I first heard of Lisa Samson
when I read one of her books, Songbird. For some
reason this book reminded me of the movie Beaches with Bette Midler.
Anyway, I loved the book and was impressed with how edgy it was. I
didn’t even write fiction at the time. I was just a regular fiction
reader. Then years later when I was not only an author myself, but also
a fiction reviewer, I read another great book by Lisa Samson called Straight
Up. I was so impressed with the realism in the story that I
wrote one of my best reviews ever. Since then I’ve read most of the Hollywood
Nobody series as well as The Passion of Mary
Margaret (an amazing novel!) Since Lisa really knows how to
write unconventional stories with passion and insight, I’ve grown to
love and admire her as an author. Now I want her to share her story.
Presenting Lisa Samson…
stood before the general fiction section in the Barnes & Noble
store at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor when the epiphany arrived. For years
I’d written historical fiction because that’s what I’d read growing up.
Victoria Holt (aka Jean Plaidy) and I had a thing going for years. It
was also the mainstay of Christian fiction in the early nineties when I
began writing. But increasingly, my reading tastes changed to women’s
fiction, and I began paying close attention to craft. As a result, my
writing interests changed as well. While writing my last historical
series, Shades of Eternity, my “sanity project” lived in a subversive
file on my computer.
Something inside told me that if
you need a sanity project, maybe the alley you’ve been heading down for
years is opening up to something else. Best be on the lookout. This was
in the beginning of the Oprah Book Club when many new authors burst
onto the scene. I had never read works like these, but I ate up some of
it. It was then I realized this genre was called “women’s fiction.” The
sanity project arrived soon after.
One evening, my editor had come
to town, and after dining at the harbor, we ventured over to Barnes
& Noble because, well, we all love books, right? I checked out
the inspy fiction section, delighted to see my work had finally made it
into one of the big chain stores. Naturally, I turned it face out
(admit it, you do it too!) then headed over to see if I could pick up a
new Anne Tyler book. I thought about my sanity project, thought about
what I wanted to read and said, “I want to write these kinds of
won’t make any money doing that,” my inner voice said.
Then I remembered my sales
figures. “Hey, you’re not making any money now! You might as well not
make money writing what you want to write.”
Other novelist friends read a
bit of what I’d been writing and said, “You’d be crazy not to write
like this.” Another simply said, “Lisa, go for it.”
I started afresh, leaving the
sanity project in its file, and began The Church Ladies.
I wanted my character to be as real, annoying, fragile, and honest as
she could be. I wanted Poppy Fraser to be the antithesis, inside, of
what a “good Christian lady” should be. Like me, I wanted her faith to
be a struggle. Poppy doesn’t have all the answers. She just asks really
good questions. And sometimes God remains silent.
For me, this is the crux of why
my writing has never hit the big time: It’s uncomfortable, but it’s
real; it doesn’t always let the reader go with an easy answer to life’s
problems. It’s not self-help in a story. I just write stories about
grace, forgiveness, pain, failures, and that God’s not scared to work
His way into the mix even if we hear only our own heart at times,
beating wildly and asking for Him to appear, maybe even hoping He won’t
just yet. It’s all I’ve got to say. Because it’s all I know.
Will the broader audience ever
catch on? I have no idea. But I can’t think about that too much or I’d
second guess this whole writing thing. Does God want me to do this? If
He’s not blessing abundantly, am I out of His will? Thankfully, He
encourages me other ways: good reviews and great writing friends and
faithful readers. It’s enough because I’ve decided it has to be.
Oh yes, my sanity project
eventually released, entitled Women’s Intuition.
Lisa Samson is the author of
twenty-eight books, including Christy Award–winning Songbird
and Hollywood Nobody. Her novel Quaker
Summer, Women of Faith’s Novel of the Year for 2007, was also
one of Publishers Weekly’s best books of 2007 and
the recipient of Christianity Today’s Book Award
for fiction 2008. Her latest novel is The Passion of
Mary-Margaret. She and her husband, Will, use their home in
urban Lexington, Kentucky, as a house of hospitality, where you can
find three kids, one cat, and thirteen chickens.