Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Rest of the Story... Interview

Hi Friends,

I'm posting a little early this week because I promised you the second half of that If Tomorrow Never Comes Interview. So here it is!

Q: What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

A: My biggest challenge is finding the time and energy to focus on writing the story God has for me to write. With five small children, a business to run, church ministries and other responsibilities, getting that quiet, focused time is a challenge.

And then, of course, there’s the doubt. Every time I start a new book, I find myself muttering “What was I thinking?!!? I can’t write this book! Why did I ever think I could do this?” By the end, though, I see God working and how He’s been faithful in the writing of the story He’s given me to write. So, right now I’m in the early stages of a new book, and of course all those doubts are raging. So, I have to remind myself that this always happens. I just need to push through, do my best, and the story will come.

For both challenges, my best solution is to remember that God knows my situation and will give me what I need to do what He wants me to do. He’s not asking me to work miracles, just to be faithful – just to do my best every day to follow Him and be who He wants me to be. The rest will come.

Q: What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

A: What I love best about writing novels is partnering with God in the creative process. Sometimes it feels like I’m listening in on his musings. And I’m finding that there’s a moment in every book when I see something, when I write something, that I did not plan, did not expect, and didn’t realize the story had been leading up to. That’s when I feel the touch of God, I sense His pleasure, and it’s like getting a glimpse of heaven. I love those moments . . . those flashes when I know that this is what God has been doing, and the story impacts my heart and life in some new and wondrous way.

Of course, don’t ask me about those other times – when I’m staring at the blank screen, the clock is ticking, and I can’t think of a single thing to write that doesn’t sound like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. There are plenty of those times too.

But I gotta say, those moments when I glimpse God’s vision for a story are worth all the others when I don’t.

(P.S. My second favorite thing is hearing from readers who say a book opened their eyes to the wonder of God, or helped them see Him more clearly, or made a difference in their lives in some way. I love that too!)

Q: What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?

A: I’m a part of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), and also ChiLibris (a group of multi-published Christian fiction authors).

Q: What do you do to keep your writing fresh and improve on it each time you write a book?

A: I like to try something new and challenging in each book. In my last novel, Beyond the Night, I tried a type of “envelope” story – a story that’s grounded in the present, but also tells the couple’s love story from years before. It was fun, fresh, and challenging to weave the stories together in a smooth and intriguing way.

In If Tomorrow Never Comes, I use some of that technique to share Jimmy and Kinna’s story of falling in love as children, but I’ve also included short first-person scenes from Thea’s point of view. Weaving in mystery and humor in Thea’s voice was a lot of fun, but also a challenge to do smoothly and in a way that would enrich the story and not be jarring. I like how it turned out!

In my next novel, Shades of Morning, I’m trying short scenes told from the perspective of a boy with Downs Syndrome. As with my previous books, this new element is turning out to be challenging, but my favorite part as well. I hope my readers will enjoy it as much as I am!

Q: Are there any other new projects on the horizon?

A: Yes! My third “love story with a twist,” currently titled Shades of Morning, is due out in early 2010. I’m in the midst of writing it now and am enjoying the characters and plot. For those who read If Tomorrow Never Comes, watch for Marnie, the quirky owner of the coffeeshop and bookstore, who will be the main character in Shades of Morning.

Marnie has her life just where she wants it. At least that’s what she tells herself – her past is hidden, her regrets locked tightly in a box on her shelf, and her bookstore and coffeeshop business is booming. No one knows what she’s done, who she’s been. That is, until the man she once loved finds her again and brings startling news – she’s now the guardian of her 15-year-old nephew, a boy she never knew existed. And to make matters worse, when the boy arrives, she discovers he has Downs Syndrome. The past collides with the present, the box of regrets is exposed, and Marnie’s world shattered and rebuilt through the love of one special boy who makes all things new.

Q: Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?

A: My husband, Bryan, has been wonderful with support and encouragement. He’s my first reader for everything I write, helps me develop ideas, watches the kids regularly to give me writing time, and continues to believe that God has asked me to do this writing thing, even when everything doesn’t go as I hope.

Other than that, Ken Petersen (who used to be at Tyndale and is now at Waterbrook-Multnomah) was the first editor to believe in me and my work. My agent, Steve Laube, has been a great source of encouragement and support as well.

And then, of course, there are my writing friends, like Tricia Goyer and Cindy Martinusen, who have been with me (and me with them) through the long process of trying to get published, hoping, dreaming, etc. Back before any of us were published, we used to read each other’s manuscripts and give encouragement, critique, and advice.

Q: What message would you like your readers to take away from If Tomorrow Never Comes?

A: Our culture tells us that we can do anything we set our minds to, we can accomplish any dream . . . and we should. “Reach for your dreams,” we say, as if that is the highest goal of humankind. Success posters (and platitudes) abound.

But 15 years of infertility and miscarriage have taught me that we are not the gods of our lives. There are things we cannot control, no matter how hard we try.

Perhaps that is why God calls us not to the pursuit of our dreams, but to love. “Love one another,” Jesus exhorts in John 13:34-35, and also gives, as the second greatest commandment, the exhortation to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18, and all 3 Synoptics)

So, in our Grasp-Your-Dreams culture, I hope this book will stand against the tide, calling people instead to the way of love – to the way of laying down their lives for others instead of clutching their own dreams and plans.

I hope readers will be inspired to fight for their marriages with sacrificial love, and will be challenged to look to the future for the rewards of loving sacrificially, and to the past to remember the seeds of real love.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

A: Well, I thought about my degree in Chemistry and my Masters in Theology (which I finished not too long ago). I thought about books published, articles written, ministries I’ve been involved in. But what I find I’m really most happy about is finding a wonderful, godly husband and, finally (after all those years of infertility), having four sweet little girls and a little boy on the way (surprise! And at my age – our only non-infertility treatment baby). For most people, I don’t suppose getting pregnant and having a baby is an accomplishment, but for me, with difficult infertility treatments and multiple trips to the doctor’s office for unpleasant procedures, it’s something close to a miracle. So, are children an achievement? Not really, so I’ve cheated a bit on this question, but when I think of my life and what it’s about, I think of my husband and kids and find I’m so glad for them and thankful (at least on most days :-)).

Q: What is your goal or mission as a writer?

A: I hope to make God’s love in the midst of trials and tragedies evident and unmistakable. I dream of opening readers’ eyes to the wonder and mystery of our incredible, vivid God. And I hope the vision of Him will take their breath away.

Q: What do you do to get away from it all?

A: Ha! What a question! With four expressive little girls (from those few infertility treatment successes!), and a new baby (surprise!) life around here is VERY noisy, very busy, and very crazy! But I’m finding that God is available in the crazy times as well as the quiet ones. He knows my circumstances, and he can meet me here, in the ins-and-outs of everyday life. So, I’m learning to connect with Him not only in set-aside times of Bible study, prayer, and reflection, but also through the happenings of life. One of my little girls falls down, gets an owie, and comes running to Mommy to kiss it and make it better. And I am reminded that when I fall down, I too can come running to God to heal and comfort me. So, I am discovering that God wants to connect with me not only in special set-aside times, but in all times – crazy times and quiet times, confusing times and clear times, play times and do-another-load-of-laundry times.

Still, there are times when I really need to get away, and the best place for me to do that is a quick trip to Starbucks with my laptop. A decaf venti white mocha (nonfat milk, no whip), a little table against the wall, maybe an apple fritter (don’t count the calories!) every so often . . . Ah, heaven!


Edna said...

I like your blog and would love to be entered into a contest if you have one going on.

Mat God Bless