Hello Alison – thanks so much for visiting my blog! Tell me about your new book The Weight of Shadows– how did you come up with the title? I love it!
I wish I could take the credit for it, but that actually goes to Dudley Delffs, who was head of fiction at Zondervan at the time that we came up with it. Usually the title comes to me along with the first kernel of an idea, but for some reason I just could not think of one for this book. I called it “Guilt” as a working title, and when I turned it in I told my editor I was open to anything since I hadn’t had any luck. A few weeks later Dudley suggested wrote me with that title, and I was blown away. It was perfect, and absolutely nothing like any title I ever would have come up with. I have a trend of two-word titles (Worlds Collide, Violette Between, Reinventing Rachel) and that title went in a great, different direction.
How do you write dialogue and make sure you get it right?
I rely on a handful of tools. I read everything out loud. I think about the kinds of words people use when they’re chatting, versus the words they use if they’ve rehearsed what they want to say or want to sound smarter or more knowledgeable than they really are. I think really good dialogue is dependent on an author knowing their characters inside and out. Not just their education level, but their social standing, their family of origin, what they read, the music they listen to, where they grew up, where they live now…all that affects word choice, cadence, all that stuff. Get all that right and you’ve got dialogue that really rounds out characters and makes for not just believable conversations, but conversations that don’t remind you that you’re reading a book.
Why did you chose to write about domestic violence and abuse.
The kernel idea I started with was, “What if you carried a burden of guilt that no one else knew about? What if you carried it for years? How would it affect you in the long term?” I thought it might lead to someone welcoming pain as a means of penance for their hidden guilt. Combine that with someone who is desperate for love, who will do anything for a family–and the concept of domestic abuse seemed to fit very well.
Coupled with that is the fact that domestic abuse doesn’t show up a lot in Christian fiction, and I thought it would be a good topic to bring to readers’ attention. Unfortunately I know a number of women who were either in DV situations or currently still are in them–it’s just so heartbreaking, so gut-wrenching to hear their stories and hear how warped their sense of self-worth and reality are. There are a lot of reasons why women end up in abusive relationships–penance for guilt is not necessarily a main one–but it was a clear cause that I thought would help readers to start to understand the reasons why women stay. DV victims are really misunderstood. I think there are a lot of assumptions about their education level, their intelligence. But the truth of the matter is that any woman from any background can end up in an abusive relationship.
What is a book you’ve read recently that you loved? What do you look for in a book?
I’m in the middle of “God Alone is Enough” by Claudia Mair Burney, and it’s phenomenal. Burney is one of my favorite writers. Lisa Samson’s “The Passion of Mary-Margaret” was also excellent; read that a few months ago and it’s still “with” me.I’m a sucker for books that completely transport me. Books that make me suddenly look around and think, “Where the heck did the last five hours go?!” are the ones I buy and read over and over. I tend to seek out books that tackle “big” issues, that make me think, that challenge me, but I don’t mind a more “fluffy” book when it’s an engaging story. (You can only take those heavy books for so long without breaking them up with something lighter!)
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I really study Lisa Samson’s books when I read them, along with Jodi Picoult’s, Terry Pratchett’s, Diana Gabaldon’s, and William Gibson’s. They’re each masters in a different area (Lisa = communicating faith, grace, and mercy; Jodi = figurative language and lyricism, plotting; Terry = humor and social commentary; Diana = setting and place; William = narrative and description
What’s next for you?
Books, books, and more books, thankfully! “Reinventing Rachel” released Sept. 1, “The Heart of Memory” releases in March, and the currently titled “Trouble Child” releases next September. Also, my husband and I have written two children’s books, the first of which came out August 1, the second comes out next spring. We refer to them as “spiritual formation for the toddler set.” Soon we’ll be doing some more structured homeschooling with our oldest daughter (5 in December), and in my free time I’m learning crochet and writing some proposals so I can hopefully get some more books contracted. It’s busy over here, but we love it. God is blessing us so much. I’m so grateful for this life and this opportunity to write.