Denise and Craig’s story is based on the lessons of forgiveness God taught me when my marriage fell apart … the first time. Accordingly, many of the emotions Denise goes through correspond to what I felt, though our situations differ. However, I also wanted to really understand the male perspective, so Craig had parts of me in him as well.
The path away from God and following temptation is something we can all recognize and, unfortunately, identify with.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Just before turning thirty, I decided to get my black belt in tae kwondo. I drove the instructor crazy by the time I advanced to the level of breaking boards. He would ask me to “get angry.” Somehow, I had trouble channeling any anger at an inanimate object, especially when I lived in near constant joy at all of God’s blessings in my life.
Once I tore my ACL—on the landing after breaking two boards with a reverse jumping side kick—I put the dream aside and contented myself with a first degree purple belt. I think I look better in purple than black anyway.
Still … don’t mess with me in a dark parking lot!
When did you first discover you were a writer?
In junior high, I penned melodramatic poems about boys I liked, but I didn’t identify myself as a writer until high school. My ninth grade English teacher read aloud in class an essay I had written. Glowing from the praise, I shared that I’d like to be a writer. He asked me to bring in a sample. What? You have to write if you want to be a writer???
It wasn’t until I graduated from college that my mother approached me about co-writing a novel. Nine years and forty-two rejections later, I signed my first contract, a solo project.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I’ll read anything that’s well written. I love a mixture of genre, like Jane Kirkpatrick’s historicals with underlying themes of romance. Randy Alcorn’s novels incorporate so much truth with fantastic stories. James Scott Bell’s plots zoom along, and never in the expected direction. I have too many favorite authors to list, but they cover everything from Grace Bridges’ speculative fiction to Nancy E. Turner’s Arizona-based historicals.
I'm with you. I love many genres. What other books have you written, whether published or not?
My mother and I have written a novel, On the Threshold, that follows a mother and daughter through a heart-wrenching time of loss. We expect to begin a new project soon. I’m working on Unafraid, my next solo book, whose first chapter was so scary it freaked my critique group out and my dad had to read it with the all the lights on. :-) I also have several non-fiction proposals, including a humorous advice column collection with Mom, that have yet to make the rounds because my career began moving in the fiction direction.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Sanity? Well, I ask all the voices in my head to each pick one thing to get done today. When we all work together, it’s fantastic how much gets accomplished!
No, really, I try to think about my priorities for the next day before I go to bed. I might jot a few notes of what MUST get done. Then I set out to please God first, while taking care of my family and work. Hopefully in that order, but family also has to understand there are times when work encroaches on their time because of deadlines. Ultimately, one goal of my writing career is to supplement the family income—however small of a supplement it might be!—so my writing time is still a focus on my family.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
The characters in The Familiar Stranger were named after people in my church who are close to the right age. Disclaimer: no other part of the characters are based on them! For Unafraid, I plucked my heroine’s name off the ACFW loop. As long as a name fits the character’s personality and generation, I’m not too particular.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
A day when I can fall asleep knowing I made my Savior proud. Doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but there’s nothing more fulfilling.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A cat. Don’t you just envy the way they can drape themselves anywhere and fall asleep? If I could only master that nonchalant, cool, I-know-you-love-me-but-I’m-doing-you-a-favor-by-letting-you-pet-me look …
What is your favorite food?
Ice cream. There’s always room for it and so many delicious flavors to choose from!
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
As with most moms, it comes down to time. Apparently you actually need to grocery shop to have food in the house. And the house doesn’t keep itself clean. Add in fieldtrips, editing jobs, church activities, and substitute days and the only way to get the writing done is to force it in.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Join local writing organizations, as well as national ones, such as ACFW. I was a member of Oregon Christian Writers for years before joining ACFW. Both groups provide various and complementary benefits.
Go to conferences or buy the audio from those you can’t attend.
Read, read, read! Write to authors you respect. Maybe a friendship/mentoring relationship will develop, maybe not. At the very least, you’re practicing the golden rule, because don’t we all want to get fan letters once we “make it?”
Tell us about the featured book?
The Familiar Stranger deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. Though, as I said before, it was based on lessons I learned in my marriage five years ago, it proved prophetic of the death of my marriage early this year. When I was in the middle of the edits, my husband revealed some hidden issues and left our marriage of thirteen years. It became a strange cycle of life imitating art imitating life! I’ve had wise counsel that my next book should be about a woman finding true love and winning the lottery. :-) Yet the words I’d written as a happily married woman ministered to me in my singleness. What a mighty God we serve!
Here’s the description from Christianbook.com:
Craig Littleton has decided to end his marriage with his wife, Denise. But an accident lands him in the ICU with fuzzy memories. As Denise helps him remember who he is, she uncovers some dark secrets. Will this trauma create a fresh start? Or has his deceit destroyed the life they built together?
Please give us the first page of the book.
I wrapped a towel around my waist as Denise stalked into the bathroom. Avoiding her eyes, I wiped a clear spot on the steamy mirror and studied my reflection. A caged man, a Houdini, stared back at me. Bound inside a straitjacket, locked in chains, submerged in a tank, I could taste the metallic tang of the key hidden in my mouth. If I held my breath a little longer and waited for the right time to rip my shoulder from its socket, I would escape my stifling life.
“Did you wipe down the shower, Craig?”
What harm would happen if once, just once, I left droplets on the glass doors? I bit back my retort. “Of course, honey.”
“Good.” She peered into the brushed-sliver mirror hanging above the white marble countertop—a bathroom that had cost me a month’s wages—and added another layer to her lipstick. “Need to hurry if we’re going to be on time.”
“I’m not going.” I said it as if I didn’t care one way or the other what she thought of my bombshell.
“What are you talking about?” Her shoulders tightened into unnatural stillness.
I rubbed the scruff of my neck and scrutinized my image. A few wrinkles around the eyes. Two slight recessions on either side of the hairline. Not bad for a guy of forty-six.
“Craig, the deacons’ meeting in right after the service and you’ve missed the last two. Are you trying to sabotage your position?” Her reflected hazel eyes drilled into me.
For a second I thought of giving it all up, going to church with her and the kids, acting as though that was all I had planned for the day. Then the image faded and a pair of deep brown eyes replaced hers. No, I wouldn’t be setting foot in a house of worship this Sunday, or ever again.
I can hardly wait until my copy comes. How can readers find you on the Internet?
My mother and I love when readers come by http://www.ashberrylane.net/ and sign up for the infrequent, humorous newsletter. Every subscriber has the chance at the prize of their choice: a 4GB iPod Shuffle or free autographed books for the life of our writing careers. You can find me on facebook and shoutlife.
I blog a few times a week at http://www.authorchristinaberry.blogspot.com/, and run an editing business from http://www.christinaberry.net/ Basically, my goal is to be ANYWHERE you go.
Thank you, Christina, for spending this time with us.
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