Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Welcome Alison Strobel

I'm happy to welcome author Alison Strobel to my blog. I've had the pleasure of reading her most recent release (courtesy of her publisher, Zondervan), The Weight of Shadows.

Alison agreed to answer some questions for us --

Tell us about your latest novel, Weight of Shadows.

The Weight of Shadows is about Kim, a young woman who is haunted by guilt and desperate for a family. When she starts dating Rick, a fellow foster child, she thinks she’s found everything she needs--someone to love her, and someone to whom she can spill the secret that weighs on her so heavily. What she really ends up finding, however, is a way to pay penance for her sins when Rick begins to abuse her. But when he turns on their infant daughter, Kim must decide if her needs are worth putting her child in danger--and how to ensure Rick doesn’t use her secret against her if she decides to leave.

What’s your favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or a movie?

Oh gosh, I have a terrible memory for things like that--but I can tell you that Terry Pratchett is, in my opinion, the king of word pictures and figurative language, so whatever ones I’d hoped to remember forever were probably from his books. :)

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

Christmas! I am a sucker for Christmas. I love the music, I love giving gifts, I love the traditions and teaching my children about why we celebrate it. It’s a thousand times better if there’s snow, too. There usually was when I was growing up in Illinois, but my years in California really gave my love of Christmas a run for its money. I just couldn’t get into it when it was warm enough to have Christmas dinner outside. And Christmas lights on palm trees? Just not the same. I’m really happy to be back in a place where the holiday gets the proper atmospheric costuming. :)

What is the most surprising discovery you’ve made on your journey of publication?

That Christian readers can be incredibly judgmental of authors based on what they write. Not all of them, obviously, but I’m always stunned when I or another author I know get slammed for writing realistic stories. If we portray an un-Christian character in a way that is absolutely believable, given who that character is and what their worldview is like, or if we make a Christian character make a really bad choice, there are readers out there who will question my/the author’s very faith because we dared to put something “un-Christian” in the book. I understand if readers don’t like to read about certain types of behavior, and I always feel badly when something I've written makes someone uncomfortable, but to question the state of my soul because I wrote about, say, a non-Christian who was a womanizer and a drunk is beyond ridiculous.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

I’ve had people tell me they’ve stopped reading in order to pray for the characters because they became so real to the reader. I take that as a huge compliment! I work really hard to make the people in my books believable and easy to relate to, and when I get feedback like that it tells me I’m hitting the bull’s-eye.

What’s your favorite meal to cook?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Cook!? Yeah, I don’t so much do that. At least not well. My favorite dish to eat that I know how to cook would be homemade mac and cheese. But I wouldn’t say I enjoy cooking it--or anything else for that matter. I really wish I did enjoy it, though.

Describe your perfect “day off.”

Sleeping in, having a breakfast of Cheerios with milk and brown sugar, spending the morning reading a really wonderful book in a very comfortable chair and spending the afternoon crocheting in the company of good friends. And somewhere in there would be a blended mocha. And maybe some cake.

What makes you happy?

My kids’ laughs and kisses. Dinner alone with my husband. Hearing how one of my books has touched someone, or made them think. Girls’ night out.

A piece of jewelry, the fragrance of lilacs, and the song of a mourning dove – make a scene.

The setting: An upscale funeral home in Massachusetts, present day, early May, Sunday morning. The room is prepared for a memorial service, with rows of folding chairs filling the room and the walls lined with lilacs. The windows to the room are open to the garden outside, where a mourning dove can be heard in its nest in one of the many cherry trees that decorate the property. At the front of the room is an open casket made of mahogany and lined with pink satin. An easel beside the casket holds a poster with two photos: One is from WW2, depicting a young woman with a bright smile wearing a smart servicewoman’s uniform. The other shows what we assume is the same woman, aged a great many number of decades, with thinning silver hair set in curls and a face that reflects a handful of sorrows. Her smile is small, but sincere; her eyes seem focused on something far in the distance. Above the photos are the words Gabriella “Gabby” Trane ~ October 29 1919 - May 10, 2008.

The action: Chrissy Corbel is going to her great aunt’s funeral today. She hasn’t spoken to this aunt in six years, since a falling-out between her and Chrissy’s mother at a family reunion. Her mother refused to attend the service today, but insisted Chrissy go to represent their side of the family--as well as to ensure that the broach her mother wants is not buried with the deceased. If it is on Aunt Gabby--which it is--she is to figure out a way to get it off and bring it home. It is a very valuable piece, fashioned by Carl Faberge in the 19th century, and Gabby stole it (according to Chrissy’s mother) from Chrissy’s grandmother twenty years ago just before she died. Chrissy’s mother believes it to be hers, and procuring it will not only allow her to “avenge” her mother, but will also provide her with the money she needs, after she sells it to the Smithsonian, to finally pay off the debt she owes to the IRS.

Chrissy arrives at the memorial service late, and it is in full-swing when she finally walks in. The room is packed--Aunt Gabby was a popular lady--and she sweats through the whole service wondering if she’s really going to have to steal jewelry off a dead woman in front of a crowd. When the service ends people linger and converse, and she spends the next hour dodging estranged family and humoring little old ladies who instantly recognize Gabby in Chrissy’s face and want to talk with her. When she finally gets close enough to the casket, she realizes the broach is indeed pinned to the lavender pink tweed jacket someone chose as Gabby’s burial outfit. Panicked that she really will have to commit theft, she falls back and regroups with a cigarette outside, where she recalls the incident that led to the division between her mother and her aunt. When she goes back inside after psyching herself up for the robbery, she realizes the broach has already been stolen.

Thanks for stopping by, Alison. I enjoyed reading The Weight of Shadows, and I encourage my friends to read this thought-provoking novel. It's not an easy book to read because the author tackles a difficult subject head on. The best part of The Weight of Shadows for me was that it caused you to think of how the choices we make impact not only our lives, but others around us too.

You can visit Alison online at her blog. If you're interested in winning some books or a gift card, you can enter her blog tour contest by leaving a comment on this post. On July 18th, which is one week after the close of the tour, she'll choose one comment from a randomly selected blog to receive either autographed copies of her first three books or a gift card to their favorite bookstore.


Alison Strobel Morrow said...

Thanks so much for blogging about the book, Megan! Glad to hear you enjoyed it. :) Hope to see you again soon!

Bev Bender said...

I haven't read any of Morrow's books but find this interview piques my interest in her writing. So, please enter me in the contest.

Bonnie Doran said...

Thanks for the post. I agree that writers can be judgmental toward other writers, and unfortunately that includes Christian writers. I'm having fun with a book called Rotten Reviews and Rejections in which, among others, Ralph Waldo Emerson slams Jane Austen. It's hilarious now, but must have been hurtful then.