Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Now that I’m on my sixth novel, there isn’t a lot left of myself to write into my characters! I put nearly all of myself in my first novel, and a little less with every book after that. There are always hints here and there, though, of my preferences in things like food or music. In Composing Amelia, I took the opportunity to give little shout-outs to some of my favorite music.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Oh gosh, I’m a walking quirk. I’m always a little weird with how I do things. My mind is always going on something, so it’s hard to devote all my brain power to a single task, and I end up misinterpreting people’s meanings in simple things and reacting according to what I thought they said and not what they really meant. Like when my dad once asked me to hand him the phone—I took the entire base unit off the wall and gave it to him. He wanted to make a phone call, but for some reason I thought he wanted to perform surgery on the electronics!
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
When I was 6, I think. That’s when I started working really hard on the little stories I had to write for school. It always boggled my mind that other students didn’t like writing as much as I did, or that they spent so little time creating their stories when I’d rush through everything else in order to have as much time as possible to write.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I love reading books that teach me and challenge me. I am not a big fan of fluff. Books by writers like Lisa Samson or Jodi Picoult are almost always a hit with me, as are books that approach a topic from an unusual standpoint or that present a familiar story from a different perspective.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I crochet. I LOVE to crochet, and it makes me slow down. I have a tendency to multitask to a dangerous degree, but it’s not possible (for me at least!) to do much else besides sit and think, or listen to music or an audio book, while I’m crocheting.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Sometimes a name just comes to me and seems to perfectly fit the character’s personality. Other times I intentionally seek out a name whose meaning reflects the character’s role in the story, or I’ll use the name of a Bible character whose traits are similar to the character in my book.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I don’t tend to feel proud about my accomplishments—I know that everything noteworthy I’ve done has been due to the strength and grace of God and not my own abilities. There isn’t anything I can point to and say, “I did that” without having to admit that really it was God doing it through me.
That sounds kind of pompous when I read over it, but it’s true, and I don’t say it to sound all spiritual or anything, really! I can say that I’m incredibly grateful to have married such a wonderful man, and to have such amazing children, and to have had the opportunity to write the books God’s given me to write. It’s humbling to have been chosen to live this life, and I relish every second of it.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Well, if I base it off my personality, then I’d have to say hummingbird, because I’m constantly going. Even when I’m sitting still, I’m ruminating and plotting and puzzling things out in my head. Sometimes I dream about what it would be like to be still—my mind and body don’t understand the concept!
What is your favorite food?
It’s a toss-up between ice cream and cereal. Real sophisticated palate I have, eh? Oh—or Edwardo’s spinach stuffed pizza with mushrooms and Canadian bacon. Mercy. It’s the only thing I really, really miss from
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Learning not to bend the story to my will, but to let the story tell itself. Twice now I’ve had to completely strip a book down to the studs and start over, because I forced my agenda while writing and the result was a preachy, lame novel that no one in their right mind would ever suffer through. I apparently didn’t learn the lesson well enough the first time, but after this second time around I’ve definitely got it. Now when I work on a novel, I try not to think about what I want the reader to come away with, or what message I hope to try to get across. I try to just let the story unfold and let God lead me in the process.
Tell us about the featured book.
Composing Amelia has its roots in my college years. My roommate/best friend developed bipolar disorder our junior year, and we had a very difficult time finding information about mental illness that was written from a Christian perspective and didn’t blame it on the sufferer. I never expected back then to be a writer, but even so I promised myself someday I’d write a book about Christians and mental illness.
Fast forward fifteen years and here is that book, though it’s nothing at all like what I thought it would be. Here’s the back cover copy:
Newlyweds Amelia and Marcus Sheffield are recent college grads trying to stay afloat in LA while searching for their dream jobs. Marcus hopes to become a mega-church pastor. Amelia has an esteemed music degree and longs to play piano professionally. The Sheffields are clearly city people.
But when a small town church offers Marcus a job, the couple’s dedication to their dreams and each other is tested. After a risky compromise is made, Amelia falls into a dark emotional place, where she finds skeletons she’d fought hard to deny. In desperation, she calls out to God. But why can’t she find Him? While Amelia struggles, Marcus learns news that nearly crushes him. He must lean on his faith to withstand the pressure… or risk losing his wife forever.
Please give us the first page of the book.
The bus ride to LA Café was a soul-sucking experience.
Amelia Sheffield’s head bounced with each pothole as she attempted to doze. She’d never been a morning person, but her boss didn’t seem to care. The shop opened at six, and if she wanted a paycheck, she needed to be there in time to get the bread baking and the sandwich fixings organized for the crowd that picked up lunches on the way to work. Never a big meat eater, she found chicken and shredded turkey and sliced roast beef even more difficult to handle at five thirty in the morning.
She stepped off the bus at Sunset and
, then walked the last three blocks
to the shop. LA wasn’t a pretty city at any time of day, but at least at
o-dark-thirty it was a bit more calm. She’d walked this route long enough now
to have figured out the regulars and locals, and they exchanged sleepy nods as
they passed on the sidewalk. Familiar faces, friendly conversation—it was all
that kept her at this job. Well, that and the need to eat and pay rent. Echo Park
When the manager switched on the Open sign and unlocked the front door, Amelia gathered her resolve and wiped the mope off her face. She began to greet the customers as though they were close personal friends.
“You way too chipper, chica,” Maria told her. “Ain’t gonna find a producer in here you, know. They all eat downtown.”
“Touché,” Amelia admitted. “But either way, I can’t stand the thought of grunting my way through the day and never actually talking to someone….”
How can readers find you on the Internet?My website, where I also blog, is www.AlisonStrobel.com . My husband and I co-write children’s books as well, and our site is www.DanAndAliMorrow.com . I’ve also got a pretty active group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/178501331615/) and when I remember to I tweet from @alisonstrobel.
Thank you, Alison, for spending this time with us.
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Composing Amelia: A Novel
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