Friday, June 14, 2013

THE WELL - Stephanie Landsem - One Free Book

Readers, don't forget to follow the instructions at the end of the post to be included in the drawing for the free book. Today, I'm interviewing a debut author.

Welcome, Stephanie. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Too much. I sometimes find that in my first draft, I slip into myself. It’s clear when I do a read-through what I’ve done. So I go back to my character notes and get into my character’s head. Then I dive in, changing her dialogue, thoughts, or actions into what she would say, think, and do. That always serves to make her a more compelling character. I always want my characters to be more interesting than I am!

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
When I was young and not as smart as I am now, I was traveling in Spain with a friend and we had this great idea to go to Morocco. It probably wasn’t the best idea we’d ever had. We managed (just barely) to stay out of trouble, and we did do some amazing things. We bought Morroccan carpets, ate goat meat kabobs, learned to belly dance from the locals, and ended the trip by riding camels on a deserted beach. My friend and I still look back on the weekend and laugh about it, but have decided we’d never let our own daughters do something like that.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I think it dawned on my slowly over a period of years. I started writing The Well about five years ago. Three years ago I finaled in the ACFW Genesis contest and started to wonder if maybe I really could be a writer. About six months later, I got a book contract. When The Well released just a few weeks ago, I guess it really hit home for me and I finally believed that I was a writer J

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Although my first choice in fiction is historical, I read a wide range of genres—mostly thanks to my children. I read Terry Pratchett with my oldest daughter, Walt Whitman poetry with my 17-year-old son, and zombie apocalypse stories with my 14-year-old boy. My youngest daughter likes action and adventure stories, which I think helps me keep my own plots fast paced. When I want to relax, I read Jane Austen or a good Dean Koontz thriller.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I’m a very distracted person. Four kids, a husband, housework, yard work, and writing — my daily to-do list is endless. But my church has a small chapel that’s always open and always silent, with beautiful stained glass windows. When I go there, I feel like I can leave everything else behind and just be with Jesus, no distractions. Sometimes I pray for family and friends, many times I just sit and breathe. I try to go every day and I really miss it when I can’t be there.

How do you choose your characters’ names?
One of the reasons that I love to write Biblical fiction is that the names are so beautiful and have compelling meanings. When I first started thinking about writing the story of the daughter of the Samaritan woman at the Well, her name came to me: Mara, which means bitter. I knew that Mara’s story, a bittersweet story, was what I wanted to write. When I am developing a story, I look at Biblical names and their meanings and it helps me develop the character and his or her back story.

The first thing I wrote after God told me to become a professional writer was a dramatic monologue of the Woman at the Well. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
They are easy to name: Rachel, Andy, Joe, Anna, and 23 years of marriage to Bruce. Writing a book or three is a wonderful accomplishment, but my children and husband are my vocation and greatest joy.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Probably a cat. I often envy my cats. Especially when they are asleep on a sunny patch of carpet and I’m donning a parka and snow boots to go shovel the driveway on a snowy Minnesota morning.

My daddy grew up in Minnesota, and I have a large number of relatives there, but I haven’t been there in winter. What is your favorite food?
Cheese. Pretty much any kind of cheese, from Wisconsin cheddar to stinky French cheese. It’s my go-to comfort food.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Time management. I get caught up in research and can spend a whole morning tracking down differing viewpoints on some minor detail. It really can cut down on your word count and wreak havoc with deadlines. I have to find a place where I can reasonably say “enough research,” and get down to writing the story.

Tell us about the featured book.
For the women of the Samaritan village of Sychar, the well is a place of blessing—the place where they gather to draw their water and share their lives—but not for Mara. Shunned for the many sins of her mother, Nava, Mara struggles against the constant threats of starvation or exile.

Mara and Nava’s lives are forever changed with the arrival of two men: Shem, a mysterious young man from Caesarea, and Jesus, a Jewish teacher. Nava is transformed by Jesus, but his teachings come too late, and she is stoned by the unforgiving villagers. Desperate to save her dying mother, Mara and Shem embark on a journey to seek Jesus’ help—a journey that brings unexpected love and unimaginable heartbreak.

Please give us the first page of the book.
Dread coiled like an asp in Mara’s belly as the watery light of dawn seeped through the chinks in the roof of the clay house.

 Only a short span of dirt floor stretched between her mother’s corner of their one-room house to where Mara and her little brother lay pressed against its farthest wall. Mara’s worn cloak, pulled over their heads like a shield, had failed to block out the carnal whispers that had drifted through the confines of the dark room during the long night. Shame and fear had twined with tormented dreams until she prayed for dawn.

Now, as the murky beams of weak light puddled on the floor, Mara raised her head and strained to see through the gloom. Is Alexandros still here?

Relief trickled through her stiff limbs. Her mother slept alone in the corner. When had Alexandros left? And where did he go? How could Mama be so foolish? Please, Lord, let no one find out about him.

Mara’s bare arms, prickly with cold, were wrapped around Asher’s small warm body.
She slipped from under her cloak and eased herself away from her little brother. As she kissed his smooth cheek and tucked the tattered wool around his shoulders, he opened his sleep-clouded eyes.

“Shh, my sweet, go back to your dreams,” she whispered, rubbing his back. Asher garbled a few words, wedged his thumb in his mouth, and closed his eyes again. Mara stroked his back until his mouth went slack and his breath buzzed in a steady rhythm.

Silently, she crept past her sleeping mother. Nava lay crumpled in the corner like a pile of dirty rags. She would not stir until mid-morning. Then she would act as if nothing had happened, as if she’d done nothing wrong.

How can readers find you on the Internet?
I love to hear from readers. And if they like Biblical fiction, they’ll enjoy the tidbits of Biblical history research that I post weekly on my blog. They can find me at:
Or on these social media sites:

Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing your life and new book with us.

Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
The Well -
The Well: A Novel -
The Well: A Novel - Kindle

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 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Google +, Feedblitz, Facebook, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link.


Anonymous said...


Leauphaun said...

Most people don't write about passags from the Bible, and they usually avoid certain storys. But I love any and all that are fictional accounts taken from the Bible!!

- Leauphaun from BC

mongupp said...

I would love to read this book as I imagine the woman at the well to have an intriguing story.

Monica, Ontario

Amy C said...

Sounds like a fascinating read.
Amy C

Stephanie Landsem said...

There wasn't much information to go on, Monica, which made it all the more fun to imagine what she and her family must have experienced.

Stephanie Landsem said...

Best of luck to all of you in the drawing!

Melissa M. said...

I would like to read this. Thanks for the giveaway!

-Melissa M. from TX

Deb said...

I would love to read this.

Deborah D, FL

KayM said...

I lived many years in Minnesota, but I have to say that I hope I never have to go back in the winter. I'm quite spoiled after living for many years in a more moderate climate. I would enjoy reading The Well. Thank you for offering a copy.
I live in Tennessee.

Veronica Sternberg said...

I've heard this is really good! I'm in MN.

Mary Preston said...

THE WELL is a story that I know my Mother will enjoy as well - no pun intended.

(PS - you can keep your stinky cheese.)

Mary P


karenk said...

thanks for the chance to read 'the well.'

kmkuka at yahoo dot com
...from pa...

apple blossom said...

thanks for the chance to win this book

live in ND

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Stephanie Landsem said...

Thanks, Amy, Melissa and Deb. Kay and Veronica - I grew up in the more moderate climate of the Pacific Northwest but I love Minnesota, even on the snowy days.

"Well" said, Mary :) I love to have mothers and daughters read The Well together and talk about it.

Stephanie Landsem said...

You are welcome, Karen and apple blossom. Good luck to you.

EJ said...

Thank you for interview & the introduction to Stephanie's books - looking forward to reading "The Well".

Elaine from Iowa

Sarah Rebekah Richmond said...

Enter me!
Sarah Richmond

Anna R. Weaver said...

Sounds great!

Anna W. from GA

sharon m said...

I would like to win and read THE WELL, because I like to read about the culture of Biblical characters and what may have been their 'back story'. sharon, CA

Judy said...

This book sounds like a must read by for me. The Well is a book I would enjoy.

Judy B from Indiana

Anonymous said...

would love to win Angela from KY

Sharon Richmond said...

Enter me!!
Sharon Richmond

rubynreba said...

I would really enjoy this book. Bibical fiction is great to read. Thanks!
Beth from Iowa

Library Lady said...

I would like to win this book for my church library.
Thanks for the opportunity to do so.
Janet E.

Anonymous said...


Liz R said...

I love biblical fiction and can't wait to read the well! Would love to win a copy!

Liz R in Al