Sunday, February 20, 2011
A couple of years ago, I found some thick, worn books in my uncle’s library about the culture of Northern Rhodesia that had been written back in the early 1900’s. I was fascinated as I read about the people and their lives and knew it was the perfect backdrop for a story I wanted to write.
Tell us about the book’s cover and what makes it unique.
There are actually two versions out on the web, because my publisher decided to scratch the first one and come up with something completely different. With the final cover you see here, I think they did a fantastic job. The story is about a woman caught between two worlds--the bush of Africa and New York City--so you can see Africa on the cover’s front and the Statue of Liberty on the back.
Please explain and differentiate between what’s fact and fiction in the book.
While the storyline and characters are all from my imagination, I tried to make the setting of both Africa and New York very realistic. I loved exploring both places and what was happening during that time period so the story would be as authentic as possible.
You know me. I love authenticity in historical settings and culture in novels. How much research did you have to do for this book?
This was definitely one of the most research intense books I have ever written. With two settings and a 1920’s time frame, I wanted to bring that period--from both sides of the world--to life and show the stark contrast between the two continents. I’m so thankful to not only hands-on research books, but to the Internet where I was able to gather tons of information including actual photographs taken in New York during that time period.
Because the 1920s isn’t a time period I was very familiar with, I found it extremely interesting and would often find myself lost in research for hours. There were so many things I researched that I could have turned into separate storylines, many of which I was only able to touch on like prohibition, the mob, and the consequences of WWI, for starters.
What inspired and surprised you while you were writing the book?
Personally, I was inspired by Lizzie’s journey of faith as she struggled with her identity, because as a missionary I can relate to some of her feelings in living in two worlds. But even beyond that, I was reminded that my identity is in Christ. It is not based on where I live, who I am, or what my culture says--it is based only on who He says I am.
What do you hope the reader takes away from the story?
I hope that readers will be able to relate to both Lizzie and Andrew. Lizzie struggled over belonging, something we all face at different times in our life, while Andrew was running from God because of a tragedy in his life. The bottom line is that our God is bigger than anything we face. He won’t grow tired or weary. He brings out the starry host at night, calls them by name, and He created you. And while God doesn’t always change circumstances, His plan will always triumph through any circumstance we face.
I've found it's often more about the process of our growth than the end of a circumstance. What is the next project you’re working on?
I’ve recently taken some time off from writing while our family has been on furlough, but am excited to jump into a new suspense series once I’m back home in Africa later this month.
What do you do when you have to get away from the story for a while?
Like Lizzie, I love heading into the peaceful African bush and enjoying God’s amazing handiwork.
Here is the book trailer for the book.
An Ocean Away Book Trailer- Summerside, March 2011 from Lisa Harris on Vimeo.
Your amazing pictures of the African bush on your blog take me on the journey with you. Thanks for using them. Please give us the first page of the book.
Lizzie MacTavish froze as she watched the giant beast walk across the dusty path in front of her. She crouched in the thick folds of tall grass between Chuma and Esther, her two young African charges, holding her breath until she thought her lungs were going to burst.
The elephant lumbered toward them, close enough that Lizzie could see the infant hidden beneath the gray shadows of the mother’s belly. Close enough to see its long eyelashes that kept out the dust from storms that regularly swept across the plains and the creases in its wrinkled skin, tinged with the brown mud from the African soil.
Finally, Lizzie took a gulp of air, breathing in the sweet scent of the mufufuma tree and its violet blossoms that mingled with the musky odor of the elephant. Overhead heavy clouds gathered, waiting for the first showers of the season to fall. October always brought a change in the activities of village life. The lazy days of winter, with its sharp winds and grass fires, had all but disappeared.
As winter merged into the rainy season, the grasslands presented an abundance of fragrant flowers that perfumed the morning with their sweet smell. Even the trees were laden with scented blooms, making up for the humid and sultry air. It was her favorite time of year, when men worked to cut the trees in the fields, and women planted the maize, sorghum, and millet in the fertile soil and harvested pumpkins and ripe forest fruits.
Esther tugged on the melon-colored fabric of Lizzie’s skirt. “Bama will not be happy when she finds out we have wandered past the far pasture and toward the banks of the river.”
Lizzie kept her voice to a low whisper. “Your mother will be busy for hours as she awaits the birth of yet another one of your sisters or brothers.”
A grin spread across Chuma’s face. “My father is praying for a son.”
Lizzie frowned. A son, of course, would be preferred. Daughters were regarded simply as wealth, much like the cattle that were often valued above both wife and child. It was one of the tribal beliefs Lizzie disagreed with. Wasn’t it the woman who stamped the corn, prepared the meals, and bore the children? Even the Holy Scripture said that men and women had been created equal in God’s sight.
“Ma, it’s coming closer.” Esther, who was barely five, nudged Lizzie with her chocolaty brown elbow.
“Shh.” A tremor shook the ground as the massive animal made its way past them, her long tail swatting away the constant barrage of flies.
Wow! I can hardly wait for my book to arrive. How can readers find you on the Internet?
Please stop by my website at http://www.lisaharriswrites.com/ or my blog for a slice of my life in Africa at http://myblogintheheartofafrica.blogspot.com/. Drop me a note while you are there!
It's such a pleasure to havs you here, Lisa. And I loved seeing you while you were on furlough.
Readers, here's a link to the book. By using it when you order, you help support this blog.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)
Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.
The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 6 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.
If you’re reading this on Feedblitz, Facebook, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment. Here’s a link.