Love&Ashes: A Women’s Bible Study of Love, Loss, and Ultimate Romance is a book that addresses the question of “Where is God when love fails?”
We all have ideals of how our love life should pan out. And those ideals do not include issues like death, divorce, infidelity, sexual addiction, or life-long singleness. And yet real life all too often brings us face-to-face with these realities.
In Christian circles, we tend to avoid talking about many of these issues altogether and so when love fails, we feel God has failed us.
Love&Ashes begins with modern real-life love stories where everything does not turn out okay. These stories draw us into Bible Study where readers explore the lives of the Biblical women who suffered similar struggles. Finally, Love&Ashes challenges readers to explore the issues of their own lives and discover God’s presence, especially in the ashes.
Tell us something about yourself.
I grew up in rural Texas but now serve as a missionary in eastern Hungary, near the Romanian border. My family and I work with orphans and refugees as well as Hungarian youth in general. My husband and I have one biological child and have adopted two children from the orphanage here in Hungary where we organize programs.
I began as a political writer in Washington, DC in the late 1980s and went on to serve as editor of Beverly LaHaye’s Family Voice magazine, a publication of Concerned Women for America. I have contributed to two volumes of Cup of Comfort and have had articles published in Chuck Coleson’s Breakpoint Magazine among others.
What inspired you to write this book?
I would say that it was a combination of my own experiences mixed with what I witnessed in the lives of young Christian women. You see, in the mid 1990s, I came through a divorce that shook my world to its very core. I was always the “good Christian girl” who did everything “by the book.” When I married I expected it to be forever. I genuinely believed divorce could not happen to me. Then I found myself trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship, marked by sexual addiction and ever escalating bullying. Still, I believed if I prayed hard enough or fasted long enough, my marriage could not end in divorce. But then it did, and where was God?
It brought me to the brink of giving up on God altogether. And it made me re-evaluate what I really believed and pare away some of the misguided perceptions I had about God and love and romance.
More recently as I talk with young women, I see they have a lot of the same misperceptions that I had about God, love and romance. And so I wanted to write a book that explored love honestly with all its ashes.
How did you choose the title?
I wanted a title that had a element of seeming contradiction to it. Love is often associated with beauty and springtime. Ashes represent death, loss, and pain. In real life and real love the two concepts become inextricably linked.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
It is really quite difficult to break into the publishing world today. In this economy, publishers want “tried and true” authors with a large, established following. I can’t fault them for that. They need to survive. But I am just a missionary half a world away from my primary market so from their perspective I am not a good bet.
I had an agent for awhile but he really specialized in fiction so his contacts were not ideal for this manuscript. Meanwhile I kept seeing women to whom I wished I could give this book. I knew I needed to get this book published for ministry purposes more than to establish a writing career. So I began to explore print-on-demand options and ultimately went with Createspace.
Many believe that self-publishing is the “kiss of death” for aspiring authors. Perhaps they are right, but I believe there are sometimes bigger issues than my personal success as a writer. And if this book helps a few women sort through love and romance in the Christian life in a healthy way, then I think it is worthwhile.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I have always enjoyed writing so it was a natural fit when I was in college exploring career options. I was a political writer in Washington, DC for about a decade before pursuing other types of writing. And when I left the states to minister overseas, writing became more of a sideline for me as working with orphans and children took more center stage.
At that point writing became very therapeutic as I tried to sort through the tragedies these children faced and the injustice of it all. And I often wrote to promote awareness of those who suffered from war, abuse, and neglect.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I write best in the morning after the kids get to school. I love to sit at my computer with a cup of tea (Lady Grey or Constant Comment) at my side.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
Absolutely. With modern technology, there is much an author can do to promote a book, even from half-way around the world. Radio interviews and blogtalk radio shows are all quite do-able through skype and I’ve learn ways to get my message out through on-line magazines. Balance is key. Trying to figure out how much time I can a spend promoting the book and how much time writing other things is a challenge. All that has to be balanced with time with God, family and ministry. It’s something that I have not fully mastered but I am learning and improving all the time.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would have a more definitive marketing plan. I think I resisted this a little because it tends to be so rooted in self-promotion that I find it a bit egotistical. But if one truly believes in their message, they must get that message out if anyone is to benefit from it.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I love Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy and CS Lewis’ A Grief Observed. I appreciate books the demonstrate a genuine Christianity that is not afraid to pose the tough questions and has enough faith to believe God can handle our honest doubts.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I have completed two youth fiction manuscripts. The first is rooted in the legends of the real St. Nicholas and I am working with a Hungarian illustrator on that right now. I hope to release it before Christmas 2011.
The other deals with the phenomenon of Third Culture Kids, that is, kids like my own who grow up straddling two of more cultures which gives them a unique perspective on life.
I am also beginning to formulate Love&AshesII.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Write from your heart and experience. Seek to benefit others through your craft. Don’t get lost in the “me.”
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
Love&Ashes appeals to women of all ages and marital statuses: single, married, divorced, widowed. The stories in it have something for every woman. I believe young women will especially benefit from it.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?