The Write Editor

Editor's Spotlight

by Michelle Sutton

Lisa Samson

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…

I 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 stories.”

“You 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.The Passion Of Mary Margaret

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.