what number novel is Far from Here for you?
I guess it depends on how you
count! I’ve written four books for Tyndale House Publishing,
collaborated on one book for Threshold Editions with Glenn Beck, and
just released Far from Here with Simon &
Schuster/Howard. So I guess this is my fifth or sixth book.
How is this book
different from the others you’ve written?
Far from Here
marks my transition from the CBA market to the ABA. There is some mild
sensuality and mild profanity, but I certainly didn’t set out to write
shocking things. Instead, I wanted to honor my characters and the
journey they were on. To tell their story with honesty and integrity, I
needed to step a bit outside of my comfort zone. This doesn’t mean that
I’m not still a Christian fiction author, or that I’m not proud of the
books that I’ve already written (they’re my babies!). It also doesn’t
mean that I’ve abandoned my faith or anything silly like that. This
transition is just another step on my own personal journey.
In my career as an author, I
have both embraced and chafed at the “Christian fiction” label.
Apparently, so have my readers. I’ve been told that my books are “too
preachy” and I have also been chastised for “watering down the gospel.”
In truth, I have never approached a single one of my books with the
intent to preach about or hide my beliefs. My goal in writing is to
write beautiful, hope-filled stories that resound with truth and
resonate deep in the hearts of my readers. If God is beauty and truth
and love (and I believe He is), then my books overflow with Him—even if
His name is never mentioned.
How is it similar?
I don’t think Far from
Here is all that different from my other books. No matter
what market I’m writing for, I strive to write literary, hope-filled
stories about everyday people who face extraordinary circumstances.
Tragedy is a part of life, and finding hope amid the ruins of an
unforeseen disaster—whether personal or communal—is what compels me to
write. I believe that life is a fine balance of both devastation and
beauty, and I am passionate about pointing out the light that still
glimmers from the ashes of a seemingly unredeemable wreckage. It’s all
about rising from the ruins, finding hope where none seems possible.
Where did the idea for
this book come from?
Far from Here
is very loosely based on one of my own family stories. Over thirty
years ago, my dad’s best friend disappeared off of the coast of Alaska.
He was a bush pilot, and he simply vanished into thin air. No trace was
ever found of him or his plane. I grew up with this piece of family
history, but it wasn’t until I was a woman with a husband of my own
that I began to grasp the depth of loss that everyone who loved this
man must have felt at his disappearance. Far from Here explores that
sort of loss, but it’s definitely a novel that hinges on hope, even if
that hope is a tenuous, ever-changing thing.
Who is your favorite
character in the book and why?
Although I love my protagonist,
Danica, my favorite character in Far from Here
would have to be Dani’s older sister, Katrina. Kat is a messy, quirky,
somewhat unlovable character who is surprisingly endearing. She’s
self-destructive and selfish, but she also deeply loves her sister.
Kat’s bumbling attempts to connect with and care for Dani are
incredibly sweet, and I think they betray a depth of emotion in Kat
that is not immediately apparent. Kat is definitely a handful, and she
is the character who was the most challenging for me to write. But I
love her honesty and the way her tough exterior hides a tender,
your life at
My days are sundry and varied!
My husband is the Dean of Chapel at a liberal arts college in the
Midwest, so his job alone keeps us hopping. We also have an
eight-year-old son who is in second
a five-year-old son who’s in
kindergarten, and an eighteen-month-old son at home. My big boys play
hockey in the fall and winter, and soccer in the spring and summer, so
between school, practice, games, and everything else that comes with
having little boys in the house, I have a full-time job. Of course, the
baby is into everything, and I like to keep my house neat and my family
well fed, so I spend a lot of time cleaning, shopping, cooking, and
doing mountains of laundry. But I do manage to find
time to write,
mostly because I go a little crazy if I’m not writing. I try to carve
out two mornings a week, plus some nights after the kids are in bed. My
favorite thing to do at the end of a busy, noisy, often dirty day is to
sit down in the peace and quiet of my living room with my husband, a
glass of wine, and a pad of paper.
and I are also the cofounders of a nonprofit organization that works
alongside a church and orphanage in Monrovia, Liberia, called One Body
One Hope. Our board recently returned from a trip to West Africa with
what we believe is a God-given mandate to expand our ministry fivefold!
We’re thrilled and scared and eager all at once. Our home overflows
with pictures of our Liberian brothers and sisters, and our telephone
rings weekly with news and updates about the kids we love as dearly as
our own. It’s all incredibly humbling and exciting.
When you’re not
writing, what kinds of books do you like to read?
I was blessed to have some of my
favorite authors endorse Far from Here! I feel like
all you have to do is read my blurbs to get a feel for the kind of
books I love. I’m a huge fan of Joshilyn Jackson, Sandra Dallas,
Jacquelyn Mitchard, and Ann Patchett. Some other authors I admire are
Marisa de los Santos, Kate Morton, Tana French, and Sarah Addison
Allen. I tend to enjoy character-based dramas with a literary slant.
And I’m also a sucker for anything set in the Midwest. Leif Enger and
Kent Meyers write some of my favorite modern-day Westerns.
How can readers benefit
from sharing the books they love?
I believe with all of my heart
that although writing may seem like a solitary endeavor, it is actually
a multilayered, multifaceted conversation with a huge community of
diverse people. And reading a book is just the beginning of that
dialogue. It’s a way for us to engage the world around us, walk a few
steps in another person’s shoes, or experience something from a
different perspective. Sharing books is a way to reach out and say, “I
loved this. It touched me and changed me somehow, and I hope it stirs
something inside of you, too.”
I’m a huge fan of book clubs
because I believe they allow readers to take the conversation to an
even deeper level. Book clubs should be where people find points of
connection with one another and with the book. Allowing ourselves to
interact with the characters and the emotions they produce is just one
small way we can try to make sense of our lives and experiences.