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
Composing Amelia, a novel by Alison Strobel

Alison StrobelThis month our selection is Composing Amelia, a novel by Alison Strobel. Please join us at to participate in our discussion via our blog or online forum—a great alternative for those who would like to be in a book club but don’t have access to one.

Composing Amelia is not your first novel. Can you tell us about your journey in fiction?

I’ve been writing since I was a child. I wrote my first novel in junior high! But I was too dubious of my abilities to ever consider pursuing it professionally and too entrenched in responsible firstborn thinking, so I went into education instead and viewed my writing as nothing more than a hobby.

Then I moved to California, and God gave me an idea for a story as I was driving through Hollywood for the first time. I finished it eighteen months later, put it in a binder, stuck it in my closet, and figured that was the end of that. I didn’t think there was any point in even trying to get it published because I knew from watching my dad how hard it was to break into publishing, and I didn’t think I had the talent to write anything anyone other than my mother would want to read. Now, looking back, I picture God rolling His eyes and saying, “Sheesh, this one really is going to need a giant neon sign!” And that’s pretty much what He gave me: an editor contacted me through my dad, asking to see the story, and a few months later I had a two-book contract.

I didn’t have two books, though, just the one. I figured God got me that contract, so He must have another idea waiting for me. For book #2, God dropped the idea into my lap, and that’s pretty much how it keeps working out. I finish a book, think, “I wonder if I’ll ever get to write another one?” and then a song or a situation will plant the seed for yet another story, and off I go.

What spurred you to write this novel?

My best friend/roommate in college developed bipolar disorder our junior year. It was a scary time for both of us—she had no idea what was wrong with her, her family didn’t believe her when she said something was wrong, and I watched my best friend plummet into depression so deep that I had to take her to the ER to stop her from killing herself. We couldn’t find any resources that approached mental illness from a Christian perspective, and people kept saying stupid things to her like, “You’re not praying hard enough for healing,” or “If you were closer to God this wouldn’t be happening.” She was a new Christian, too, which made it even worse, and made me even more angry! Writing professionally wasn’t even a blip on my radar at the time, but I remember thinking, “Someday I’m going to write a book about Christians and mental illness.” I was thinking of a nonfiction book that helped sufferers and their support people understand what was happening, what their treatment options were, how mental illness was not the result of being lousy Christians. But God had other plans, and instead I wrote Composing Amelia.

What do you want readers to take away from your books?

First and foremost, I hope readers enjoy reading my books. Some of my novels are pretty heavy, but I try to balance them so readers won’t leave with a massive weight on their shoulders. But I’d also be thrilled to hear that my books made a difference in readers’ spiritual lives, or even their lives in general. Powerful themes of grace, redemption, and forgiveness figure big into my novels, mostly by God’s design. I pray that by seeing these concepts in action, readers will be touched by them as well.

What one piece of advice do you offer new fiction writers?

Keep studying the craft. You may think you’ve learned it all, but you haven’t. Keep studying. When I got that first contract, I thought it meant I had arrived, that I must know what I was doing. I’d taken only one creative writing class and had never

attended a writer’s conference or read a book on writing. Nearly everything I knew about writing I picked up just from reading, which I’d done voraciously since I was about eight. But then I discovered ACFW, and I ordered their conference MP3s out of curiosity, and when I started listening to them I was like Dorothy stepping out of the house into Technicolor Oz. I couldn’t believe that, for example, there were actual plot structures to follow! That’s when I realized I really had no idea what I was doing as a writer. I’d lucked out with Worlds Collide. Studying the craft became one of my favorite things to do. And it still is. Even after six books, I still have so much to learn.

What do you most like to read?

Composing AmeliaSomething that is going to challenge me and make me think; something that is going to suck me in. I don’t like fluff stories. I tend to gravitate toward contemporary and women’s fiction—Lisa Samson, Jodi Picoult, and Douglas Coupland are some favorites, but I also have a soft spot for cyberpunk and Terry Pratchett, whose books I can’t pigeonhole into a genre.

What’s up next for you?

I wish I knew! Life right now is a giant question mark. I have four women’s fiction proposals submitted, as well as four proposals for children’s books, which I write as Ali Morrow with my husband, Dan. I lost my “day job” in July, so I’m working on getting my teaching credential here in Colorado, looking for freelance writing and editing jobs, and also searching for speaking gigs. The last month and a half have been amazing in how they’ve deepened my faith. God’s got something lined up, and when I’m ready for it, He’ll hand it down. Until then I’m just plugging away at the job search and working here and there on one of the books I proposed. Even in the midst of all that’s going on, I can’t stop working on books. I love it too much!

About Composing Amelia:
Can a brand-new marriage withstand the weight of generations-old baggage?

Newlyweds Amelia and Marcus Sheffield are recent college grads, trying to stay afloat in LA while searching for their dream jobs. Marcus hopes to become a mega-church pastor. Amelia has an esteemed music degree, and longs to play piano professionally. The Sheffields are clearly city people.

But when a small town church offers Marcus a job, the couple’s dedication to their dreams and each other is tested. After a risky compromise is made, Amelia falls into a dark emotional place, where she finds skeletons she’d fought hard to deny. In desperation, she calls out to God. But why can’t she find Him? While Amelia struggles, Marcus learns news that nearly crushes him. He must lean on his faith to withstand the pressure … or risk losing his wife forever.

Alison Strobel, whose father, award-winning author Lee Strobel, instilled her with a love of stories at a young age, has written four novels, including Reinventing Rachel. She has also written the children’s books That’s Where God Is and That’s When I Talk to God with her husband, Dan Morrow. She lives in Colorado with her husband and two daughters.


She Reads: Discovering Great Fiction Together