams, to surrender her aspirations for His.
Q: What drew you to the Civil War and freed slaves as issues to set alongside the infant feminine movement?
A: Being born and raised in Atlanta, I’ve long held an appreciation for Southern history, and for the Civil War in particular. I’ve looked forward to writing a book where I could blend the rugged backdrop of the Colorado Territory with that of the antebellum South. I’ve read numerous accounts and diaries from men and women of that era and have a deep respect and appreciation for what they endured, and for their contribution to this country’s rich and diverse heritage.
Q; Josiah’s story is truly one of mercy and grace in a person’s life. He tells Elizabeth, “Knowin’ Jesus has already sifted through what’s comin’ before it gets to me…Well, I reckon that ought to be enough.” This is not an easy lesson for anyone to learn. Can it be taught be any means other than pain and loss? Do you think this is the key to understanding why people have to endure suffering?
A: I truly believe that a faith like Josiah’s has to be refined by fire, as it says in I Peter 1:7. By trials. I know that, personally, I grow closer to God in the hard times more so than the easy times. A dear friend once said, “Nothing happens to me but what it first hasn’t been sifted through the loving hands of my Heavenly Father.” I believe that. I believe God is sovereign and He knows what’s coming down the pike, so to speak, in my life. And that nothing touches me or my life that hasn’t been “allowed” by His sovereignty.
Now, does that mean that everything that happens to me is purposed by God? No, I don’t believe so. I believe that we live in a fallen world where sin exists, and that just as I have free will, so does someone else who’s chosen not to follow God. And when our “free wills” collide, things happen. Sin happens. Be it fair or not, we pay for the consequences of others’ choices. Oftentimes dearly.
Did God want me to be sexually abused when I was a little girl? No. I think His heart broke when that man took me in a back bedroom and, on repeated occasions, sexually assaulted me. But God (obviously) allowed that to happen. And through the years, He’s also provided healing for those emotional wounds, as well as avenues to share that healing.
Writing Revealed (my second book) was a healing journey from sexual abuse for me that I hadn’t anticipated. But God knew. I believe that when I first created Annabelle Grayson’s secondary character in Rekindled, God knew I’d writeRevealed, and He was already waiting for me in that moment a year later as I wrote Annabelle’s story, even as He was with me in that current moment when her character first “stepped onto the page.”
And something more… I believe that years ago—even as a man lured a little six-year-old girl into a bedroom and sinned against her—God was already setting into motion a plan for her healing. And that He knew I’d someday answer His call to be a writer, and that His glory would be made known through the story of a prostitute who was abused at a tender age. I never could have written Revealed, I never could have gone to those dark places in the human heart, had I not experienced such pain. And then later…such amazing joy!
Q; Daniel, Elizabeth and Josiah all reach a point where they either choose to share or are forced to share the truth about their circumstances. Why do we feel so compelled to hide what is painful from others when it is in the sharing of our trials that we often find forgiveness and freedom from the guilt often associated with those trials? Why is it so difficult to see and understand how God works in our lives even through these difficult times?
A: It’s hard to take off the mask and let people see who we really are—warts and all, as the saying goes—because it makes us vulnerable. And when we’re vulnerable, we can get hurt. All over again. And who wants to intentionally open yourself to more hurt? And yet, when we’re vulnerable, we’re real. (Writing this makes me want to run grab my copy of The Velveteen Rabbit and read it all over again!) Being real, being authentic, is such an attractive quality in a person.
As I get older, I see God most through these difficult times in my life, and yet my seeing Him, sensing and witnessing His presence, doesn’t always help me to understand the “why” behind something He allows. I’ve long ago surrendered the quest to figure out why God does something. Searching for the answer to a “why” has never led to a deeper faith step in my life. Choosing to trust Him despite not knowing the reason why something happened, choosing to trust (in the words of Job) “though He slay me”….does.
Q: Will we get to see more of these three great characters in the next book in this series? How many books will this series contain?
A: Yes! We’ll see these characters in the next two books, which will release in 2009.
Q; What exciting things is God doing in your life right now? Any closing words of encouragement you want to share with your readers?
A: An exciting (and memorable) moment happened for me recently. My husband and I are having some landscaping done, and one afternoon the landscaper asked me what I did for a living since I was “always home.” LOL! I told him I was a writer, and he shared that his wife loved to read. And that she was currently on bed rest, due in three weeks with their fourth child.
I gave him a set of Fountain Creek Chronicles (Rekindled, Revealed, Remembered) to give to his wife. Well, I got an email the next night saying that his wife was loving Rekindled and was telling him every single scene when he got home from work, so he wouldn’t have to read the book—his wife had already told him everything!
The next day he arrived. I met him in the backyard to discuss some details and he said, “Before we start, I just want to thank you for writing that book.”
“Rekindled?” I asked.
He nodded. “My wife finished it last night. She loved it.” He got a little quiet. “She came up to me afterward and told me that reading that book made her love me more, and that she was more committed to our marriage now than she had been.”
There are moments in your life when you wonder if you’re doing what God made you to do. While I have no clue whether I’ll be still writing novels ten years from now, I have no doubt that I’m doing what God designed me to do…for this moment in time. And I’m grateful to share the hope in Christ that He’s entrusted to us. That’s what this brief little journey called life is all about.
Q:What aspects of your work do you enjoy the most?
A: Having written! When the book is done, all revisions made, and I’m holding that first “hot off the press” copy in my hands. Oh, that’s a wonderful feeling.
The next best thing is typing “THE END” on a first draft.
Q: Preach it, sister! What are the most challenging problems for writers?
A: I can only speak for myself, but it’s discipline. Discipline to write a set word count everyday. Discipline to keep at it when “the muse” isn’t particularly generous that day. Along with the discipline of writing even when you don’t feel like it, comes the discipline of exercising each day, after those long hours of sitting (not good for the hips!). Then the discipline to “turn off the story” (or at least mute it) when you’re with family and friends. Again, sometimes easier to do than others, especially when I’m on deadline. Like now!
Q: For what achievement would you like to be remembered?
A: I most would like to be remembered for having made a difference in people’s lives. In the end, people are what matter. Not achievements, not awards, not accolades, not print runs, not bestseller lists. But people.
Amen! Thanks for stopping by! And tell me the truth–doesn’t that gal on the cover look like she’s thinking, Where’d I lose my pearl earring? LOL!