Welcome, Samuel. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Since my genre is primarily historical fiction, I retain the actual names of the people in the story unless the family of a bad person would suffer shame or embarrassment by my depiction of their relative. My characters are based on people I’ve known or observed but they reflect my idea of what I believe them to be.
Obviously, I see my characters through the lens of my biases and worldview. While I can portray believable characters, I would be hard pressed to develop a Hannibal Lector (Silence of the Lambs) as I simply would not want to descend—even within my imagination—to the level of a serial killer.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Just being me. For those of us with ADD, it’s hard to isolate one activity or habit. I try to represent the real me wherever I am. That has alarmed people who feel that making a good impression is paramount, while some probably classify me as eccentric, or even uninhibited or rude. So yes, I’ve been known to do or say the unexpected, which may appear to be quirky but really, I’m simply enjoying being myself.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Freshman composition college class. One of my classmates, whom I viewed as intellectual, said he thought I got the only A in the section. I loved that class; it not only showed me that I could write, it exposed my vast need for improvement. Research was the tinder to light my fire, and learning to use the right word as opposed to the almost-right-word became a game.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
The Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi and Foxe’s Christian Martyrs of the World should be in every Christian’s library, in my view. Oswald Chambers, Andrew Murray, and Brother Lawrence conveyed their experience with the Holy in ways that inspire me to this day. Tim Keller and Ravi Zacharias form much of my apologetic while the writings of C.S. Lewis are timeless; I trust Christina Hoff Sommers for social commentary; and Jon Krakauer and John Vaillant (The Tiger) write the kind of adventure stories I aspire to. Alexander McCall Smith and Thurber titillate my funny bone, and Walter Wangerin, Jr. is simply remarkable. Beryl Markham, Sanora Babb, and Eudora Welty wrote with a passion and attention to detail that will forever keep their books on my shelves. Bill Myers and Richard Russo, each in his own way, craft stories that never disappoint. Stephen King is seldom a comfortable companion for bedtime reading but he is deadly eloquent and never dull.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I don’t venture out into it very often. Long ago, my roommate bequeathed me a B & W television. When it died two months later, I didn’t replace it. My wife and I never owned a TV. We read stories to our three children when they were young, and all appear to have survived the hardship of doing without TV.
Additionally, our house reposes behind a coverlet of trees on all sides. It’s a blissful place of refuge that calms my soul.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I generally let them choose their own names, appropriate to their level of perceived self-importance, reputation, giftedness, fears, or ambition. However, if they get carried away, I step in and allow other irreverent characters in my story to tag them with nicknames that bring them to heel. For my historical fiction, I let them keep the names they brought home from the hospital … unless, of course, they or their living descendants would be shamed or inflamed by my revelations. Then I give them innocuous handles somewhat in keeping with their roles.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
It’s not really my achievement but I am most proud of our daughter and two sons. The fact that we and they love each other, and say so every time we part or sign off a conversation speaks volumes about God’s love for me.
I have few personal accomplishments that I attained due to my determination or talent; most resulted from my response of sink-or-swim to situations or roles thrust upon me. One prominent exception is my staying with my story, Daughter of the Cimarron, until it found the right publisher—
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Ah, the giraffe, that mild-mannered wallflower with the ungainly stride. Deceptive in demeanor, he towers above the madding crowd, and his kick can knock an incautious lion into next week.
What is your favorite food?
As related in Daughter of the Cimarron, once during the Depression, Claire and Elmer had only wheat and milk to eat—for two whole months! In contrast, I consider the variety of delectable foods we put on our tables today, and I’d have to say that just about any food could be my favorite.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Discipline, or lack of it. We ADDers live interesting lives, jumping from an activity to a succession of distractions before settling down to complete whatever task must get done. Deadlines are our friends, quieting the siren call of procrastination. The nature of a critique group carries with it the simple expectation that each writer has something prepared … every time, every meeting. My unwillingness to not meet those expectations means that I do my level best to perform as expected. Wrong motive, but for me, that’s what I need.
Tell us about the featured book.
Set in the Great Depression, Claire’s story begins when she is stranded in
on a traveling sales crew by her
cheating husband, abetted by her own cowardice. A moment of outrage achieves
what she’s long needed—and always feared. She can’t go home but she has to
start over. The breakup of her marriage shatters her trust in a manageable God
and ends her dream of a happy home with children. St. Louis
Urbane and handsome Elmer, her irreligious boss, wins her affections until she learns there’s another woman. Heartsick and doubting if God ever forgives divorce, she flees to a doubtful refuge—home. Two men pursue her but she can’t decide which love is real. Her own mother doesn’t show up when she marries. The Depression forces the couple onto their own resources. Marooned far from family, they spiral into extreme want. With the Dust Bowl as the anvil, Claire’s in-laws become God’s hammer to make her into what she’s resisted … and desired.
This story portrays a woman’s quest for identity and celebrates her determination and inner worth. It honors the dignity of people struggling to overcome. Beyond that, the characters question God’s reality while hiding personal agendas and power plays.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Mama always said, “People put out stories to make themselves feel superior. Ignore the tales and the people who tell them.”
But I couldn’t ignore the envelope in my purse.
“Sunday driver!” My husband shook his fist at the car in front of us. Tilting the steering wheel to the left, he pulled the throttle lever down. The engine puttered faster as we moved beside the other car’s back bumper. A moment later, the car jolted.
Our ’26 Ford coupe jerked to the right and slipped into a shallow ditch beside Illinois Highway 3. No sound but the creaking of metal.
The car we’d been trying to pass kept on going.
Harold sat rigid as a post, knuckles ivory white over the steering wheel. My husband’s thick brown hair looked as if he’d combed it with an eggbeater. Uttering a stream of curses, he swept his hair off his forehead.
“Are you all right?” Why had he taken such a risk? Did he want to die?
Harold shoved his door open and, without another look at me, stepped down.
I pushed against my door, but a barbed wire fence gleamed on the other side of the ditch so I scooted across the seat and followed him out.
He ducked to catch his reflection in the side window and commenced finger-combing his hair back in place. “Lookit that,” he muttered. “Clear in the ditch and stuck besides. How am I going to get this flivver back on the road?”
A battered red truck rolled to a stop beside us. The driver, a rangy farm hand with a gap-toothed grin, vaulted out. “Hey-ee. Close call. Everybody in one piece?”
I pulled myself upright. “I … I guess so. It was so quick, I—”
“Things can happen mighty fast. People driving thirty, forty miles an hour. Like maniacs. You coulda been killed.” He shook his head.
“What?” Harold puffed out his chest. “You didn’t see nothing. Who you think you are?”
The tall man’s smile faded. He seemed to be deciding whether to fling Harold over the fence or simply to leave.
I stumbled forward. “No. No, he didn’t mean it that way.” My voice caught. “Yes … you’re right. We should’ve been careful …”
“Claire, I did mean it that way!” Harold’s right eyelid twitched, a sign things could get out of control—quickly.
I wheeled between the two and grasped Harold’s arm. “Elmer expects us in
today. We need this man’s help. He
didn’t intend disrespect.” I turned back to the farmer. “He’s … we’re just
upset. That was very frightening. We’re so glad you stopped.” St. Louis
The man stared at Harold, as if daring him to pop off again. Finally he got into the truck and backed up to our car. Within minutes, he’d hitched on to our coupe and pulled it up beside the pavement. He unhooked from the Ford and dropped down to look underneath. “That right tie rod’s bent. I’d get it fixed as soon as possible if I was you.” He directed the words at me, not Harold.
I reached into the car for my purse.
The farmer shook his head. “You don’t owe me nothin’. I’m glad to help you.” Without further ceremony, he climbed in his truck and chugged off.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My blog can be reached via my website, samhallwriter.com. I also have a FaceBook and Goodreads presence.
Thank you, Samuel, for sharing this new book with us. I live in North Central Texas, and we have been in an extreme drought for almost a decade. I've often through about the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. I'm so thankful that the drought is finally broken.
Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.Daughter of the Cimarron - Paperback
Daughter of the Cimarron - Kindle
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