Thursday, June 25, 2009

Make-Believe Characters and Our Characters, Part 2

I recently purchased Jeff Gerke's e-book bundle called The Writer's Foundation, which includes How to Find Your Story (to help develop plots) and Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist (self-explanatory). The character creation tools make use of a book called Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey, which has personality tests and information on the temperament types made famous by Myers-Briggs.

So far, this is a great help in developing more complex characters, but I've also found myself in Keirsey's pages. I took the test and turned out to be an Idealist (big surprise). One of the things that interested me most was this type's relation to story and characters.

Remember my recent post about how obsessed I became with TV and movie characters when I was young? And about the common thread I found in them--that all appeared to be ordinary folks but had some secret that made them larger than life? I wondered if that was a reflection of my desire to be discovered to be someone special, someone greater than the geeky kid I appeared to be.

Well, according to Keirsey, the Idealist's greatest desire is for recognition--not in the sense of gaining awards or commendations, but recognized for who they are as individuals. They want other people to look inside them and acknowledge what makes them unique.

There's a section on the four major temperament types as children. Here are some of the quotes about the Idealist child. "Idealist children want to be recognized as unique individuals...they often find themselves out of step with their classmates [and] take some comfort in feeling that they are like no one else, one of a kind, as if special or singled out."

And then Keirsey goes on to discuss their love of fantasy. "They are romantic in the sense that, as they look for their unique qualities, they are apt to identify with characters in stories...In elementary school, [Idealist] kids love stories of the medieval era, of knights and their ladies, of princes and princesses, of dragons and wizards."

Well, given my current Harry Potter fascination, I would say that doesn't end with elementary school. Although perhaps it should. Nah, it's too much fun.

But guess what? At the beginning of the series, Harry thinks he's just a downtrodden orphan, penniless and living off the scraps from his horrible relatives, the Dursleys. He always feels there's something different about himself but doesn't know what. Then he discovers not only that he has magical powers, but that in the wizarding world, he's famous! When he was just a baby, he was responsible for stopping the evil Lord Voldemort. He has a vault at the wizarding bank full of gold left to him by his parents. When he arrives at school, everyone has heard of him and his special story.

Sigh...obviously I haven't changed much over the years, have I?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kristi's Revolutionary Road: A Response

First, I am doing this blog post because I’m afraid you missed Kristi’s entry on the movie Revolutionary Road, and how it pertains to some of her own struggles. I don’t think the email update went out to subscribers, and it’s too good a post to miss.

Second, I started writing a comment on her article and realized it was turning into a post of my own. So I’m putting it here instead.

It’s funny. I know almost nothing about the movie Revolutionary Road, but this is the second time I’ve read about it in the last couple of days. The other time, it was only mentioned briefly, in an article bemoaning the fact that people don’t want to go see realistic “adult” dramas these days, but instead seem to want escapism in the form of fantasy or comedy. This article mentioned Revolutionary Road as one of the supposedly high quality dramas that no one wants to see.

Well, duh. I know Christian fiction is sometimes criticized for glossing over the rough stuff of reality. I’m one of the people who has made that criticism. But I think we need balance in our stories—books, movies, whatever. We shouldn’t be afraid to admit how tough life is, but we should offer some hope. Not pat, easy answers that ring false, but hope.

I think everyone knows how tough life can be. Do we particularly need literature to tell us that?

What we don’t know, sometimes, is that there is hope when things seem hopeless. Kristi asked what we would say to folks like the couple in Revolutionary Road. Well, obviously, one of those pat, easy answers would be that they need God. I haven’t seen the movie, but it sounds as if these people are hopelessly mired in earthly things, in their own petty ambitions and concerns.

Ted Dekker has a great book called The Slumber of Christianity, which talks about this very thing. That Westerners, including Christians sadly, have lost the ability to imagine Heaven and so are concentrating on finding fulfillment in the here and now. And human beings are wired for the eternal, so that’s never going to work.

I’m starting to ramble on, but this is Kristi’s subject, so I’ll let her pick this thread back up in her next post.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My "Revolutionary Road"

This is part movie review, part attempt to share just a small tip of the iceberg of what God has been doing in my life lately. That part, in particular, will probably be spread out over several posts. I started to write about it recently and had to stop, because I was having a difficult time explaining. But I'll try, because it really is awesome, and it just shows how God truly "works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." (from Romans 8:28) Hopefully you can follow my efforts...

First- the review, or perhaps it's more of a synopsis and how it bares on my own life. Therefore, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW! "Revolutionary Road" came out recently on dvd, and it was the first pairing of Kate Winslet and Leo (I call him Leo) DiCaprio since they starred in "Titanic" together. The reason I was drawn to the film is how similar the themes sounded to themes I've experienced in my own life. It is about the Wheelers, a married couple in the 50's who move to the suburbs and are basically destroyed by the emptiness they come to associate with their mundane, typical lifestyle. As I watched previews for this movie, I strongly empathized with the idea of finding yourself suddenly living a life separate from the one you had envisioned. At one point, April, played by Winslet, says, "I saw a whole other future. I can't stop seeing it."

April is an aspiring actress when she meets her husband, Frank. Next thing you know, they are married and have two kids. They have moved to the suburbs to a place on Revolutionary Road, hence the name. They moved because that's what people do when they have kids, right? You can't raise kids in the city, right? They always thought of themselves as a special couple, who would do something big- something DIFFERENT- with their lives, and they have both become miserable in the life they have chosen. Frank soon starts an affair to try to fill the void.

Eventually, April gets it into her head that the solution to all their problems is for them to move with their children to Paris. This is where Frank said he had been the most alive, when he had been there before, and he always wanted to go back. April says she will work over there and he can take time to discover what he wants to do with his life- what will make him happy. Kate Winslet, as usual, delivers a stellar performance, as her desperation to escape the mundane is always just barely contained, keeping you dreading the moment when the plan will surely fall apart, not knowing what she might do when it does.

And, of course, it does. She discovers she is pregnant, and sees her unborn baby as an impediment to getting to what she thinks will really make her happy- moving to Paris. Meanwhile, Frank has been promoted and offered a lot more money, and his dedication to the move is already being tested. When he discovers his wife's condition and her desire to abort the baby, and sees her attitude of motherhood in general being a mistake for her, which apparently he had somehow missed all along, he is horrified and tells her the trip is off.

The rest of the movie is a devastating series of events which show the result of Frank's continuous deliberate self-delusion, and April's final acceptance of the fact that she is in a life she neither wants, nor can leave. She does leave, though, through the unholy act of killing her baby and herself in the process. I personally wanted to see them get to Paris with all their kids and live there for a while, only to find themselves in basically the same state of spiritual and emotional bankruptcy they had endured in the States. But, alas, the writer went in a different direction. It gets to the same point, though.

One of the interesting aspects of this film is that there seem to be no characters who find the answer to filling the "emptiness" and "hopelessness" which pervade their lives. One character- one of their neighbors who recently spent time in an asylum- is the only one besides the Wheelers who actually admits to the harsh reality of reality, but he can offer no solution. The rest simply find less drastic, but no more effective ways to deal with these feelings, which they cannot afford to admit to themselves.

An older couple on the block, in the final scene of the movie, sits together in their house speaking of the Wheelers. The wife, played by Kathy Bates, drones on about how they were never suitable to take that house to begin with, and so on and so on. Meanwhile, the husband looks at her and slowly turns down the volume on his hearing aid, until there is silence. And that ends "Revolutionary Road."

Uplifting, huh? Why, you might be asking yourself, would I want to engage my time in such a heavy, depressing movie? I'll get into that more in my follow-up post. But let me leave you for now with this question: What do you think is the solution for the real-life Wheelers out there? Because in one way or another, whether we live in Paris or Alaska or Los Angeles, whether we are incredibly poor or really rich, whether we cure a disease or homeschool our kids, we are all the Wheelers in one way or another, or at least we all start out that way.

To be continued...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Make-Believe Characters and Our Own Character

From my earliest memories, I’ve tended to get WAY too caught up in stories and characters. Since most of you out there are writers and readers, you probably know exactly what I mean. But recently, I started thinking about some of the characters that I loved most, especially when I was young, and noticed a common theme.

Almost all of the characters that I became really obsessed with and sort of lived through vicariously appeared on the surface to be weak, ordinary, or even downtrodden. But in reality, there was something special and larger-than-life about them. You know, sort of the Clark Kent/Superman thing, although Superman never became one of my passions.

One of my first major obsessions was, embarrassingly enough, Hogan’s Heroes. (I was only seven or eight years old, so give me a break!) I just adored it that the Nazis thought they had these guys as their prisoners when in reality they were successfully running a spy and sabotage ring right under their noses. I used to make up stories in my little head about the war ending and Hogan and Company revealing what had really been going on. Ha!

Then when I was 11 or 12, I fell in love with a couple of cowboys in a TV Western called Alias Smith and Jones. Or at least, they appeared to be a couple of cowboys. But Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones were really the famous outlaws Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, or as the blurb at the beginning always said, “the two most successful outlaws in the history of the west. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone. This made our two latter-day Robin Hoods very popular. With everyone but the banks and the railroads.” The two were trying to go straight in the show, but my favorite moments were when occasionally someone discovered who they really were—usually someone who had been trying to push them around and take advantage of them and suddenly realized they were in a heap o’ trouble!

Then came Luke Skywalker, the dorky farm boy who was in reality a Jedi in the making. And not just any Jedi, but the son of the evil Darth Vader.

And so on, and so on.

I started thinking, what does this reveal—if anything—about my character? (First of all, it probably shows I watched too much television. Although I read all the time, including a lot of those girl detective books, the obsessions tended to be over TV and movies. Hmm…)

Anyway, maybe this isn’t all that unusual. After all, isn’t most fiction about a seemingly ordinary person thrust into some extraordinary situation? Well, maybe—although I seem to be attracted to the outrageous, larger-than-life stuff—outlaws and famous spies and Jedis with a destiny to save the universe.

I thought maybe it was just that I was a dorky kid who longed to be special, who imagined how great it would be to shock everyone by revealing my true identity, and just show all of them! And that probably is part of it.

Then a few days ago, I started going through a book on the different personality and temperament types—a book which is part of Jeff Gerke’s course on creating characters—and it gave me even more to think about.

This is getting lengthy, so I’ll tell you more next time.

But what about you? Are there particular characters that you identified with when you were a kid? Can you see a common thread in the characters you love?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Winner of Words Unspoken!

Wow, what a contest! I follow a lot of blogs that do book giveaways and have seldome seen this kind of enthusiasm--or this many entries.

Wish I had a bunch of copies to give away, but I have just this one copy of Elizabeth Musser's wonderful new book, Words Unspoken. And the lucky winner is...Sally Bradley!

Congratulations, Sally.

I'm going to be starting a new giveaway in the next few days, so stay tuned.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Operation: Work for Joss Whedon

This Friday, I started a hopefully unique campaign to draw attention to myself as a writer who should be working for Joss Whedon. For those of you who are not familiar with his work, he has written primarily for television, and is the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the film and the series, Angel, Firefly and Serenity, my own personal favorites, and most recently, Dollhouse. During the writer's strike, he wrote and produced a comedy/musical for the web called Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and because of his large fan following and the quality of the writing, it became a huge success, proving that writing for the web is an important part of the industry and that writers should be compensated accordingly.

I love the genre of his writing. Fantasy and sci-fi are the main area of interest for my own artistic focus. Someone back in Atlanta, who lived out here for several years, told me that she landed a job working for a famous actor by calling his office every day. Finally, she became his personal assistant, and was eventually given small roles in some of his films. I thought this sounded like a fine idea, and Joss Whedon is the name that came to my mind as the one on whom I wanted to focus my efforts.

So, this past Friday I began the campaign. I sent in my first resume and cover letter to his company, Mutant Enemy Productions. I tried to make it clever and funny, and I imagine how he and his writers will gather around and read it and have a good laugh. They will see from my letter what a super writer I am, and that I need to be made a part of their staff post-haste. Or, maybe not. It is possible they won't notice this immediately. It may take a little while. Therefore, I plan to send in a resume and cover letter each week. Perhaps the letters will begin to tell a story, or suggest subliminal influence. Perhaps one will simply say "Please hire me," 50 times. I see it going one of two ways- he takes out a restraining order, or he gives me a job.

Also, I started a Facebook group called "Joss Whedon Should Hire Kristi to Work for him", and I am trying to get as many people to join as possible. I'm hoping this will drum up some attention from his people.

I am putting this in God's hands, and will see what happens. I'm not sure if this is something I'm supposed to do, but I do hope that soon I will be able to start making my living from my art. I am so thankful for my current job, but I hope to be able to use my mind and my talents, and not just my hands.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What's a Yart Sale?

Okay, I admit I have the shopping gene. Fortunately I also have the cheapskate bargain-hunter gene, too, so it usually works out okay. If there are others of you out there, I wanted to let you know about this fun online event.

Etsy is an online marketplace to sell handmade and vintage goods. They're having a yart sale from now through this Sunday, June 14. In case you're wondering, a yart sale is a combination yard sale and art sale. Vendors who choose to participate are doing all sorts of things: offering free shipping, discounts, special items on clearance.

If you want to check it out, go to Etsy and add the word "yart" to your search term, or just browse that term. You won't believe the amazing handmade and vintage goodies you can find.

And yes, my Etsy shop, Jasmine Showers, is participating, too. I'm offering 50% off of any one item in the shop.

So have fun!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

You Have Another Chance!

By request of author Elizabeth Musser, I'm extending the deadline for the drawing for her latest novel, Words Unspoken. She wanted time to share the contest and review with her website readers, so you have another chance!

If you'd like to read the review of this highly-recommended book, click here.

If you'd like a chance to win a copy, leave a comment here or on the original review post no later than this Monday, June 15. The winner will be announced Wednesday, June 17.

Oh, as always, make sure I know how to get in touch with you if you win. Have fun!

Monday, June 8, 2009

First Contact

Last week I registered with Central Casting. For those of you who may have never heard of it, Central Casting is the main source for extras, or "background" actors, in the film and television industry. As a non-union performer, I would receive $64.00 for 8 hours of work, and $126.00 for 8 hours of Union work. Right now as a non-union actor, I really cannot afford to spend many days doing this work instead of massage. I did want to register, however, thinking that if I had a day or two off, I could try to get some extra work, and start spending some time on sets. I plan to try to get my first day of background work this week. As always, I'll keep you posted.

Something interesting happened, though, when I was leaving. I had to stand in line to get registered, and it was a long line. There are designated days for union "talent", and then for non-union talent. There must be hundreds or maybe even thousands of people filing through that place each week. So, I went outside, and there were two ladies handing out fliers for acting workshops. Or, I should say, one handing out fliers and the other doing a survey of some kind. I did not think much of this at first, because everybody and their brother has an acting class or workshop out here. It is how people getting started network, and usually there are showcases at the end of the class at which, theoretically, there will be casting directors and agents just waiting to discover you. So, I thought this was just another one of these.

Then, though, I happened to notice as I was looking over the flier that the very small print had L. Ron Hubbard's name in it. Of course, I know what that means- Scientology. Then I saw that the $17.00 fee for this workshop, pretty cheap for such a workshop usually, included a copy of one of Hubbard's books.

So, I asked one of the ladies if this class was associated with any particular group, and SHE DENIED IT!!! I guess they hang out there because of the mass of people who file through there all the time- a numbers game, maybe. And I have the copy of the survey but have not looked at it carefully yet. If it's interesting, I'll try to share some of it with you later. So, there you go. First contact with Central Casting, and with creepy Scientologists. It was quite an eventful week.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Win a Copy of Words Unspoken (Reviewed)

If you read Monday's interview with author Elizabeth Musser, you know that her latest book is titled Words Unspoken. In my humble opinion, it's her best yet, and I say that with confidence having read all her others.

I dare you to put it down after the prologue--the sudden hailstorm on the Interstate, the nervous young driver, and the freakish accident that sets the rest of the events in motion.

Chapter one begins with the aftermath of that incident. Bright, high-achieving Lissa Randall's life has come to a standstill as a result of the wreck that took her mother's life--and because of the voices in her head that constantly tell her she's a failure and guilty. Those voices have basically trapped her in her home. She's unable to drive, unable to take any risks, unable to start college. The only thing that seems to motivate her is a desire to be able to drive and see the mysterious "Caleb," someone who apparently needs her desperately. But after once again failing the test to get her driver's license reinstated, Lissa hits rock bottom. In a moment of despair, she comes close to swallowing a handful of pills and ending it all, but instead decides to grasp at one remaining hope, a driving instructor named Ev McAllister who has been recommended to her. Lissa phones Ev MacAllister, a wise old man who seems to offer driving lessons as a ministry to troubled young people like herself. And so begins one of the most important relationships of Lissa's life.

The only part of Words Unspoken that might give you a problem is the second chapter--at least, if you're not expecting it. The story seems to be about Lissa and Ev and the driving lessons, but then in chapter two, we're introduced rapid-fire to several characters that seem unconnected to the pair or each other. There's a young missionary in France who has just lost her son, a wheeling-and-dealing stockbroker, an ambitious young man at a publishing company, and a socialite in the midst of a divorce. If you're not expecting the shift or if you don't like multiple points of view, you might feel a little lost. But trust me, the payoffs start to come soon as you discover, bit by bit, the fantastic story that connects all these threads and all these people.

One of those threads involves a sub-plot about a famous author named Stella Green, a reclusive woman who has published numerous best-sellers and received critical acclaim but who refuses to reveal her true identity, grant interviews or allow herself to be photographed. No one knows who she really is or why she's hiding her identity, but bit by bit we see that Stella Green's story touches all the other disparate characters in the book.

Some of the central characters are kind and giving, some are grasping and ambitious, but they all have another thing in common: the voices in their heads. We come to see that the ones who appear so noble may be trying to make up for some misdeed in their past, and the ones who seem so loutish on the outside are fighting their own mental battles.

Another unique feature of Elizabeth's novels is that they are "recent historicals." This one takes place in 1987, which may seem like a totally random date to you young folks. But to me I remember being very insecure in my job in 1987 and quite fearful of the future because of the stock market crash. So I figured that crisis was probably looming for these characters, too. As Elizabeth has mentioned in her interviews, she had no idea when she was writing just how timely this subject would be.

I suppose you've figured by now that I highly recommend this book. The characters and settings are rich and you'll keep turning the pages to pick up clues and try to piece together the mysteries.

I'll end with some good news. I'm giving away a copy of Words Unspoken! If I've gotten you interested, be sure to post a comment and let me know you'd like to be entered into the drawing . I'll announce the winner next week.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Author Elizabeth Musser on the Voices in our Heads

I've known Christian fiction author Elizabeth Musser for several years now and consider her to be a good friend as well as a wonderful writer. One of her most gracious acts was to drag this little introvert around at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference and introduce her to authors and agents that she would never have approached all by herself.

I'm very excited to be reading her new book, Words Unspoken, which I will review in a few days. Elizabeth is from Georgia but has lived in France with her family, where they serve as missionaries, for years. I always love the way her books have the down-home flavor of Georgia infused with a bit of French culture for spice. It's a refreshing combination.

I'll let Elizabeth speak for herself now:

What inspired you to write Words Unspoken?

Initially, I wanted to explore the idea of the voices we hear in our heads and how those voices influence us and our decisions. A major breakthrough in my life as a Christian and as a young woman came when I understood which ‘voice’ to listen to and which ‘voices’ to tune out. Through studying Scripture, I learned how to make a ‘battle plan’ when I was tempted to listen to the wrong voices. When God reveals something life-changing to me, I want others to know about it, so I figured these ideas would eventually turn up in a story.

Also, since my son was learning how to drive and describing his lessons to me (he was in the US, me over here in France), I had the idea of making the main character a young woman who was learning to drive—again. My son told me of taking driving lessons in a little school in Fort Oglethorpe, GA near a military park, and voila!

You have quite a few main characters in this novel—can you tell us about them?

I decided to take seven characters who seem unrelated at the beginning of the novel and let each one tell parts of the story from his or her point of view, all the while having several driving forces that would eventually bring all of these people together.

My characters are a colorful crew, to be sure.

You’ve got Lissa, a bright 19-year-old, competitive with so much going for her whose life has been put on hold because of a tragedy. She deals with panic attacks, and debilitating fear and is often unable to move forward because of the negative voices she hears—‘never good enough’, ‘all your fault’. She deals with false guilt.

Ev is the 65-year-old driving instructor, quite eccentric with plenty of wisdom and several big secrets too. He’s a godly man who realizes that the Lord is putting His finger on an issue in Ev’s life that needs resolution. We all experience this as we grow in Christ—the Lord pointing out something else that we need to deal with. Ev also suffers from a weak heart.

Stella is the mysterious author ‘S.A. Green’. She’s very fun—she gives everyone a hard time and is described by others as ‘batty’, ‘nutty’, having ‘a wicked sense of humor’, ‘eccentric, smart and intimidating.’ I really like this character because of the mystery that surrounds her. I love to add mystery into each of my novels.

Silvano is an Italian jerk, young and determined and full of himself. A name-dropper, an opportunist. But he has his reasons…

Janelle, a missionary in France, has lost a child—a toddler—in a terrible accident and deals with ongoing grief.

Katy Lynn is the snobby socialite from Atlanta. She is out for herself and determined to hold things together on her own strength and keep up appearances. She definitely has an attitude!

And then you have poor Ted, the successful young stock broker who is making big money and living the high life, intent on impressing his wife and giving his family the best Atlanta has to offer… If only he weren’t so greedy…

It’s always challenging to throw a bunch of characters together. They don’t always do what I want. But actually, I love that! It’s like fitting together a big jigsaw puzzle. And my readers tell me that they feel like they’ve lost good friends when they finish my novels.

You often create a strong sense of place in your novels. Is that the case for Words Unspoken?

Definitely. I chose these settings because, as a Southern writer (I write about the South in the US AND in France), I am familiar with these places and I can bring them to life—sometimes a place in my novel almost becomes another character.

For instance, Lookout Mountain overshadows much of the story, literally—it’s where Lissa lives. I chose the mountain because the road up the mountain is very precarious to drive with many hairpin turns as well as amazing views of the valley below, gorgeous colors of the leaves in the fall. All in all it was a good setting for some nerve-rattling driving lessons. Figuratively, the reader feels the wealth, intrigue, danger and regret all tied up in that mountain.

I used many other real places: Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia with its Chickamauga Battlefield Military Park, the setting for one of the worst battles in the Civil War; the well-known tourist attraction of Rock City; the cities of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Atlanta, Georgia and Montpellier, France.

Not only do you like to have a sense of place, but also time. Can you explain?

I call my writing ‘recent historical inspirational fiction’. That’s a mouthful. Basically, I enjoy fitting my stories into important (although perhaps little-known) moments in the 20th century.

Words Unspoken takes place from late September through late December, 1987. In the background of the novel is the stock market crash of 1987, ‘Black Monday’, which has an effect on several of the characters. One of the most interesting things I encountered as I wrote the novel was how the storyline became so very timely. I thought that most people could relate to the idea of ‘hearing voices’, but what I didn’t expect was that the time period I chose, October 1987, would be so similar to what the US is experiencing now—a stock market crash.

One challenge for me as far as time was concerned is that the story takes place during three months. So I had a lot of main characters pushed into a short timeframe with a very fast plot. I definitely had to keep my calendar and time charts up-to-date. Again, I enjoy making the story fit together, even when it seems impossible. As a novelist, it is fun to have a problem to solve.

What is the underlying theme/message of the book?

As with all of my novels, Words Unspoken has several themes. The first is the question I have already discussed: “whose voice will you listen to?” I examine how negative voices from the characters’ pasts have continued to influence them in their decision-making. As a result, they make poor decisions involving greed, selfishness, a desire to get ahead, keeping up appearances, feelings of failure and never being good enough, depression… Is there a way to quiet the negative voices and hear the truth? What is the truth?

One of the main characters Ev, the driving instructor, is a mature believer and hears the truth. As he strives to help the young girl Lissa to learn to drive again, and overcome panic attacks, he talks to her about a ‘battle plan’. I would love for my readers to consider forming a ‘battle plan’ of their own to help them choose truth and make good decisions.

Another theme is that God can redeem the terrible mistakes of our past. Little by little the reader realizes this about Ev—his life hasn’t been one easy trip. He and his wife have learned through suffering—both from circumstances beyond their control and poor choices they made in the past.

The whole idea of driving lessons is a metaphor for the theme of a girl who is not only learning to drive again, but to LIVE again.

Another theme I examine is what GREED does to people—very timely as we see the state our country is in.

And I examine the question of grieving—how long does it take? Do you ever ‘get over’ losing a loved one?

Finally, I weave throughout the story the idea that life is not random, that what appears to be coincidence may be more than that. There is a God who is in control.

Sounds like you have a lot of things going on in your novel.

True. I often say that I write ‘entertainment with a soul.’ So it’s not just entertainment. If a reader is looking for purely fluff, I don’t think he or she will appreciate my novels. I do like to make my readers think. Yes, I offer a fast-paced plot but my characters also deal with meaty issues. Words Unspoken deals with contemporary problems—greed, depression, the role of our conscience in decision making, monetary failures, financial crisis. But the story isn’t depressing. It’s a fast-paced AND thought-provoking read, interlaced with hope and redemption: God is a God of hope and new beginnings; He does not waste our pain; the best way to move forward in life is with a ‘battle plan’—a plan that prepares one to hold onto God in the midst of life’s difficulties; the Holy Spirit is the best ‘voice’ to listen to. And ‘life is not random’.

I think the message of my books stays with my readers. It is not unusual for me to hear that readers have read my books two or three times and that the characters feel like ‘real’ friends dealing with ‘real’ problems. I do not offer simple answers, and I am not afraid to raise hard questions as I relate the Gospel. I combine colorful characters, an intricate plot, and deep themes, as well as in-depth research and fun historical tidbits thrown in along the way.

You live in France. How does that affect your books?

As I’ve said, I like to challenge my readers in my stories. I have been challenged in so many ways by living overseas, and I think Americans need to have their eyes opened to different cultures. So some of the issues I raise will hopefully cause my readers to think about their belief systems and what is actually truth. Living in France has definitely broadened me, made me want to communicate the importance of getting outside our comfort zone and getting to know other cultures. In my writing, there are always issues about race and culture.

You have thirty seconds to pitch your book to a potential reader; what would you tell them?

Have you ever been bothered by negative things from your subconscious—you know, those voices from the past that whisper ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you’ll never succeed’, ‘you’re a failure’ or ‘you need more, more, more to be happy’? Well, I’ve written a novel about the lives of seven characters who are motivated by voices from the past. Words Unspoken, which arrives in bookstores in early May, is about a young girl who is trying to learn to drive again after a tragic accident has effectively put her life on hold. You’ll also meet a ‘rogue’ stockbroker, motivated by greed, a mysterious best-selling author who is determined to remain anonymous and a driving instructor on the verge of retirement with plenty of secrets of his own. Come with me to a girls’ school and a military park in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and to beautiful Lookout Mountain in the fall of 1987 where mystery and the effects of Black Monday are awaiting. Words Unspoken promises you the ride of your life. Won’t you join me? Hold on tight!

I’ve put out a video on YouTube to give my wonderful readers a chance to get to know me better and have a peek into some of the places where Words Unspoken takes place. Here’s the link:

Thanks for the interview!

To learn more about Elizabeth and her books, please visit her website at