She Reads

At She Reads, we believe that story is the shortest distance to the human heart. So we strive to find those stories that will speak directly to your heart. We look for books that are well written, with a unique premise, that will make you think differently than before you read the book. Each month we select one book (and its author) to profile all month long. Here at CFOM, we will be introducing you to that author each month. We hope you will check out She Reads at to learn more.

This Month's She Reads Selected Author
A Visit with Lisa Wingate, author of Dandelion Summer

Lisa WingateTell us a little bit about your writing journey.

I’ve wanted to be a writer for about as long as I can remember. A special first grade teacher, Mrs. Krackhardt, put that idea into my head when she wrote on my report card that she expected to see my name in a magazine one day.

I didn’t get serious about freelance writing and selling until after I’d graduated from college, married, and started a family. I knew I wanted to write novels, books that meant something, that explore the human soul and our need for a vibrant connection with the God who created us.

Twelve years ago, I came across a notebook in which I’d jotted down some of my grandmother’s stories, and I had the idea of combining her real-life stories with a fictional family that is similar to my own family. (My father would like you to know that we are not as neurotic as the people in the book.) That little germ of an idea became my first mainstream novel, Tending Roses. After discussions with Warner Books and NAL Penguin Putnam, we sold the book to Penguin. Tending Roses has since been through countless reprints and has brought home many wonderful letters from readers all over the world.

Several years ago, I had the chance to write for Bethany House Publishers, so for the last few years I’ve been writing mainstream fiction for Penguin in the ABA and for Bethany House in the CBA market, although the markets cross over quite a bit. I consider both opportunities an incredible blessing. What a place for the shy girl writing stories in the back row at school to end up, right?

How did this particular story take root in your heart?

Several years ago, I got a proposition from a man.

Just kidding. Dandelion Summer did begin with an e-mail and a proposition of sorts, though. My books are more often considered women’s fiction, but I get letters from male readers. Several years ago, I received an e-mail from Ed Stevens. He is a retired engineer and said he would be happy to assist with technical projects to help spread word of my books on the Internet. As we worked on creating YouTube channels and speeding up my hamster-wheel Internet service, he shared some of his work history as well as his thoughts on fatherhood and the moments that matter in a life. He had amazing stories to tell.

Those conversations became the genesis for Dandelion Summer, which an early review called a cross between Water for Elephants, The Help, and Driving Miss Daisy—if you can imagine that combination. The story is told from two points of view—Norman, an aging widower who just wants to be left alone, and Epiphany, a young girl who needs someone to believe in her. When Norman’s daughter hires Epiphany to cook for him in the afternoons, he isn’t happy about it, but over time, God does a work through their reluctant and rocky friendship.

Norman’s history mirrors that of my friend, Ed, who worked with the Howard Hughes team that designed America’s first moon lander, Surveyor 1. What those men accomplished with 1960’s electronics was truly a moment of American Camelot. Norman shares his memories with Epiphany, and in Epiphany’s presence, Norman also finds links to a mystery in his past, his memories of another life, long-buried recollections of childhood abuse and a black housekeeper who saved him. While working together to solve the mystery of Norman’s true identity, both Norman and Epiphany are changed.

I love when a story comes to life on its own, and Dandelion Summer was that kind of story. Norman and Epie were fun, funny, and sometimes just downright difficult. They were real to me because of the personal connections. I wish every young woman could have a “Norman” in her life, and every lonely elderly person could have a young person who needs guidance and infuses new life into an aging soul.

What would you like readers to say to their friends after they read this story?

I hope Dandelion Summer is the sort of story readers will talk about after the last page is turned. Really, is there anything better than a book that takes root inside you and grows?

I hope they will relate to Norman’s struggle with grief and the hopelessness of yearning for the past. I hope they’ll connect with Epiphany, her need for male attention in her life, and the potential destructiveness of that need. We don’t always realize how much young girls (and grown-up girls, for that matter) yearn for a father’s love, and how much difference that love can make.

Beyond that, I hope readers will see through Norman a chance to relive a shining moment in American history. I hope readers will want to stand up and cheer. We are still the sons and daughters of men like Norman (and his real-life counterpart Ed Stevens) who worked around the clock to beat the Russians to the moon, and this is still the greatest country in the world.

Dandelion SummerWhy do you think stories are important for communicating truth?

They help us see one another’s truths. In our fast-paced culture, there’s a tendency to judge based on surface impressions and sound bites, to lump people into rigid categories. When I’m writing, I think often of the little tourist plaque on my grandmother’s kitchen wall—Grant that I might never judge my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins. It’s one of those phrases we’ve heard so much that we don’t really think about it, but the wisdom is profound.

The written word, above all other media, gives readers the ability to live in the mind, body, and soul of another person—to show us another person’s truth. In a book, readers can experience the world through another’s experiences. Hopefully, when we can live for a short time in someone else’s shoes, we realize that everyone struggles, everyone experiences sadness and joy, everyone yearns for happiness and fulfillment. We stumble, get up, and stumble again. What we really need when we’re down is not to have stones thrown at us but to have a hand extended, to be shown the grace that God has shown us through Christ. I hope this is the message people take away from Norman and Epiphany’s journey and from all my books.

Where can we find your book?

Anywhere books are sold! The book will also be available in audio and large print. Dandelion Summer is also a Proverbs 31 She Reads Book Club pick for July and is available through the Proverbs 31 site, where purchases help to support the P31 ministry.

Find our more about Dandelion Summer or read excerpts at View a video excerpt from the book on our YouTube channel HERE. Or view the Book Club World Premier of Dandelion Summer (something totally new that was so much fun to do!) HERE.

Lisa Wingate is an award-winning journalist, magazine columnist, popular inspirational speaker and a national bestselling author. Lisa is one of a select group of authors to find success in both the Christian and general markets in mainstream fiction. Her works have been featured by the National Reader's Club of America, AOL Book Picks, Doubleday Book Club, the Literary Guild, American Profiles, Crossings Book Club, Women’s World Magazine, Family Circle Magazine, and have been short-listed for various awards, including the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Award. Lisa also spends time on the road as a motivational speaker. Via internet, she shares with readers as far away as India, where her book, Tending Roses, has been used to promote women's literacy, and as close to home as Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the county library system has used Tending Roses to help volunteers teach adults to read. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa for the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life.


She Reads: Discovering Great Fiction Together