Wednesday, March 03, 2010
A “veterinarian on sabbatical,” widowed Paul Sycamore is not interested in answering his new neighbor’s constant questions about her expectant sheep. But the comfort his child finds on Audrey Lupine’s Middleburg, Kentucky, farm just may open his heart.
An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and devoted chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, doing laundry, running carpools, and finding new ways to avoid housework. She grew up in Connecticut, holds a BS in Speech from Northwestern University, spent fifteen years in the field of professional fundraising, and currently lives in suburban Chicago, Illinois. The “dare from a friend” to begin writing nine years ago has given rise to a career spanning two parenting books, eight novels including the multi-nominated MY SO-CALLED LOVE LIFE, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing.
Welcome, Allie. Please tell us about your salvation experience.
I’m a product of Young Life, meeting Christ during camp as Young Life has done for so many young people over the years. I had an Aunt with a strong faith, and a vibrant youth group in high school, so I grew up with the foundations ready for when my faith really strengthened during my college years. I’m afraid I don’t have a dramatic story (even though I was a theater major!). My faith experienced more of a slow, steady growth than any great leaps forward.
How did you and your spouse meet?
We were both out with friends. At six feet tall, I was always scanning any room for someone with enough altitude to catch my eye. Jeff has the most astounding blue eyes, and I’m very much an drawn to a person’s eyes. On our first date, he put the top down on his convertible to see if I’d care about getting my hair ruined. I, in turn, ordered lobster to see if he’d pay for it. I didn’t care, he paid, and the rest is history.
You’re planning a writing retreat where you can only have four other authors. Who would they be and why?
Debbie Clopton because she drives a cool car and always eats desert first
Charlene Baumbich because we’re dear friends and could have fun just about anywhere
Camy Tang so we could knit until our fingers were numb
Debbie Macomber because I admire her spirit and I think she’s an outstanding businesswoman (and she knits, too)
Do you have a speaking ministry? If so, tell us about that.
The theater major in me loves to speak. For a raging extrovert like me, it’s the antidote to the isolation of solitary writing. Having written two parenting books, I do a lot of speaking to mothers and families. One of those books was about fear, and I was humbled when the US Army hired me to speak to families of deployed soldiers. The rest of us have no concept of the sacrifices made by our military families! I have been writing about knitting on my knitting/travel blog DestiKNITions, so I’ve been able to add some fiber-based engagements to my calendar, which pleases me immensely. Speaking really feeds me, so I’m always open to invitations.
With a grandson who has served one tour in Iraq and will soon deploy to Afghanistan, I understand the sacrifices. What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you and how did you handle it?
I’ve had migraines most of my adult life (now under control with medication), but between that and my two pregnancies I’m afraid I’ve gotten sick in public far more than anyone should. How did I handle it? Not particularly well. I try to be a good humored and gracious woman, but it’s tough to be either of those when you’re nauseous, very pregnant, and your head feels ready to explode. I’d like to think I’m a bit better at handling it now that it happens far less often.
Yes, it does happen often. I tell people you never know if you have a novel in you until you’ve banged out about 100 pages. You learn so much about the process and your ability to craft stories and characters when you stick it out to that first 100. So, I tell people to go write their 100 pages and come back to me then. Only a very small percentage do, by the way.
Tell us about the featured book?
My novella Bluegrass Easter is the final installment of my Kentucky Corners series and my first effort at a shorter piece. We met librarian Audrey Lupine in Bluegrass Hero, and readers will recognize many of Middleburg’s quirky cast of characters. The plot line actually was born from a real-life story. As a knitter, I’ve had a relationship with a local sheep farm for several years. The folks at Esther’s Place in Big Rock, IL wrote in a newsletter about their very...enthusiastic...ram who got every one of their ewes pregnant, resulting in a surprise population explosion of lambs. It’s the most endearing story, and I was delighted to take my control freak librarian and put her in the same boat (or is that pen?). It’s very funny, but it also deals with some very deep and touching issues.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Two o’clock in the afternoon was one of Audrey Lupine’s favorite times in the library. Adults only. The little children--staples of any weekday library crowd--had gone home for naps and the rambunctious teen after school crowd had yet to arrive. She could actually manage a cup of tea at her reference desk this time of day. Not exactly the English high tea, but close enough. She was just inhaling the luxurious aroma, browsing through a textbook, when a blonde head bobbed up to the desk.
“How old are you?” A round pink face framed in layers of wavy blond hair topped the desk edge. A set of elbows parked themselves just under the face.
“The lady at my old library--” she mispronounced the word in a way other people might find adorable, “--was really old.”
Audrey was pretty sure twenty-nine was not anywhere in the neighborhood of “old.” What parent had taught--or more precisely forgotten to teach--this little girl to mind her manners? “I guarantee you I am not ‘really old.’ But even if I were, that’s not a nice question to ask.”
The girl’s blond brows scrunched together over pale blue eyes. “Why not?” Her head disappeared below the desk only to bob up again, this time with a yellow backpack. “You can ask me how old I am.” She granted it like the greatest of favors. A magnanimous grade-school gesture. “Go ahead, ask.”
“I won’t.” I’m debating with a second-grader. Worse, I seem to be debating decorum with someone under four feet tall. Audrey closed the textbook with what she hoped was a “this conversation is now over” thump.
No such thing. “I’m seven and three-quarters. Dad says I’m seven and thirty, but I’m not sure what that means.” The head bobbed up and down now, alternating heights, as if standing on...
Oh no. “You’re not standing on your books, are you young lady?”
Blink. Pause. “Nope.” The head bobbed back down again, and Audrey heard suspicious scrambling. Audrey counted to ten and reminded herself that even precocious second-graders grew up to read books. As for the remark about “seven and thirty,” Audrey agreed with “Dad” one hundred percent.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website is http://www.alliepleiter.com/ , and my knitting blog is destiKNITions.blogspot.com
Thank you, Allie, for this interesting conversation.
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