Dear Readers, Christmas at Grey Sage was the first Christmas book I read this year. I really liked it—relatable, authentic characters and heart-warming storyline. You don’t want to miss this one.
Bio: Phyllis Clark Nichols believes everyone could use a little more hope and light. Her character-driven Southern fiction explores profound human questions from within the simple lives of small town communities you just know you’ve visited before. With a love for nature, art, faith and ordinary people, she tells redemptive tales of loss and recovery, estrangement and connection, longing and fulfillment, often through surprisingly serendipitous events. Phyllis grew up in the deep shade of magnolia trees in
South Georgia. Now she lives in the Texas Hill Country
with her portrait-artist husband, where red birds and axis deer are her
ever-ravenous neighbors. She is an English major and classically-trained
musician, seminary graduate, concert artist, and co-founder of a national cable
network for the health and disability-related programming. After retiring as a
cable network executive, Phyllis began leading mission teams to orphanages in Guatemala
and now serves on three non-profit boards where she works with others who are
equally passionate about bringing hope and light to those who need it most.
Welcome, Phyllis. I’ve been on a mission trip to
I love the people there. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your
I suppose there is a bit of me in most of my major characters. Because I’m from the South, the Southern culture that is mine seeps into my characters. Music, art, good food, and a healthy faith seem to be important to a many of my major characters because those things are important to me. And honestly, I think I deal with some of my own personal flaws, issues, and hurts by writing them into my characters.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I have a very strong “should and ought” system, and quirky doesn’t fit into that often. However, the story that my husband likes to tell on me is about the day we went to
interview former President George H.W. Bush. Our cable network was filming this
interview about his role in the Americans With Disabilities Act. My assignment
was to give President Bush the gift we brought for him and former First Lady,
Barbara Bush. Our production crew was ready, the Secret Service had checked us
all out, and they called for the President. He entered the room, shook my
husband’s hand and, looked around to acknowledge the crew, and sat down. He
rubbed his hands together and said, “Let’s get started.” Now remember, I had an
assignment which I took very seriously. So, I stepped out from behind the
production crew, and said, “Wait, just a minute, Sir.” In about three seconds,
I was surrounded by Secret Service men as I stood there with a
beautifully-wrapped gift box. The President was most gracious about it, laughed,
and then sent for an autographed bookplate to go in the copy of Barbara Bush’s
autobiography I had with me. My husband gently reminded me later, “You don’t
tell the President of the United
States to wait.” But I did.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Honestly, I can’t remember not writing and inhaling books. But the day I walked into the home of Mr. Thomas C. Chubb to interview him, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Mr. Chubb was a Dante scholar and lived on his plantation just south of my hometown. I was a senior in high school writing a paper, “A Comparative Study of Dante’s Inferno to Aeneas’s Descent into Hell in the Sixth Book of the Aeneid.” But when I spent time with Mr. Chubb in his library, I knew and began to verbalize that writing and books would always be my happy place. And especially after the written review he gave my paper, I just thought I actually could be a writer.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
With fiction, I prefer character-driven stories and gravitate toward those writers who write clean fiction and tell powerful stories through their multi-dimensional characters. A sense of place is always so important to me. In non-fiction, I enjoy books written by writers who are attempting to create paradigm shifts—especially in healthcare and studies about the brain and human personality. I keep a hymn book near for the pure poetry, and I read my Bible and some devotional material every morning.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I just don’t run, run, run anymore. I sold the big house, down-sized by getting rid of “stuff” that tethered me, and I moved to the hills, literally. Life is quiet and peaceful here, and the view through my window on the world reminds me I should be thinking of eternal things. That’s not so easily done living in the city. I’m committed to my purpose in this season of my life, and that makes it a bit easier to say “no” to things that don’t help me do that.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Sometimes the character reveals the name. Other times, the character reminds me of someone in my life experience, and I use that name. And honestly, I just query on websites with names-baby names, surnames, names associated with certain ethnicities. I also do name studies to find the meaning of certain names, especially those of major characters. I just know when the name is right.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
This was a very thought-provoking question and caused me to reflect on my spiritual life, my family life, and my professional life. There are several things of which I am proud, and many more of which I’m not, but there came a memory to me very quickly, so I’m going with it. Three years ago, I opened my computer one Sunday morning early to find an email from a former student from around thirty-five years ago. He had been searching for me and was inquiring if I was the one who had been his teacher. I remembered him well and immediately responded. Now a man in his mid-forties, he just wanted me to know that I had made a difference in his life, that I had made him feel he was worthy and could accomplish something with his life. He just wanted to say thank you. That started a wonderful email exchange that we have continued. I don’t have words for the way that made me feel. That was an accomplishment of which I’m proud – that I encouraged someone else and something I said made a difference in someone’s life.
I have experienced that joy. Actually, something like that is happening right now in my life. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Oh, I think I’d like to be a bird. I have the great desire to fly, and I love to sing. And who doesn’t like birds?
What is your favorite food?
I’m from the South, and you ask me my favorite food? I would have to say whatever I’m eating at the time. However, I do love sweet potatoes any way you prepare them and fried chicken (although I allow myself to eat it twice a year) and anything green. If I could only have one food for the rest of my life, it would be sweet potatoes. I probably know eighteen ways to prepare them, and they’re all good. I must tell you this—I do know my way around the kitchen, and all my family and friends enjoy putting their feet under my table.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Making time. For years, I desired to write a book because I had a story to tell, but I was hard at work in the business world. There was no time. Even after I retired, it seemed my life was crowded with activity, good activity and service. But over a period of a few months of really pondering and praying, I realized that I was nearly sixty, and I began to ask myself how many more good years I might have. Nothing like dealing with your own mortality to clarify your thinking and clear your calendar for those things that should be priority. Writing is my priority and why I get up every day.
Tell us about the featured book?
CHRISTMAS AT GREY SAGE
Nestled in the snow-covered Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe, the Grey Sage Inn is the perfect place for Lily’s Unlikely Christmas Party to spend a couple of days on their Christmas trip. There’s plenty to see in historic
Santa Fe during the day, and the inn’s
owners, Maude and Silas, are happy to spend their evenings hosting this year’s
guests from across the country.
But an unusual snowstorm throws a wrench in the plans of these folks who were escaping Christmas at home. The sprawling inn becomes close quarters as the innkeepers and stranded guests discover this won’t be the Christmas they expected. Tension and fear mount as the storm worsens, and Silas, a retired doctor, is called away in the middle of the night to care for a neighbor. The snow and stress unlock tongues—and in the unexpected conversation that follows, secrets and pasts are revealed, and hearts are healed.
Amidst snowdrifts and fireside conversations of days gone by, the warmth of this Christmas brings renewed hope as these trapped strangers become friends—proof again that the joy, hope, peace, and love of Christmas can be experienced no matter where you are.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Readers can find me on my website where I blog and post regularly: www.phyllisclarknichols.com
Also on Twitter @phylliscnichols
And my Facebook author page: Phyllis Clark Nichols
Thank you, Phyllis, for sharing this book with my readers and me.
Readers, here are links to the book.Christmas at Grey Sage - Christianbook.com
Christmas at Grey Sage - Amazon paperback
Christmas at Grey Sage - Kindle
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