It’s been a long hot summer, and
I’ve been waiting impatiently for the temperatures to finally drop.
Leaving the air conditioned house and returning to my back porch is
delightful. Ah, this breath of fresh air gives me a new perspective on
life. It’s a beautiful day and I’m happy to be a part of this great big
This month’s virtual
extravaganza is to Lexington, Kentucky.
I’ve never been to , and I
always thought of Kentucky as primarily rural America: country, wide
open spaces, horses, and bluegrass. I was so wrong! The heartland of
our country has a pulse that’s strong and healthy. What a magnificent
city, with a mixture of vintage charm and classic modern. It’s the
second largest city in Kentucky and the sixty-fifth largest in the U.S.
meeting with author Lisa Samson, adventurous and diverse as the city
she lives in. A Christy Award–winning author, including the Women of
Faith Novel of the Year, Quaker Summer, Lisa Samson
has been hailed by Publishers Weekly as “a talented
novelist who isn’t afraid to take risks.” She lives in Lexington with
her husband and three children.
Engrossed with my writing; I’m
startled when my husband, Bill, asks, “Are you ready to hit the road?”
“Yes, I can’t wait to meet
Lisa. Listen to this. Ms. Samson mentioned this in our first
correspondence. ‘We can do the “meet the author” portion in my yard, if
you’d like, where we have gardens and chickens on a small city lot!’ I
thought she lived out in the country! Bill, we’re always dreaming about
moving to the farm . . . maybe we should be thinking outside the box?”
“Okay, let’s check this out!”
He grabs my arm and in a blink we’re on our way. With address in hand,
Bill and I check the street numbers.
“This is it.” We stare at an
old green Victorian house with a crumbling front porch. Growing in the
front yard are tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and beans.
Hubby and I agree. “It’s like Eden.” Lisa is watering her plants and
doesn’t see us. She’s wearing drawstring khakis and a black T-shirt,
red-and-black Chaco sandals, and totally funky earrings . . . what a
character. I love her artsy look and how laid back she appears. As we
walk up the path I try not to startle her. “Hello.”
“Oh, hi, glad you made it.
Let’s go this way, to the back porch, and sit down.”
“I’m comfortable with that!”
Following her around to the side of her home, we go through a gate made
of cedar fencing, alongside a deck and, voila, there’s a chicken coop!
We take a left and peek in on the chickens. “Ah . . .” Some
are in the chicken tractor and will be heading for processing.
“Ooh. Um, what’s over there?” We walk over to another garden where
garlic, beets, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes are ready to harvest.
“Wow. This is amazing,” I can’t help but chuckle. “You really do have a
“Sure do. Our cat, Miles, is
probably asleep on the deck, but let’s get in the shade.”
“Okay, that sounds terrific!
Then we can get started.”
You’ve been gracing us with stories since the early 1990s. I counted
over twenty-five books (correct me if I’m off in my numbers). That
averages one or more per year. Thinking back to your beginnings, did
you ever not visualize your overwhelming success?
the thing. I don’t view myself as an overwhelming success. I’m not one
of the major sellers in the industry, and most people have never heard
of me. I’ve never once seen somebody reading one of my books in the
airport or had somebody say to me when seeing my check at the grocery
store, “Are you Lisa Samson the writer?” What I have been is steady,
faithfully producing novels for seventeen years now. I self-describe as
“a workhorse writer.” Critical acclaim/awards have come only in the
last third of my career, so I still think of myself as “the Rodney
Dangerfield of Christian Fiction!”
has kept you going? Pursuing the dream?
Obedience. I know this is what God has called me to do at this time.
Personally, I’d rather pursue my interests in the visual arts, but God
has enabled me to grow and learn in this thing called fiction, and I
don’t feel a release to let it go. (I think Thomas Nelson might be a
little miffed if I left them high and dry with books to go!) Honestly,
if it was just about writing and getting published, I’d have given up a
long time ago. But God gave me a gift to use, and as a grace-filled
bonus, I really, really love my readers. They’re so encouraging and,
well, just delightful people who, like me, really want to “love God and
their neighbors as themselves,” and they find in me a friend to journey
through and process all that with. I write so people know they’re not
alone. I think of us as the nerdy, smart girls who weren’t that popular
in high school and really, really didn’t care! I also think my readers
are as depressed, searching, anxious, and broken as I am. My
transparency about the fragility of humanity gives them a safe place to
be imperfect. “The love of Christ compels me.” That’s what’s kept me
going. I really hope, when a reader gets to the end of one of my books,
they understand a little more deeply how much God loves them.
you recall your exact words when you found out you were to be published
for the first time?
can’t! But I imagine it was something like, “No way!”
You’re such a rip! I’m a member of the Florida Writers Association and
their motto is “Writers Helping Writers.” I would think this a fairly
common tradition among authors, regardless of where they reside. How do
you think you have helped other authors in the craft of writing?
Lisa: I teach
at writer’s conferences, have been involved in writer’s circles at
times, and have done some critiques. I used to blog a bit about writing
as well. Mostly, I like to talk one-on-one with people, especially
those who actually understand “craft talk” and already have a working
lexicon of write-speak. There are those who can take a beginning writer
and talk about the basics, but I think I’m more the kind of writer who
enjoys talking about the deeper issues of not only craft but also
creativity and vision. If you don’t know why you’re writing or what it
is you want to say, who cares how great the words look on the page?
and your husband cowrote Justice in the Burbs, a book about social
justice. With three children, do you have any additional cowriters
Lisa: I do!
My daughter Ty and I have collaborated on a book called Love
Mercy: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey from the American Dream to the
Kingdom of God. It’s a book about our move from big-house
suburbia to missional living downtown, as well as our trip to
HIV/AIDS-stricken Swaziland. It was, by far, the hardest book I’ve ever
written. My hats off to nonfiction writers after that one! Whew!
You and your husband, Will, are avid believers in social justice. Would
you explain what this means to you, and the plans you have set in
motion to generate enthusiasm about this topic?
justice can take on many forms. You can speak about it in larger
societal systems where entire people groups have no voice, little
opportunity, and are oppressed. Israel had little social justice in
Egypt. Slavery in the U.S. is an example. The kids down the street from
me have far less opportunity than my own kids have. God talks about his
love for the oppressed, the poor, the
the widow, the
orphan—all those who don’t have the resources a lot of us do—so much in
Scripture (it’s startling when you begin to see how much it’s
mentioned) that Will and I finally took stock of our lives and said,
“We need to change some things.” So we moved and have been living down
here in downtown Lexington ever since.
far as generating enthusiasm,
I don’t need to! It’s amazing to me how Christians are beginning to
feel the heartbeat of God in their own chests! Women write to me all
the time, telling me how they’ve been feeling God’s call to reach out
to others for a long time, and now they’re finally responding, finally
figuring out what “doing justice and loving mercy” (Micah 6:8) will
look like in their own path of following Jesus. However, I try to
generate enthusiasm by peopling my novels with characters who are on a
toward living compassionately and for others who are suffering
either from large systems of oppression or cancer or loneliness and
lack of love. Will and I speak at churches as well, and what a joy that
is to see Christians who are taking Jesus at his word and giving up
their ambitions for wealth and personal power and laying them at the
foot of the cross to serve “the least of these.” God is moving and it
is exciting to see!
What’s next? Any sneak previews for 2010 you’d like to share?
Mercy will be releasing and we’re so excited. I’ve never had
a book release party, but I think I’ll throw one for Ty! Next up,
fiction-wise, will be The Resurrection in May, a
book about a missionary who survives the Rwandan genocide only to end
up on a farm she cannot leave because of her fear. Along comes an old
friend, now on death row, a prisoner who reaches out to show May what
true freedom looks like.
I’d like to get off the business side of publishing and writing for a
while and find out some things about you. Have you always lived in “not
so rural” Kentucky?
Actually, we live in downtown Lexington. It seems like what we do,
raising chickens, gardening, our interest in local food, would be
best-suited for rural living, but we’re trying to figure out what it
looks like in a city setting, done by regular people who didn’t grow up
on a farm. Lots of hit and miss, it turns out, but we learn a little
more each year. It’s really been a lovely, gentle adventure.
husband and I are still dreaming about living on the acreage we own.
We, or I should say, I want to have Cochin chickens? They’re the cute
ones that look like they’re wearing bloomers. What kind of chickens do
you have? Are they pets or food? (If they are pets, what are their
love my chickens!! I had no idea I was going to like them so much. We
affectionately call them “the ladies.” Because of noise laws, we can’t
have a rooster, so it’s all the girls. We have eleven layers (Barred
Rocks and Golden Comets) right now in our coop and eight more young’uns
(two more Barred Rocks and Auricanas [Easter Eggers]) getting bigger in
the chicken tractor. Also in the chicken tractor are twenty-three
Cornish Cross chickens we’ve raised from chicks. In mid-September, they
will be processed and we’ll have organic, free-range chickens in our
freezer. I have not named those! The three layers
we’ve really grown attached to are Mikey, CeeCee, and Parma-Jean.
have all these gardens, what do you usually grow?
do. Will, my husband, is really the one who makes this happen. This
year we’re growing tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, sweet potatoes,
white potatoes, beans, cucumbers, beets (I love beets!), herbs,
broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and two pumpkins. A volunteer vine
sprang up and we weren’t sure what it was. Lo and behold, a big pumpkin
and a little pumpkin, that will make for fabulous jack-o’-lanterns. We
always have a big chili-on-the-front-porch party on Halloween. This
year, I’m even thinking about become “the full-sized candy bar house.”
You’re so fun! Have you ever canned or jarred produce?
usually freeze, but just this morning, actually, Will put up some of
his red sauce, canning for the first time. We’re pretty excited.
Canning is one of those things that’s easy, but seems insurmountable
before you try it for the first time. We grow more tomatoes than
anything else, so there’ll be more sauce to come as the tomatoes come
in. We use a lot of red sauce in our cooking. Will’s from New Jersey
and had a lot of Italian friends while growing up, so that’s one of the
first ways we think to prepare a dish. (He cooks other delicious foods
as well. That man can throw down in the kitchen! Yes, I know how
blessed I am!)
Valerie: If I
were on our farm, I visualize myself during October picking pumpkins
and making pies. Have you ever done that? And when they’ve baked, cool
on the back porch? (You’re a writer, indulge me!)
made pumpkin pie from pumpkin before, but unfortunately, it wasn’t from
a pie pumpkin so it wasn’t all that great. I love pie, though. Does
that count? I mean, really, anything in a flaky crust has got to be one
of the best things to eat. And it doesn’t have to be a sweet pie. Is
there anything better than chicken pot pie? You stab your fork into the
top and then that salty, buttery white sauce oozes out? Yum!
getting hungry. . . . How about your travels away from Kentucky; where
have you gone recently, or where will you be going?
Lisa: I was
just in Oregon for the Oregon Christian Writers Conference and it was
wonderful, although I managed to hit the worst heat wave in twenty
years. It’s been a mild summer here and I had to go to Oregon of all
places to get the dog days! No other plans for big travel in the near
future; I’m homeschooling my younger two this year, so we’ll be
sticking close to home. We are, however, taking a weekend trip to
Niagara Falls because, I’m just sorry, but you have to see Niagara
Falls to understand your place in the world. All that power and force
that could just rip your head off! Kinda helps in the ego department,
and spiritually, too. It helps me to see God’s world doesn’t revolve
around mine, rather it’s clearly the other way around.
any one visit left a major impression in your mind—a place in another
country or here in the U.S.—that you’d consider moving to at some time
of your life? Or are you always singing, “There’s no place like home” ?
love to live in England temporarily. London would be great. I just love
it over there, love the people, love the sights, and the flowers! Oh my
goodness! U.S. will always be home, though.
one. I know you have been asked many questions during your career, but
is there any one thing you would like to share with your fans?
Something, you haven’t been asked but think they would enjoy hearing
don’t know why this answer just popped into my head, but enjoy your
family. Make big meals and gather your friends and relatives around the
table as much as you can, especially the older generation. Be
hospitable to those around you and in your writing as well. Invite
people into your home and into your stories. Live with intent and great
thank you so much for an entertaining afternoon. And speaking of
hospitality, yours is “Grade A.” God bless, until we meet again.
Award winning author, Valerie
Anne Faulkner, came from New York, moved to the Gulf Coast of
Florida in 1973. Author of I Must Be in Heaven, A Promise
she spends her days working side by side with her husband, Bill, as an
electrician, then evenings, as a writer. The CFOM interviews have been
a great way for her to meet other authors and hone her writing craft.
This back-porch writer’s family is very important
to her, and
she cherishes time spent with her three grown children and seven
grandchildren. A few hours with family or a day enjoying one of
Florida’s Gulf beaches are her favorite ways to relieve stress and
refresh from her busy lifestyle.
Valerie was honored to receive First
Place (Memoir) 2008 Royal Palm
Literary Award by the Florida Writer’s Association in
November, and now is celebrating her latest achievement as Winner
Next Generation Indie Awards.
Valerie’s motto is “A day with
prayer . . . seldom unravels.”
Visit her at www.imustbeinheaven.com