Don’t you love getting to know someone you already find interesting? And then, lo and behold, you find out they are even more interesting! That’s what happened when I interviewed this month’s featured author, award-winning author, Laurel Blount. I mean, take a gander at her bio … (Notice the usage of “gander.” I’m getting into the Amish-mode.)
Award-winning author Laurel Blount writes inspirational romances full of grit and grace—with characters who’ll walk right off the page and into your heart! She lives on a farm in Georgia with her husband, their four fabulous kids, and an assortment of ridiculously spoiled animals.
A enthusiastic multi-tasker, Laurel writes for both Berkley/Penguin Random House and Love Inspired/Harlequin. She’s the recipient of ACFW’s Carol Award, The New England Reader’s Choice Award and GRW’s Maggie Award. She’s represented by Jessica Alvarez of Bookends Literary Agency.
Shelter in the Storm is Laurel’s fifth book—and six more stories are in the works! Stay tuned!
You are such a prolific writer! What was your inspiration for writing in general—why did you choose writing?
I chose writing because I love, love LOVE books and language. Growing up, reading was like breathing to me. I read constantly—across all kinds of genres. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. I just enjoy words—I love picking out the exact one–and combining them to convey just the right emotion or visual. I once heard a writer call himself a “wordsmith” and that term really resonated with me!
I must say, you are a wordsmith. How has Christian fiction impacted you personally? Or how has being published been a fulfillment of your dreams?
As a teenager I was a “cultural” Christian. I went to church, but my faith was pretty shallow. Since books are definitely one of my love languages, God reached out to me through Christian authors. He used their stories to help me explore and deepen my faith. (Don’t you just love how God does things like that??!) My hope is that He can use my stories, too!
I do love when our Heavenly Daddy does that! Which of your characters has really stretched you as a writer?
Writing about Amish characters has definitely stretched me! Shelter in the Storm is my first venture into Amish fiction—and I was very concerned about presenting this lifestyle with respect and authenticity. Fortunately, I am blessed to have a formerly Amish friend who was willing to answer my many (MANY) questions. When Shelter was published, I gave her a copy—and let me tell you I was holding my breath while she read it! When she told me she loved the book and that she thought I had done a good job of presenting the culture and the mindset, I felt like I had passed an exam—what a joyous relief!
Whew! I totally understand that nervous feeling. Who is your most “favorite” or memorable antagonist? Why?
In my first-ever book for Love Inspired, A Family for the Farmer, I had a gossipy old lady as an antagonist. I loved writing about Lois—she was the kind of flint-hearted southern woman who’ll ‘bless your heart’ to your face and cut you to ribbons behind your back. I was acquainted with some women like that, so Lois was easy to write. I knew just the sort of stinging things she’d say. I also loved the fact that by the end of the book Lois’s devotion to her newly discovered grandchildren had turned her snarkiness around. Nobody’s all good or all bad, and love has an amazing ability to turn people’s hearts around—so that’s another reason I love Lois!
I have an antagonist I loved, too. I think because I loved her much she eventually made a turn around, too. Now, for your new release. Here’s a brief synopsis of Shelter in the Storm
In this moving Amish romance, two broken hearts find hope in each other after a terrible loss.
Unspeakable tragedy strikes the Amish community of Johns Mill when an unstable Englischer opens fire in the Hochstedler’s General Store. In the aftermath, and under the media’s spotlight, Joseph Hochstedler struggles to hold his shattered family together, drawing unexpected comfort from a faithful childhood friend.
Born with a serious heart defect, optimist Naomi Schrock has always longed to live a life of service. She rolls up her sleeves, determined to help Joseph cope with this terrible crisis. But dare she hope that his friendship will finally deepen into love?
As the media’s obsession with the Hochstedler shooting escalates, Joseph and Naomi find themselves caught between tradition and compromise, lingering sorrows and uncertain hopes. And in the end, two people who’ve already lost far too much must find the courage to trust their hearts one last time.
Great synopsis! What is the story behind Shelter in the Storm?
I start most of my stories with “What ifs”—and Shelter was no different. I thought about the Amish tragedy at West Nickel Mines school, and I wondered how the Amish felt about the wave of publicity that followed on its heels.
Then I asked myself, what if a highly publicized tragedy like that happened, not to a community, but to an individual Amish family? How would four very different siblings cope with the intrusion of the Englisch world into their sheltered lives? And how would their practical, boots-on-the-ground faith help them through it? I pitched the idea to my agent, Jessica Alvarez, and she gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up.
After reading it, I would too! What are some unique ways that you research for your books?
I don’t know how unique it is—but I talk to people! Like—constantly. As in—all the time. I’m fascinated by people—by their histories, their personalities, their jobs and their hobbies. I’m pretty shameless about asking people to share their areas of expertise with me when I’m writing a book. It’s a really fun part of writing!
I love that idea. What is one of your favorite quotes from Shelter in the Storm & why do you love it?
“When our world goes dark, then we must hold hard to the rope of our faith and trust Gott to lead us out.”
Joseph’s father tells him that—at the time, he was speaking of Joseph’s heartbreak when the girl he’d lost his heart to married his brother. Joseph pulls strength from this later, when a much greater storm breaks over the Hochstedler family. I love the timeless truth of this—that when trouble comes, no matter what sort of difficulty it is, the answer is the same—to trust God. It’s so important to have that faith in place before the storm hits—and to hang on tight to it even when—especially when—we can’t see the way forward.
Very wise counsel. What are you working on now?
I just finished the edits for book 2 of the Johns Mill Amish series Strength in the Storm—and now I’m busy writing book 3! I’ve also got edits for a Love Inspired book waiting for my attention. It’s a good thing I like to be busy!
My goodness, you are a busy lady! Surely in order to publish two books or more a year you must have some unique writing habits/quirks?
Nothing too weird. I tend to get up super early so I can write before the rest of my family wakes up. I can be really nit-picky, so I tend to go over and over and over each story, writing and rewriting it. (I am so impressed by writers I know who can get by with two drafts—it takes me way more than that!) And while I’m writing, I drink lots of coffee and Diet Coke, and I chew lots of sugarless gum!
LOL! I’m an early-riser, too. You get a lot of writing accomplished before the rest of the household wakes up.
A friend once asked me, “What is important to you? What are you so passionate about that you cry out and pound your fist on the table?” What is your pound-on-the-table passion?
That people—particularly Christian women—particularly Christian women writers—realize how very valuable and wonderful they are. I know so many of these delightful and talented women who doubt themselves constantly, who battle a chronic sense of inadequacy, who don’t think the stories they write really make a difference or matter in the great scheme of things. But oh,–they do. They really do! Our world desperately needs these beautiful stories—every single one of them. I think each of these stories is a candle sputtering against the darkness—and we need ‘em all. And remember–nobody can tell your story—except for you! (I’ll quit pounding on the table now, lol!)
You can pound as much as you want, Laurel. Because that message is worth pounding for!
The August Author Highlight Giveaway!
Laurel has graciously offered a JUST PLAIN WONDERFUL giveaway for this month’s winner! An autographed copy of Shelter in the Storm. To enter, post a comment below about the interview. On Friday, August 13th, one entry will be randomly selected.
And if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll subscribe to my monthly newsletter below — I have two special surprises for you. And, you’ll have another entry into the giveaway!
One Winner! And it could be you! Be sure to tell your friends and family to come on by and enter! Drawing takes place on Friday, August 13th!
NOTE: WANT TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING THIS INCREDIBLE PRIZE PACKAGE?
Check out my YouTube Author Highlight interview with Laurel. In the video interview she will answer different questions, and provide some fun insights. By Liking and Commenting you will have one more entry. Sharing the video, another entry. Subscribe, and you have TWO entries for the chance to win.
That means, my friends, if you comment and subscribe -– or are already a subscriber -– to my blog, then watch the video and LIKE, SHARE, and COMMENT, then Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, your name will be entered SIX TIMES!
Be sure to tell your friends! See you there!
Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed getting to know my friend Carrie Turansky and her books. Next month’s Author Highlight is award-winning author, Emily H. Jeffries. God Bless and Keep Reading!