Welcome, AnnaLee. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
In my first novel, Till the Storm Passes By, several of my characters are inspired by my life growing up in
It is set in 1953, a time period I remember well. The main character tends to
react emotionally as I might have in the same situations at her age. The second
novel in my Alaskan Waters series is set a generation earlier so the
characters, Norwegian immigrants, don’t resemble me that much, but I do write
from personal experience about love, family secrets, and forgiveness.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
The thing that provoked the most laughter in my writing critique group was when I wrote: “‘He’s dead?’ she croaked.”
Another time, at a church women’s retreat, I was in a small group assigned to write a rap about the topic. The other members of my group teased me for correcting all the grammar. My writing group calls me “the grammar police.”
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I always loved writing in grade school. When as a young teen I read my great aunt’s nine published Christian novels, the desire was born in my heart to write novels too. While my husband was in seminary, I worked in editorial at our denomination’s publishing house. The first article I submitted to our premier magazine was published. The editors I worked with encouraged me to write and submit stories. Soon, I was also writing church school curriculum on assignment, which I continued to do for 25 years as a pastor’s wife. In 2002, I published Frontiers of Faith, a nonfiction book about my grandparents, Charles and Florence Personeus, who went to
by faith as pioneer missionaries in 1917 and spent 65 years there—from gold
rush to statehood and beyond. As I researched that book, I came across snippets
of stories that triggered my imagination, and my Alaskan Waters series of
novels was born.
Earlier in my writing career, I wrote church school curriculum for three different denominations. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I began reading biographies of great Christians and missionaries and Christian historical and Biblical fiction as a teenager growing up in a missionary family in
On cold winter nights in Alaska,
we had no television or radio, but my dad belonged to a Christian book club
that sent one or two novels each month. As I read them, I wanted to check out
the historical or Biblical facts. That led to an interest in history and
theology. I have an extensive home library of Bible commentaries, theology, and
books on Biblical counseling, the Bible and science, devotionals, and writing
and have taught many ministerial preparation courses. I love to read. When I
feel like my writing well is running dry, reading Christian fiction fills it up
again. I also read a variety of magazines.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Keeping our minds focused on the Lord and seeking His will and guidance in all we do is key. A motto on my grandparents’ wall I read frequently as I was growing up has been my life’s motto too: “Only one life—Twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” That guides all my decisions.
Now that we are retired from fulltime ministry and teaching, we still have to seek God’s guidance in our choices of activities. We continually remind ourselves that people have a wonderful plan for our lives unless we make Spirit-led choices.
We have always had a favorite place we try to visit two or three times a year—Beavertail Lighthouse on the tip of
Island in Narragansett Bay between the
mainland and . We discovered it when we were
stationed in Newport, Rhode Island Rhode Island
in the Army for two years in the early seventies. Our son was born near there
at Quonset Point Naval Base. Sitting on the rocks watching the waves roll in on
three sides carries away our cares and renews our minds. It was there that Till the Storm Passes By was birthed and
the plots developed for my Alaskan Waters series of historical Christian novels.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I remember names of people I knew from the time period I’m writing about. Since many of my characters in the Alaskan Waters series are Norwegian, I googled Norwegian names common in the time period. I try to find names that seem to fit the personalities of my characters or names I like.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
As a young wife, I prayed long and hard that God would give us a son, promising I would raise him to serve the Lord. He is our only child. Today, he serves the Lord and is raising his five children to serve the Lord too.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Growing up in
I always admired the majestic beauty of bald eagles. I especially love the way
they soar above the storms. I want to fly
above life’s storms in my life, too, though I have not always been as
successful as I’d like to be.
What is your favorite food?
Ice cream. (An interesting fact I learned some years ago is that Alaskans eat more ice cream per capita than any other state at the time that survey was done.) I used to eat a cup of ice cream every night before going to bed. It was so delicious, creamy, and soothing. When I broke myself of that habit, I lost ten pounds! Now I usually don’t keep it in the house.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I carry stories in my head and jot notes on scraps of paper, but finding blocks of time and disciplining myself to write them was my challenge. Joining a writing critique group helped me to set writing goals and stick to them.
Tell us about the featured book.
Between 1825 and 1925 more than 800,000 Norwegians immigrated to the
States. Many settled in Alaska’s
Panhandle to fish the Inside Passage, which closely resembles the fjords of Norway. A
Star to Steer By is the second novel in my Alaskan Waters series, a
historical family saga based on the lives of a fictional Norwegian immigrant
family who settled in Southeast Alaska in the 1920s.
The first book, Till the Storm Passes By, is set in 1953. In it, Evie locates the Norwegian family she never knew in
The second novel goes back a generation to tell her parents’ love story:
Tales of the booming fishing industry in faraway Alaska and big money to be made there in 1920 lure 19-year-old Norman Pedersen, a Norwegian fisherman, to immigrate to Alaska to make his fortune.
Norman thinks of Kristina Michelsen as his North Star, for centuries used by
sailors in navigation at sea. He plans to return to marry her, and she promises
to wait for him—even if it takes years. But Norman becomes entrapped in a prison of his
own making. Will he ever find his true “star to steer by”?
Please give us the first page of the book.
Fall 1922 Ketchikan, Alaska
Norman Pedersen hunched his body into the biting wind as he stood at the bow of the seiner. Even that discomfort could not distract him from the relentless, crushing pain in his heart. A cacophony of voices assailed his ears, but he did not share the excitement.
Full of hope and ambition, he had come to
Alaska to make his fortune and marry the
love of his life. The future had looked so promising. But now, he felt like a
man sentenced to a life behind bars. He’d let down everyone he loved.
How could I have been so stupid? How did I fall into this trap? Is there no way out?
I’m only twenty-one years old, and my life is ruined. How did I let it come to this?
Norman Pedersen stood at the bow, rope in hand, ready to jump to the dock as soon as the Viking nudged into its mooring in the harbor at Narvik. The long summer days were over. He turned up his collar against the chill Arctic winds that swept up the fjord.
Behind him, the four large islands of the Lofoten group, with smaller ones between, trailed off from the
Islands into the Norwegian
Sea like a gigantic backbone. From January to April, fishing boats
followed the cod migration to their spawning grounds among the many islands scattered
along northern Norway’s
broken coast. Norman had spent the summer aboard
the Viking with Ole Aarstad and Hans
Orsen shipping salted and dried codfish from the Vesteralens to Bergen, one of the
foremost fish markets of the world.
As much as
loved life at sea, his heart also swelled with pride for this land of his
fathers, the Vikings. The majestic mountains, narrow valleys, and rushing
waterfalls tumbling down the almost perpendicular walls of the numerous fjords
never ceased to amaze him.
But at this moment, all he wanted was to be with Kristina Michelsen.
Something caught the sun’s rays and flashed out miniature beacons from the bluff overlooking the sea. His heart quickened when he spotted a girl buffeted by the stiff breeze. Kristina! It had to be. She always wore her mother’s large silver brooch at the throat of her shirtwaist. Her long, dark skirt billowed behind her as she gazed out across the water.
Norman hoped Kristina, just
past her seventeenth birthday, was looking for him.
As the Viking drew closer to land,
could see the wind whip golden strands of wavy hair across the girl’s face. He
recognized the characteristic toss of her head as with her hand she shaded her
pictured those eyes, as blue as the beautiful fjord before her, straining to
see his boat. He waved, and she waved back—vigorously.
His heart rose in anticipation of being with Kristina again after his long season at sea. He remembered the rosy tinge the breeze always brought to her cheeks and the pearly white teeth that sparkled between the sweet, smiling lips painted only by Nature’s deft fingers. In spite of the chilling wind, he warmed at the thought of kissing her. Maybe this time he’d get up the nerve.
He’d first seen Kristina in church two years earlier when at sixteen he’d finally gotten up the courage to run away from his elder brother’s estate in Oslo. Arne’s wife, Hilda, was so overbearing he couldn’t wait to escape to his older sister
home in Narvik. It had been a good decision. He’d been hired as a deckhand on
the Viking, and he’d met Kristina
Michelsen. It wasn’t only her pretty face and winsome ways that drew him. She
too had lost both of her parents at a young age.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Twitter: @AnnaLeeContiwBlog: http://AnnaLeeConti.blogspot.com/
Thank you, AnnaLee, for sharing this new book with us. My father was half Norwegian and half Swedish. His family emigrated to Minnesota. Your book has moved to the top of my to-be-read pile.
Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
A Star to Steer By - Christianbook.com
A Star to Steer By (Alaskan Waters) - Amazon
A Star To Steer By (Alaskan Waters Series Book 2) - Kindle
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