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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Spotlight on Bonnie Leon and To Love Anew

Well, I'm back! I had every intention of posting on Monday to update everyone from the past 3 weeks, but my computer was delayed getting here. So, I'll post this coming Friday instead.

For now, here is this week's spotlight.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bonnie Leon is the author of fifteen novels, including the popular "Queensland Chronicles" and the "Sydney Cove series" and the bestselling Journey of Eleven Moons. She also stays busy speaking for women's groups and teaching at writing seminars and conventions. Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in southern Oregon. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.

TO LOVE ANEW
By Bonnie Leon
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SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

1. You have stepped to the edge with the issues such as rape, miscarriage and betrayal in this book. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

I've been involved in church ministry for many years and have met with, cried with, and prayed with many who have dealt with these and similar issues. My family is included among those who have suffered from the exploitation and abuse of others. Too often the church doesn't know how to approach or to help those who are hurting or living with the scars left behind.

The obvious traumas are more easily seen and less complicated to deal with. There is often need for healing and for forgiveness and generally we know better how to help in these areas. But it's the "stuff" that's hidden inside of individuals that we either don't see or don't know how to mend, especially the wounds we, as individuals, keep hidden inside. It's sometimes easier to forgive others offenses than our own. And too often we look at ourselves with contempt.

There are no easy answers and I certainly don't have them, but I wanted to explore the issue. I have never forgotten the heartache and self-loathing I saw in a close friend many years ago when she told me she’d had two abortions. "Every time I think about it I want to scream," she said. I've always wished I had the power to soothe away the agony she carried. But of course that's not up to me, only The Father can erase those kinds of hurts.

So many of us carry heavy burdens, unable to release them to God and accept His forgiveness and love. Just like Hannah we live in torment.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Hannah and John? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

Bits and pieces of me and my personal experiences end up in my books and in some of my characters. This story hits very close to home. Like Hannah, I have had a miscarriage, I experienced rape, and betrayal. Life is filled with mishaps and injustice. And like Hannah and so many others I have carried shame and guilt.

I met Christ when I was twenty-three and for many years I saw myself as repulsive and unlovable. But Christ changed all of that—in a moment. The day I met Him I became a new creation and understood that He loves me, just as I am. I realized I was worth loving for I had been created by God. My joy had no limits. I probably should have been tied down for my first six months as a believer—I was intoxicated with joy.

To answer the second part of your question, John and Hannah, of course, are not me. John is much more adventurous than I am and I am not inclined to hang onto wrongs done to me.

John, though a believer, relished his hatred of his cousin. Of course Henry betrayed John in appalling ways, but that doesn't make John's reaction acceptable. He is only human, though, and so he has my sympathy. Only through God’s grace did he relinquish his resentment.

After what she's done, Hannah has difficulty believing God can love her. From the first moment I believed I've never doubted God's love for me, even though I've acquired a long list of sins since that day. Hannah is stronger than me. Although she has her moments of despair when she's pushed to the edge, she doesn't give up. And when Lottie comes into her life she has someone else to care about.

3. What themes exist in To Love Anew that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

The obvious message is that God forgives all sins. There is no sin, no suffering, no heartache too great for Him. We can trust Him for He knows the plans He has for us—He knows the beginning and the end. And He loves us no matter what we might do.

A theme that emerged as I wrote the series is that God's ways are not out ways. And that we can trust Him far more than our own unreliable perspectives. And I was a bit surprised at John's depth of hatred for Henry. And his response to finally achieving retribution—vengeance does not satisfy.

4. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

The prison scenes in London were difficult because I didn't want them to look like every other prison scene we've read in books or watched in movies. Yet, they had to be real. As a writer it's my job to take readers into the scenes in such a way that they can see it, feel it, even smell it. I tried to focus on the characters, making them and their responses to the circumstances the point of interest.

Toward the end of the book there is a scene where John goes after Henry. It was difficult for me to write because I had no idea what the area north of Port Jackson (Sydney) looked like at that time. In order to help readers see the terrain that the characters were traveling through I had to see it. If not for my friend, Jayne Collins, an Australian and fabulous researcher, I'd have gotten it all wrong. In the end, I think the descriptions turned out well.

As far as a favorite scene—I always love writing high drama and in this book we have a lot of that.

However, one of my favorite scenes is when the ship sails into Sydney Cove. It is a fabulously beautiful place and for months the prisoners have spent most of their time locked beneath decks in the horrid hold. When they sail into Sydney Cove Hannah and John are on deck and are enraptured at what they see. Hope is reborn and they wonder if this new land might offer them a future.

I'm big on never giving up and hanging on to optimism. God can do more than we can imagine or even hope for and often does the extraordinary when all looks lost.

5. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

Book two in the "Sydney Cove Series" should release in the Spring. The story continues with John and Hannah, the familiar cast of characters, plus a few new faces as they continue the adventure in New South Wales. It's a story of deception and the consequences paid when we try to hide the truth. Hannah still struggles to accept God's will for her life and we'll get a glimpse at what that is. Readers will be cheering for some of the characters and wishing they could bash others.

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Thank you, Bonnie, for being in the spotlight. Readers, feel free to leave a comment for your chance to be entered in the drawing for a FREE, autographed book. If you don't wish to be entered but only leave your comment, say so when you post. This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

5 comments:

Deborah said...

i own this book so no need to enter me but i just wanted to say Congrats again on your wedding!!

tetewa said...

Glad your back and congrats on the wedding. Please enter me in the drawing. tWarner419@aol.com

Cherie J said...

I already own this one so don't enter me in the drawing. I just wanted to say welcome back. Congrats on the wedding. Can't wait to see some pictures.

Tiff/Amber Miller said...

Well, Teresa, looks like this book is all yours. I've emailed Bonnie with your mailing information. If you have any preferences for how she autographs the book, email me and let me know.

Congratulations!

Another spotlight up this week!

tetewa said...

Glad to see that I won, I'm looking forward to the read. Thanks again!