A Gift of. . . A Wedding Invitation (Guest Blog by Alice Wisler, author)

Today, a real gift for you readers of Christian inspirational fiction. Alice Wisler, author of three published books by Bethany House Publishers, has graciously agreed to share about her newest book, A Wedding Invitation, available now at Barnes & Noble, Family Christian Bookstores, Lifeway, and online. Welcome, Alice! I’m so excited that you’re taking time to talk with us today.

AW: Thanks, Jean! I’m glad to be here.

SS: Tell us a little bit about your latest book, A Wedding Invitation.

AW: A Wedding Invitation is loosely built on my stint as an English teacher in a refugee camp in the Philippines in the 1980s. While the camp had refugees from Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, I focus on the Amerasians, children of Vietnamese women and US soldiers during the Vietnam War. Their plight is tough and I take one girl, Lien, and carry her through so that readers can get a glimpse of her life. Since my novels with Bethany House all take place in North Carolina (my state!), I also set the story in Winston-Salem.

SS: Was there a specific thing, person, or event that triggered the writing of this book?

AW: Once I received an ornate wedding invitation that was not for me! It was for the former home owners of my house. From there, I thought of how I could incorporate a refugee camp, a romance and a boutique in Falls Church, VA, as well as a butterfly-raising aunt in North Carolina into a story.

SS: I especially like your portrayal of the complex relationship between the main character, Samantha, and her mother Cecelia. How do you feel their relationship is typical? How is it atypical?

AW: I think many daughters have a tough time with their moms. Samantha wants her mother to be more vocal and demonstrative with her love. But Cecelia is more candid, reserved. The two do care and love each other, they just show it in different ways.

SS: Explain to us who Carson is, how he and Samantha met, and how he extends the “gift of grace” to others.

AW: Carson sees life as a glass half full. He and Samantha met at the refugee camp where they worked together, teaching English-as-a-second language to Southeast Asian refugees. Carson not only teaches, but learns Vietnamese so that he can better communicate with his students and their families. When Lien is accused of theft, he believes in her, and not in the accusations. He steps out to speak in her favor even though he is reprimanded for his actions.

SS: Samantha herself bestows a “gift of grace,” when she tries to help Lien, the young Amerasian girl she knew in the Philippines. How does she do this?

AW: When asked to help Lien find her birth mother, Samantha has to spend more time with the young girl. Samantha learns to forgive and to see that there is beauty in Lien. Lien might be loud and rowdy, but she is also loving and grateful. Lien also is seeking after God, wanting to be more trusting of Him, and like most of us, she wants to be accepted and to belong. Gradually, Sam’s heart changes. I think she is the most surprised by the change!

SS: Thank you so much, Alice. We’re eagerly looking forward to your next book, which will be–?

AW: My next novel is Still Life in Shadows, coming out with Moody Publishers in the early fall of 2012. It’s about an ex-Amish man who helps other dissatisfied Amish escape the old lifestyle. Lots of twists and turns and even a murder, so a bit different from my novels with Bethany House. However, Still Life in Shadows is still about relationships and seeking God’s help, as well as filled with southern-isms and humor.

SS: I look forward to reading it, Alice!  May you have a blessed Christmas. . .

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

6 Reasons to Love the ACFW Conference

Having arrived home a few days ago from an action- and information-packed American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference in St. Louis, I’m still sorting through my myriad impressions.  Here’s a brief list of take-aways for me, as a fledging writer:

1) PEOPLE! On the macro level. . .

So many wonderful Christians who are there to teach, to learn.  There’s something wonderful about the body of Christ gathering in one spot together. . including the sheep who might be a little different from us.  . .  Yet the mass effect of Holy-Spirit cancels out differences and gels us together like nothing else can.

2) PEOPLE! On the micro level. . .

The delightful, lovely folks I bumped into all day long, wherever I went. . .God put each of them in my path for reasons only He knows, but we are “knit together in Him” (Colossians 2:2) like I’ve known them forever. . .I will continue to bounce ideas off of them in the future. . .and get their advice.

I don’t have a picture of one sweet friend, Julie, who prayed for me right before my editor appointments. But two other of my newest friends, Connie (in pink) and Elizabeth (pictured with me) are below:

3) Favorite authors I’ve read. . .

Going to the bookstore and actually seeing Terri Blackstock signing her books. .  Picking up a Karen Kingsbury novel off the table and finding it already signed. . .seeing and hearing Colleen Coble introduce a speaker at our general assembly. . . listening to Brandilyn Collins wonderfully emcee all conference long. . .

No, there are no pics of them; I didn’t stalk the more famous among us. I figured they just wanted to attend the conference like normal folks. (Although, I did manage a picture of Brandilyn from a distance, up above.)

4) Exciting new authors. . .

Attending an Erin Healy workshop on “Breaking the Rules in Christian Fiction”. . .taking notes on Jenny B. Jones’ “Dialogue Do’s and Don’ts”. .  . being steered to a new women’s fiction author, Gina Holmes, whom I now have downloaded on my Kindle, ready to read (thanks, Sabrina!). . .

5) New trends in writing. . .

How Young Adult fiction is picking up steam, targeting the vast market of young folks who gobble up anything supernatural/vampire/werewolf, etc, but presenting it with a Christian worldview. . . . and similarly the area of what’s called “speculative fic”, written for fantasy-seekers. . .I can’t write it, but I certainly appreciate the effort that goes into creating these genres. And don’t even get started on a topic foremost in a lot of  minds–that of e-pubbing–

5) Editors and Agents. . .

Getting to pitch my book baby to lots of different people in the industry of Christian publishing. . . treasuring their helpful and affirming feedback. . .where eating and sitting next to these movers and shakers helps me realize that yes, they are human, and as a new writer friend told me, “Realize these people wear underwear just like you and me!”. . .

6) Encouragement, hands down. . .

Writing is a lonely activity, yet ACFW was one big opportunity for me to mix it up with others who create books. I have come away with lots of craft instruction on HOW to write, sure, but the most valuable are the contacts He’s given me that I pray He will use to His glory.

If writing in God’s Name for the sake of God’s Kingdom doesn’t result in glorifying the Lord Jesus, then we should all hang up our pens/computers right now and find something else to do.

Yet we do.  Our hope, our mission, is that with stories we will continue to touch those readers who DO know Him. . .and reach those who don’t YET.

May Jesus be praised!

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

Countdown to Conference

In eight days, I”ll be flying to St. Louis for the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference.  There I’ll get to hang with a bunch of Christians who are writers–an awesome combination in my book.  (Sorry, unintended pun. )

The road to published author is a hard one. We newbies have been coached that certain things will not occur at the conference.  We are advised to keep our expectations realistic and LOW. Therefore I acknowledge:

  • I will not. .  . find my dream agent, who will hear my Work-In-Progress pitch and who will immediately sign me on as a client.
  • I will not. . . meet an eager editor from the perfect-fit publishing house, who will also hear my pitch and issue me a contract.
  • I will not. . . become a groveling groupie around the famous authors whose books I read and greatly admire.
  • I will not. . make it all about ME.

As advised, I do have other goals in mind.

  • I will . . .seek to see people through Jesus’ eyes with the Holy Spirit’s enabling–always including others!
  • I will . . .form new personal friendships and partnerships with other attendees to cultivate in the future.
  • I will. . .learn all I can about the craft and business of writing.
  • I will. . .leave my business cards in the hands of some publishing professionals. Who knows?  God may make inroads for me down the road someday because of these initial contacts.

I do this because it is an investment in a dream.  Four days of my life, spent with a wonderful group of people (much more like family than strangers), all gathered for the same reason.  Writing to His Glory!

I can’t wait!

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn