Monday, November 30, 2009
I think every writer portrays themselves in their novels, whether consciously or not. There are bits and pieces of me in each character: hopes, dreams, struggles, sin, and fear. As creative people, writers mimic God in the way he created. To a certain extent, I think we all make our characters “in our own image.”
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
In life or writing? In life: jumping off a forty foot bridge into fifteen feet of water (not something I recommend unless you want to wake up on the bottom of Rio Grande). In writing: finishing the edits on my novel while holding my two-week old baby in one arm and a giant mug of coffee in the other (who needs sleep, right).
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I knew from the time I was five years old that there was no other career for me. This is what I’m supposed to do. Not that the journey has been easy by any stretch, but I’ve never wavered in my desire to tell stories and impact the world through the written word.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
If you were to look at my bookshelf right now you might question my sanity. My C.S. Lewis collection sits next to my Harry Potter collection. George MacDonald and Agatha Christie are nestled on the top shelf. Tolkien, Dickens, and Dick Francis are scattered amongst books on parenting and writing. Bible commentaries, Christian living, suspense novels, the classics, and a handful of well-loved children’s books are peppered throughout. It’s a random, warm, and eyebrow raising shelf (and home) filled with books by people who love words. I like to think it’s a bit quirky but a good conversation starter – hopefully a bit like me.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
The first book I wrote will never see the light of day and the world is a better place for it. The only good that came from that novel was proof that I could gut it out and finish one. My skill and my imagination improved a great deal once I got that disaster out of the way and I’ve gone on to publish several books. My first was called Daddy Do You Love Me: A Daughter’s Journey of Faith and Restoration (New Leaf Press, 2007), and was an examination of the father-daughter relationship, the brokenness that often occurs, and God’s redemption therein. Last year I co-wrote a book with Josh and Sean McDowell called Jesus: Dead or Alive (Regal, 2008). And over the next two years I will release three children’s book in my Justin Case (Harvest House) series. Eye of the God is my first novel.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
My sanity aside (I have four boys ages six and under) I’m not the type to run, run, run. I like margin. I like having stretches of time during the day where I don’t have to be anywhere or do anything. Especially since my children are little, I limit our activities and our obligations as a family. We try to keep our world small. It doesn’t always work, but I find that my family thrives when we are not pulled in several directions at once.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Honestly? I usually pick names from among my friends and family and shuffle them up. A first name here, a last name there, and viola, I’ve got a character! For instance, the heroine in Eye of the God, is Abby – which is the name of one of my sisters. At one point in the novel I needed to name three security guards so I chose three of my husband’s friends. There are so many things to stress over while writing a novel that I try not to expend too much mental energy naming people. Quite often the name comes to me when I begin the story and if not I select one from my sphere of influence.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Writing books is fun, but I am most proud of my marriage. Not because it’s perfect, it’s most certainly not, but because it’s beautiful in a gloriously imperfect way. And it’s honest. And my husband and I have lived through some deep and hard stuff and we still love each other. More than ever, actually. Jesus is here in the midst of us and for that I am immensely grateful.
A close second would be the fact that I survived childbirth four times even though I was quite certain, each time, that it would be the death of me. Raising these kids, on the other hand, might easily do me in.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A polar bear hands down. They get to sleep for six months out of the year.
What is your favorite food?
That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. I love a good meal (especially when not prepared by me) like I love a good book or a good conversation. If I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a chef – or at least attempt. There’s nothing in the world so tasty as a good steak, or a ripe peach (when the juice drips down your chin). Strawberries in summer and roast potatoes in winter. Anything with feta cheese sprinkled on top. Bruschetta. Oh, and coffee. I know it doesn’t actually qualify as a food but it makes me happy and there’s something to be said for that.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Time. With four small children I am pressed on all sides to find the time to write my name, much less a novel. But we are each given twenty-four hours every day and I am learning how to make the most of the ones given to me. For a season I stayed up into the far reaches of the night, often crossing over into the next day just to get a few words on paper. And then there was the year that I got up hours before the sun ever considered making its appearance on the horizon. I finished Eye of the God that way, working until my family woke. Yet I find that I’m in a new season where neither of those options work for my tired bones. So our family has unplugged the television for the summer and I have found that the time I once thought to be so scarce makes itself plentiful in the silence now. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with fifteen minutes here and twenty minutes there.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Don’t worry about your words at first. Just finish the book. There is something about finishing that breathes life into the heart of a writer. I know from experience how easy it is to look back at half-baked words and want to meddle with them until they’re perfect. But a book is not birthed that way. Keep writing (insert notes in the text along the way for things you’d like to fix) and don’t stop until a complete manuscript sits before you. It may never see the light of day and that is ok. Once it’s done, step away, take a deep breath, and then repeat the process. The ability to finish is what sets a writer apart from an author.
Tell us about the featured book?
The diamond, according to legend, was once the eye of a Hindu Idol named Rama Sita. Late in the 17th century, it was stolen, and Rama is said to have cursed all who would come in contact with the eye of the god. A quick glance at the lives of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and Evalyn Walsh McLean give the appearance that there is indeed something to the tale. Yet the curse has only increased the value of the gem, and at auction could fetch well over $200 million. Today, the Hope Diamond sits proudly in the Smithsonian Institute, and has become the most viewed museum object in the world, boasting more visitors each year than the Mona Lisa.
Eye of the God takes the fascinating history surrounding the Hope Diamond, and weaves it together with a modern day plot to steal the jewel from the Smithsonian. We follow Alex and Isaac Weld, the most lucrative thieves in the world, in their quest to steal the jewel for a mysterious art broker. The Weld brothers are the established choice for those dealing in stolen goods but are unprepared for the evil they bring upon themselves when they agree to steal the diamond. Ultimately it will claim the life of one brother, and change life irrevocably for the other.
Brilliant and ruthless, the Weld brothers are not prepared for Dr. Abigail Mitchell, the beautiful Smithsonian Director, who has her own connection to the Hope Diamond, and a deadly secret to keep. She has spent her entire career studying the jewel and learning the truth about the curse it carries. More so than anyone else alive she has reason to love and hate the diamond that has set her life on a collision course with betrayal. However, Abby committed long ago that she would not serve a god made with human hands, and the “eye of the god” is no exception. Her desire is not for wealth, but for wisdom. She seeks not power, but restoration. Abby holds the pieces to a complicated puzzle, and finds herself in the middle of a deadly game. It is in this context that her faith will be put to the ultimate test as she confronts the father that abandoned her, the betrayal of the only man she has ever loved, and the possibility that she may lose her life because of the legendary gem.
When all is said and done, and the dust has finally settled over the last great adventure of the Hope Diamond, we understand the “curse” that has haunted its legacy is nothing more than the greed of evil men who bring destruction upon themselves. No god chiseled from stone can direct the fates of men, nor can it change the course of His-story.
When I was a senior in high school, the seniors in our small school in Arkansas took our senior trip to Washington, DC. I've been to the Smithsonian and seen the Hope diamond. Please give us the first page of the book.
Golconda, India, 1653
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier winced as the soldier chopped off the man’s hand. The thief shrieked and dropped to the ground, clutching the bloodied stump to his chest.
Tavernier turned aside with a grimace and ordered the litter bearers beneath him to move faster. Four slaves,
dark from the sun, jostled between the crowded stalls of Golconda’s hectic bazaar and away from the public spectacle.
The agonized screams faded as they pressed farther into the crowd.
Dense heat settled over the marketplace, and Tavernier wiped sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. Pungent smells assaulted his senses: sweat and urine, spiced curry and sweet chutney, burning incense and rotting vegetables. His litter bumped and rocked through the hustle and bustle of shoppers and merchants haggling over prices. Red and gold bridal wear and precious gold glittered in the stalls. Elephants carried the elite through the narrow streets while dirty children chased each other with sticks.
I can hardly wait to read the rest. How can readers find you on the Internet?
When I’m not immersed in a book, changing a diaper, or rescuing our dog from the death-grip of a toddler, you can find me loitering in my little corner of cyberspace: http://www.arielallison.com/ .
Thanks for having me by the way, it’s been a load of fun!
And thank you, Ariel, for sharing this time with us.
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