Monday, February 23, 2015

Author Spotlight: Eleanor Gustafson

I am excited to present to my readers and followers Eleanor Gustafson and her book Dynamo.

When I read Dynamo, I didn't know what to expect. And what I experienced was a beautiful and thought-provoking tale. This novel holds a special place in my heart and I adore its place on my bookshelf. Click here to read my review on Dynamo.

Now I welcome Eleanor Gustafson, who has a beautiful heart for God.

[RBR] Dynamo is a very realistic and gritty novel--completely clean--but so true to life that the reader forgets it's a novel. How hard was it for you to write this story?

{EG} Actually, it was one of my easier novels to write. My mental computer holds a stash of tales, made up over Many years. I pawed through the file, held this one up as having promise, and went to work. My lifelong passion for horses was put to good use. It still took over 8 years to write and get published. I write slow, my previous novel (The Stones) taking more than 15 years.

[RBR] In one part--I won't elaborate because of spoilers--it made me tear up and cry. Did you find yourself getting emotional as you wrote about the death of a beloved character?

{EG} Oh, I get very emotional, though not necessarily over a death or other tragedy. If something deeply beautiful is going on, I cry. I believe God gave me the gift of tears, and it's often used over things of profound beauty. :-)

[RBR] I learned a lot about horse and the competition scene. Have you always been around horses? Tell us more.

{EG} Scene one: I grew up in a small, New Jersey borough (yes, that's what it's called) with a population just under 1000. I recently looked at a map of Branchville and noticed a tongue that has to have been the property of a prominent citizen--DLB Smith--who had horses and was instrumental in establishing the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show that was held at the base of the tongue. That horse show grew up to be one of the most prominent on the East Coast and provided much of the competition material for my book. I occasionally rode one of DLB's horses, a nasty fellow name The Earl, who shows up in the novel under the name Lord Nelson.

Scene two: Down the street from my house, an older couple also had horses, and when they bought a pony for their granddaughter, I practically lived there. I dedicated Dynamo to this woman who influenced my life profoundly.
"In memory of Lydie--my horse mentor and instructor in important things, such as the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, and time spent with kids instead of housework."
That pony taught me important lessons. The first time it dumped me, I knew I had to get back on, return to the bone of contention, and make him go past the turnoff toward home. He won the first battle: I prevailed in the second.
Scene three: When I entered Wheaton College. I took horsemanship for phys. ed and was asked by the instructor to teach a few classes. I ended up doing that for four year, marrying one of my students, and riding until I was 6 months pregnant with our first child. Yes, horses have always fascinated me, and the making of Dynamo brought great satisfaction.

[RBR[ Dynamo has two characters that are the epitome of a rebellious heart, but these two come together because they understood each other. Does writing this kind of hidden symbolism and allegories to Christ's love come naturally to you, or do you plan it out?

{EG} This Jeth-Janni symbiosis shows up right at the beginning. From there on, it was a matter of building in conflict and necessity, making their relationship work authentically. I want to write authentic, literary, Christian fiction. For me, it just doesn't work to sprinkle fairy dust, in the form of Christian talk and Bible verses, over an unsubstantial story line. God is real. He is Alpha and Omega, Life and Light and Love beyond all our poor imaginings. He is a living being, and I must show him working deeply in characters who are likewise real. Nothing else will do.

[RBR] Dynamo is a novel that has the enduring theme of giving it all you can. Dynamo, the horse, was a wild heart, just a Jeth was. When their true nature of determination and endurance emerges, it is brilliant! Is this how you see Christian life: to be determined and to endure? If not, how do you see it.

{EG} Jeth is determined, yes, but he learns early on that determination isn't a match for a sovereign God who is the real determiner. Jeth is terrified by God's strange activities, how they might impact his own future. He understands clearly that he is not in control. But there's Maybelle, his mentor/prophet. She, along with God and Jeth, are the three main characters in this novel. Jeth thinks he is training the stallion Dynamo, but underneath all the horse business, God is training Jeth to become a servant.

[RBR] Tell us more about why you wrote Dynamo and if there are any future books planned.

{EG} My biblical novel, The Stones, about King David, was good prep for writing Dynamo. Jeth and David have a surprising amount in common. They both have a giant passion for God, but they are both serious sinners and reap serious consequences from their sin. When I have opportunity, I want to sit down with David's wife Abigail and with Maybelle, just to get their take on the pair. :-)

I am currently polishing a novel, An Unpresentable Glory, that has three threads: gardening, Native Americans, and politics. Again--a real God, real characters, and hopefully, another page-turner. Stay tuned!

Thank you, Eleanor, for being a part of Rebel Book Reviews, but most importantly, thank you for glorifying God's name through your stories. Dynamo is truly a wonderful literary work and God has blessed you greatly.

To learn more about Eleanor Gustafson and view more of her works, stop by or if you would like to connect you can find her on Facebook.
Check out her Amazon page here: Eleanor Gustafson's Amazon Page.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Author Spotlight: Kathy M. Howard

Welcome, Kathy M. Howard!

I had the awesome privilege to read From Dishes to Snow. (Read my review here.) The story was heartbreaking at times, and at other times it was hopeful. I became so engrossed with Bayne's story that I forgot that I was reading a book. I was living Bayne's life! I encourage readers to gain a copy of From Dishes to Snow and read a fabulous story of a widow finding new life in an amazing place.

Where can you get the book? Here a few links where From Dishes to Snow can be purchased:
Barnes & Noble
Or go here for even more links: Ambassador International

Here is a great quote (courtesy of Kathy M. Howard) from the book: 
The life I'd lived for over a year was not living. I couldn't breathe. I was suffocating in my room, suffocating in the past.~Bayne Harris

I had the opportunity to ask Kathy a few questions about From Dishes to Snow. Read below to learn more about her and her first novel. Plus, comment for a chance to win a copy of From Dishes to Snow.

[RBR] Explain how you decided upon the title From Dishes to Snow and the significance of the title.

{KH} The book was originally titled 'The Little Red House', but that didn't pop. I remember rewriting/editing for the umpteenth time and wrote the line at the end when Bay is talking to Mr. Milfred about how she loved that Bertha Sue saw God in everything, from dishes to snow, and it was like the words jumped off the page. I realize it is an unusual title, but one the reader finishes the book, it makes sense. God is the menial task of washing dishes to the miraculous development of snow to that life-changing accident.

 [RBR] When I read that part of the book I had to laugh, because my mother, Betty Sue, is a lot like that: having her time with the Lord while doing dishes or doing laundry.

At any time of the story did you every stop and ask yourself if you could go on because of the raw emotions portrayed?

{KH} I never stopped to ask that particular question, but I cried more tears than I ever imagined. No matter how many times I reread a scene, I became emotional. Whether the moments in the story were happy or sad, the tears flowed.

[RBR] Bayne was the foremost character of the novel, but the secondary characters added substance and created a catalyst for Bayne's growth. Were any of these characters based on people in your life?

{KH} The elderly neighbors were loosely at times and strongly at others, based on my three, oh-so-dear-to-my-heart grandparents. I am a blessed individual to have grandparents that love the Lord, love the mountains, and love each other.

[RBR] Yes you are. My grandmother, the only grandparent that was close to me, was an exceptional woman. I loved her and miss her. Aren't grandparents the greatest? :-) 

From Dishes to Snow(FD2S) showed a woman of complex emotions. While she could analyze and understand the logic behind her thoughts and actions, she also was compelled to ride that roller coaster of emotional turmoil. Your understanding of a widow's heart and the deep complexities of her emotions were well written. How were you able to portray this so deeply and so accurately? How hard was it to create such a character as Bayne?

{KH} That means a great deal coming from someone who unfortunately, has experienced the loss of a spouse. Thank you. I have not experienced that kind of loss and I'm extremely grateful. I do not understand why God would allow me to write this book, why He chose to use me, but I pray it can help and encourage readers. I am in awe of His direction and I pray I let Him lead, that I don't try to take the reigns.

Years ago, I'd heard of a woman who had lost her entire family at one time. That thought stayed with me and ate away at me often. That was the idea going into the book. But, other than that, I had no direction, no outline, no ending. As a teacher, the way I wrote this book went against everything I taught. However, it also opened me to trusting God with each word. I prayed every time I sat down to write. And, when a twist or a scene showed up, I was just as surprised as I hope the reader will be. It was a fun, interesting, emotional, and full of teachable moments kind of project. I learned a lot and am still learning.

In creating Bayne, I took a part of me, mixed with another large part of imagination and went with it. I am an introvert at heart and I wrote what I imagined...the wanting to escape and being alone. 

[RBR] Even reading the book I found it full of teachable moments and lessons, from the analytic to creative; but most importantly, lessons from God hidden throughout.

What are your plans for future stories?

{KH} The sequel to FD2S is due out this summer, last I heard. It follows Samantha Jordan's senior year of college. It is in the editing stage right now.

[RBR] Since I can't say enough good things about From Dishes to Snow, I know that I will love to read Samantha's story, too. I look forward to reading it! Thank you, Kathy, for being able to take time to answer my questions and for letting me showcase you on Rebel Book Reviews. It's been an awesome privilege to get to know you and learn more about you as an author. I pray that God will continually lead you as you write more books to glorify His name. 

To connect more with Kathy M. Howard, use the links below:
Twitter: @kathymhoward1

Monday, February 9, 2015

From Dishes to Snow by Kathy M. Howard

From Dishes to Snow
(Ambassador International 2014)

Bayne Harris has lost everything she holds dear in her life. Her husband and children are dead. She was the one who caused the accident--the one behind the wheel. She cannot escape that night as it continuously haunts her thoughts.

A year after they're gone, nothing has changed. The memories are still unbearable. She can't breathe. She can't function. She needs to get away.

View Top Mountain provides the perfect escape. No one will bother her there. No one will want to check on her or talk about what happened. She can live her life alone, away from do-gooders and any chance of happiness. This is her plan, but she soon finds out God has something else in store.

"Bay, your strength is amazing..."

There are many things that people never realize about widows, especially those who follow the Lord.

As Bayne said: "The feeling wasn't something I could describe to anyone if I tried, but it was there."

We want people to reach out to us, not out of church obligation or curiosity, but out of love; yet we don't want to be smothered. If we hide in our homes, we aren't hiding from our pain; we are merely trying to right our  world.

There are so many things and Kathy M. Howard brought them to life in From Dishes to Snow.

Bayne's journey is a very familiar one and one which I empathize and sympathize as I read. Yes, Bayne could analyze and understand the logic behind her thoughts and actions; she also was compelled to ride that roller coaster. She knows that her Lord is right there with her and when she is ready He will stop the ride and lead her to a new one.

The emotional turmoil and growth within Bayne epitomized the strength of a woman--a woman with a Christian soul.

When I read From Dishes to Snow, I had to stop many times to digest the revelation I gleaned or to take a deep breath because I realized I was living Bayne's life in words.

From one instance to another, one surprising scene to the next, we see Bayne discover that God always has a plan for your life.

Monday, February 2, 2015

All for a Story by Allison Pittman

by Allison Pittman
(Tyndale 2013)

Monica Bisbaine loves being a modern girl in the Roaring Twenties. Her job as a gossip writer takes her to the best speakeasies in Washington, D.C., where she can dance the night away--and find fodder for her next column.

Max Moore may hold the title of editor-in-chief for evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson's magazine, but Aimee calls all the shots. So when Max inherits his uncle's newspaper, he heads to D.C., determined to revamp the Capitol Chatter with positive, uplifting stories. His new staff is skeptical, especially one Monica Bisbaine. Max isn't sure whether he and Monica can work together, but one thing is certain: she's the most fascinating female he's ever encountered.

Monica is willing to give Max's ideas a try. But she's not prepared for the way Max's challenges--and his uncomplicated faith--threaten to unravel the very fabric of her life.

When all you love either abandons you or is taken from you, then who do you trust? To whom can you turn? To what do you turn?

Monica the Monkey hides deep behind her flapper, modern-day woman facade. Speakeasies and classy joints provide a place to shield her from pain, loneliness, and self-doubt.

Max the Editor hides behind his faith and strait-laced virtues. He seeks a place in this world.

Two orphans, one destination.

Era of a new age and new beginnings, luxurious in detail, Allison Pittman brings the reader a story that mimics Christ's patient love for us all.

As the story shows, we can hide behind false curtains, but eventually truth wins and overcomes. Although rich in detail, at times I was taken away from the story by unneeded explanations. Since it was early in, I eventually lost myself to the world unfolding before me and found myself rooting and cheering for the little monkey and her quoting ways.

The ending left a lot to be desired. It seemed to end too abruptly or maybe it seemed that way because I was so caught up in a beautiful tale. Either way, All for a Story is a winning read and Allison Pittman brought together a timeless tale of love.