Welcome back, Eleanor. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
My first novel, Appalachian Spring, was “Can you do this?” Turned out to be my best-selling book. Second, Wild Harvest, was, “Okay, you can do it; now write what you know: tree farming.” That one was a good time travel but had a bad ending. Number 3, Middle Night, was a disaster (but had a good ending) and had to be self-published—a fantasy dramatizing the gospel without the use of any religious language. Too raw, and hardly anyone liked it. #4, The Stones, was the life of King David—a joy to write because I have always loved David. Dynamo, releasing this month, blends my dual passions for God and for horses. I write because I have to, and I speak through whatever my perception of God happens to be at the moment. Drama and strong characters are powerful voices in this regard.
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
Probably my wedding day, though it rained hard, and the motel room we had been assigned that night already had people in it—still pouring rain, mind you, and no interior corridors, with the clerk long in bed. I could regale you with other honeymoon stories like a mountain climb and eating gasoline-tainted food from a leaky Coleman burner; sharing a single down mummy bag that got soaked from puddled condensation…. The marvel is that our marriage lasted longer than one week. Yet it was a happy time and remains so to this day.
How has being published changed your life?
My focus has reverted from parenting and considerable music involvement to my early love of story. Life, however, has gotten increasingly busy with today’s demands for hands-on author involvement in the selling process. My first two books were fun because Zondervan did all the marketing. The fantasy was not fun, but I learned a lot about writing. Good prep for writing the David novel.
What are you reading right now?
A book on abortion by R.C. Sproul.
What is your current work in progress?
A novel called An Unpresentable Glory, the title based on a verse in 1 Corinthians 12:23—“… the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty….” After drinking water, the sick stranger in Linda Jensen’s guest bedroom has to “go,” and Linda holds a jar for him. This hidden, caring act becomes significant when the stranger’s identity is revealed and the awkward incident hits the headlines. It is, she says, an “unpresentable glory.”
What would be your dream vacation?
Another trip to
to visit friends there, then perhaps Iceland
and possibly Ireland.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
The needs of my characters determine the setting. The mountain man in Appalachian Spring required mountains—thus West
Our tree farm is in Vermont,
so why not put the time travel there, using the topography I knew so well?
David, of course, had to be Israel,
and I took the requisite trip. Dynamo with its horse shows had to
be centered in a horsey area.
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
Eugene Peterson—a very kind man who writes stuff that fires my brain and spirit. And he endorsed The Stones, my David book!
He was at a church where we attended a number of years ago, and we were there that day. What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
I garden, my husband and I walk 2 to 3 miles a day, I do some photography. I won’t go into all the things I used to do. Too long a list, but it includes sewing a canvas, 15-foot tepee. Not surprisingly, my work-in-progress has an American Indian thread.
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
The lack of time, and it seems impossible to overcome, with so many things of consequence to be done. I do what I can and trust God to hold me together—with duct tape, if necessary.
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Read good literature. Make notes on clever phrases—not to copy them, but to get patterns in your mind. Learn proper grammar and punctuation. Learn to write tight—fewer words, more punch. Don't go all preachy in your writing. That’s dangerous for me to say, in light of Dynamo’s hefty spiritual component. I have tried, however, to let drama and strong characters carry the weight.
Tell us about the featured book.
Jeth Cavenaugh hires on with Rob Chilton at his stable of show jumpers and a cranky five-gaited stallion named Dynamo. He studies Rob and Katie’s spiritual commitment but doesn’t step over the line of faith until his girlfriend Janni slaps him viciously. From then on, God begins to work in unorthodox and unsettling ways. But he does have a church friend Maybelle who serves as his interpreter in this foreign territory.
The three main characters in the novel are God (subject), Maybelle (verb), and Jeth (object). The story is not about horses; it is God acting sovereignly. Jeth takes Him seriously, and in return, God puts him through spiritual boot camp to turn out a trained, disciplined, and effective servant. I have tried to counter the common perception of a God who exists only to serve personal needs, rather than the all-powerful God who is “greater than our mind and heart and perfectly free to reveal Himself where and when he wants.” (Henri Nouwen)
Maybelle, an old bit of lace, who serves as Jeth’s personal prophet and God interpreter, loves Jeth and walks him through the spiritual minefield of God’s unusual activity in his life. She sees, even before Jeth becomes a Christian, that God has chosen him for a special purpose. Drawing on the Old Testament prophets, she feeds him passages that strike terror in his heart but that bolster him at critical moments. (She is, by the way, a favorite character for all my early readers.)
The book is written from a unique perspective and carries the sharp, clear message through a dynamic storyline, strong characters and dialogue. I have basically laid out the classical understanding of servanthood. And while the horse part is simply the setting, it does provide an effective vehicle that powerfully communicates who God really is and what He asks of His servants.
Scriptural Inspiration: The God of Ezekiel and Daniel; the sovereign God who pulls and shapes and lifts Jeth into the unfathomably rich fellowship of suffering servanthood.
Please give us the first page of the book.
One last kiss. Simple, unadorned, passionless; two seconds, at best; and in a bottom-end motel parking lot. But kisses of any sort had been long in coming, and this one, impoverished though it was, was the last touch of love Jeth was apt to get for a long time to come.
After the quick kiss, Jeth stepped back and closed the door of Janni’s powder-blue Acura. As he did, he noticed a thread of her dark hair on his sleeve. He would keep that; he’d need it to warm his emptiness. As she backed the car out, he clapped the hood and waved. His eyes hungered after her, pursued her out of the driveway and into the stream of traffic. He looked at the hair again and shivered in a breeze that couldn’t decide between winter and spring. He turned and walked slowly around the faded, scratched trunk of his own clunker. He was glad to have the heap. No money, no job, and a no-good reputation. Basic transportation, yes—along with a full gas tank and a hundred dollars that Janni had put in his pocket. Plus three pieces of cold pepperoni pizza.
“Don’t call me,” Janni had said. “If Daddy guessed I was even talking to you, he’d ship me to
or even the South Pole.”
“You’re a big girl now. Somebody once took horses to the South Pole, y’ know.”
“Don’t change the subject. Daddy can do what he wants with me, and you know it.”
“I called you yesterday and got away with it. Are you sorry?”
“Of course I’m not sorry, but it’s not safe.”
“Why don’t you do the unthinkable and get a job—get away from Daddy? Twenty-six is old enough to think and act on your own.”
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Dynamo page: http://www.eleanorgustafson.com/dynamo-a-new-novel/
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/eleanorgustafson
Author video: http-//youtu.be/jdEvOFyA#4F1238 Good for a laugh, anyway.
Barnes & Noble— http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dynamo-eleanor-gustafson/1118874786?ean=9781629110066
A Novel of the Life of King David http://www.amazon.com/Stones-Eleanor-Gustafson/dp/1603740791/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366735533&sr=1-1&keywords=gustafson+stones
Thank you, Eleanor, for sharing this time with us today.
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