Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Thanks, Lena. I wish I could say, but I seem to have misplaced my future-glasses. I do have a couple of exciting proposals out there, and I’d like to keep writing both for kids and their families. In whatever way possible, I hope to still be writing when they pry my cold, stiff fingers off the keyboard. :-)
Tell us a little about your family.
I met the love of my life in Bible college, and we were married a few months after graduating in 1980. Now my wife Ronda and I have three wonderful kids in their twenties, and they’re scattered to the winds. One in Louisville (her husband attends seminary), one in Nashville (he works for a Christian record label) and one north of Seattle (married last summer). Our Louisville kids recently had a son—our first grandchild. As you often hear, being a grandparent is terrific. It’s true!
I know. James and I have four. Two are adults, and two are nearly adults. And we have a great grandson. Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
I have to say my reading habits were changed early on when I served as a newspaper editor. The bad news is my reading speed slowed way down as I constantly checked for typos, grammatical errors, and style… in whatever I read. Right now on my bedstand: A Thousand Hills by Stephen Kinzer (about Rwanda), Forgotten God (new by Francis Chan), a novel called Uddrift by the Danish Christian author Thomas Teglgaard, and Morning Thoughts, a devotional by Octavius Winslow. Oh, and I’m re-reading The Hobbit for fun. So it’s kind of eclectic.
What are you working on right now?
Wildflowers of Terezin, my new World War Two historical that’s set in Denmark, came out in April. I’m so excited about this book. I’m hoping readers will see how it’s really come from my heart. More on that later. Beyond that I’m working on a couple of proposals, as I mentioned, and I hope to be able to explain more about them soon.
What outside interests do you have?
I have a little sailboat down at the nearby marina (we live near a huge lake) and I love to work on it when we’re not sailing. It’s forty-plus years old, so it needs plenty of maintenance. Puttering on boats is fun, mostly woodworking. So is taking people out on the lake for the first time, introducing them to the joy of sailing. Ronda and I also love to hike the local woods and travel together whenever possible. And I really enjoy speaking at schools, leading writing workshops.
I understand. I taught two workshops last Saturday in The Woodlands, Texas. I love it. How do you choose your settings for each book?
Serendipitously? It depends on the characters, really, and which environment might best bring out a crisis in their journey. I look for crucibles. And so I tend toward smaller towns and rural settings, because I enjoy that crucible effect they can often produce. It’s kind of like the way a small, intimate stage really concentrates the effect of a play. Plus I just like smaller towns.
If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
That’s a great question, and if you ask me again tomorrow I’d probably come up with a different answer. I’ve always admired D.L. Moody. Perhaps Martin Luther, or C.S. Lewis, or the Apostle Paul—though I’d probably have a hard time keeping up intellectually with those men!
What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
It is always fun, fulfilling, satisfying, difficult… all the things I could have anticipated. I guess the thing I would like to know better—even now—is how to balance the budget and not worry so much about the next big thing.
What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?
Day-to-day faith and reliance on Him, but that’s nothing new, really. It’s something we have to rediscover all the time, a life lesson.
What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful?
That depends on your definition of success! And maybe that’s the first and most important issue to settle before launching into a novel writing career. Decide what success is. Do you want to be famous? Do you want to make a lot of money? Will you be happy and satisfied if you achieve neither? Do you simply want to touch lives through story? Make sure those kinds of questions are clear in your mind. In other words, understand your motivation. Next, decide how long you would be willing or able to continue writing without credits and big advances. Having this plan and clarifying those expectations will also help. And third, write your heart. Readers can always tell if we’re writing what we think they want to hear, rather than what makes our own hearts race. Without heart, we might be able to make a living writing, but ultimately I don’t know how successful that is.
Tell us about the featured book?
Well, yes, speaking of making hearts race, this is the book I’ve been waiting to write… for the longest time. Although I’ve written eight novels for adults, and forty-some for kids, this is actually the first grown-up novel concept I had, years ago. It follows the setting of the first youth series I wrote (the “Young Underground” series) in World War 2 Denmark. Anyway, it’s been years in the making, and now released in April, 2010.
Here’s the Amazon description:
Wildflowers of Terezin is a sweeping historical novel set against a backdrop of danger. A Danish Lutheran pastor’s complacent faith is stretched to the breaking point during World War II when he meets a young Jewish nurse Hanne Abrahamsen and becomes deeply involved in Resistance efforts to save Denmark’s Jews from the Nazi prison camp at Terezin, Czechoslovakia—also known as Theresienstadt.
Challenged by his activist brother and swayed by his own attraction to Hanne, Pastor Steffen abandons his formerly quiet, uninvolved life and hesitantly volunteers to help smuggle Denmark’s Jews out of the country before a Nazi roundup. Steffen finds that helping his Jewish neighbors is the most decent, spiritual thing he has ever done. As he actually does God’s work, rather than just talking about it, Steffen’s faith deepens and he takes greater risks in his sermons.
When things go terribly wrong and Hanne is sent to Terezin, Steffen finds his heart fully engaged. He undertakes protests and rescues that are more and more dangerous, never imagining where it will lead him, or the ultimate cost of his decision to get directly involved.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Even better, how about the first chapter? Best thing to do is visit Abingdon Press online, where you can download a sample. I’ll list the link here, but if it doesn’t work for you, try http://www.abingdonpress.com/ and look for the book title in the fiction section. Here’s the link, though: http://www.abingdonpress.com/forms/ProductDetail.aspx?pid=5209
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thank you, Robert, for spending this time with us.
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