Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Warm Chat & A Slow Burn

Some authors write humorous books that make me laugh out loud as I read. Others transport me to another time in history and give me a taste of my heritage.

Mary DeMuth reaches into the closets of the heart, exposes the harsh reality of the bleakest human conditions, and then shines the light of God's love and redemption. In A Slow Burn, the second book in her Defiance, Texas trilogy, I was once again compelled to tarry alongside desperately hurting indiviuals and see beyond the brokenness and destructive choices to the souls crying out for God to fill their emptiness, although they didn't yet recognize to Whom they were crying out. And while the story is fiction, the searing of my heart was as real as the pages I held in my hand.

I had a similar experience when I read and reviewed Daisy Chain, the first book in the trilogy, back in February. I loved it. And I wanted to run away from it. For the story contained some aching truths about life that I would prefer to pretend didn't exist.

And then I met Mary at the Christian Book Expo in March. After harassing teasing her about the trauma she had inflicted on me, I sat down to have a serious discussion with her. What a privilege and blessing that was. She's an incredible woman, full of depth and passionate about her message. And just a whole lot of fun as well!

Even though this blog tour is for the second book, A Slow Burn, it's important to back up a bit to see a glimpse of her heart in writing the series. We talked about both Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn.

[Daisy Chain] has some tough stuff in it! Tell me about it.

It started with a conversation with a friend of mine who had grown up in one of those homes where the father was an upstanding community member, but behind closed doors there was wrath and anger. And so there was a huge dichotomy that really messed with him as far as who was God, and who was God the Father, and it made me really mad when I heard that story and plenty of other stories like that. I wanted to expose that and peel back the layers a little and show why it’s not cool to act one way in public and be praised for how holy you are and yet not act that way behind closed doors. I wish I didn’t have to write about that, but that’s the story God laid on my heart.

It’s bad for the church to have inauthentic people in positions of leadership. Then it’s just a show, and I don’t believe Christianity is a show! It’s a life transformation from the inside out, and if we come at Christianity from the outside in and say “Okay, I just gotta look a certain way in public and that’s what a Christian is” then we’ve really missed the boat.

(We talked about the other characters in the story and how they are a strange assortment.) Is there anyone normal in this town?!

(Laughing) That’s why it’s called Defiance, Texas – nobody’s normal!

I always love books set in Texas but this one’s really messing with me!

Yeah, it’s not your typical Southern hospitality book! Bald Muriel just showed up in the book. I had no intention – I had no idea who she was; I just started writing this scene and she just showed up. And she needed to be in there. She’s definitely a redemptive element in that book. She just has a genuine relationship with God.

So many of you authors just have multiple personalities from what I can tell– people just “show up” in your books!

Yeah, my husband thinks I’m crazy, I’ll say, “You won’t believe what my characters did.” And he’ll say “You wrote them!” And I’ll say “I know, but they just did this!”

We discussed why she writes about such hard themes.

What I’d like to come across in my novels is: yes, you can go through the grittiest, darkest thing in your life, absolutely, but God is still bigger and still brighter and lighter than that tragedy. My moniker is Turning Trials to Triumph, so if I can show the darkest dark, it shows God’s lightest light even more spectacularly amidst that backdrop. So that’s my heart and my passion behind why I would write about something like that.

Returning to one of the characters, Daisy's mom, Miss Emory, led us into the second book.

Miss Emory – she’s a piece of work! She’s actually the primary character of the second book, called A Slow Burn. I wanted to explore what it would be like for a mom to grapple with issues of guilt and how do you get out of that? Because obviously in the first book you see her as not a positive role model as a mom; she’s not on MOPS International!

Now you have kids, right?

I have three. I have a girl who’s 16, a boy who’s 13, a girl who’s 10.

Was this not painful for you to write and think about and live? It makes me tear up just thinking about reading it!

It was painful, especially to think about what if my child was taken and trying to explore what that would be like as a mom. But I was really surprised at how hope-filled the second book turned out to be.

I need to know that – that there is hope. Some people say “I just don’t want to read about bad things happening to kids.”

Yeah, I know and that’s really hard. I guess maybe part of it is that I was one of those kids. I was a kid that tremendously bad things happened to me, and I’m okay today. I have a memoir coming out in January with Zondervan called Thin Places, and that explores all of that. I’ll expose all the issues of growing up in a crazy, drug-infested home and the sexual abuse and all the things that come alongside. So I have a really dark story, but God really intersected and healed me, so I love to show the contrast of the darkness with the redemption.

The third book is also going to grapple with some sticky issues, some of which the church hasn't been willing to address. It comes out next spring.

(I'm going to save that part of the interview for another time, like when it's getting closer to the time for release. Just a little something to whet your appetite!)

* * * * *

A Slow Burn is truly a gripping novel. As Mary mentioned, the focus is on Miss Emory, who is wracked with guilt over what has happened to Daisy. Anyone who is a mom can identify with the self-reproach and the second-guessing, the "if onlys." And Emory certainly has a boatload of maternal regrets. As she painfully discovers, her continued poor choices and ineffective coping mechanisms only magnify her despair, her grief, her bitterness, and her unwillingness to reach out to Jed, Daisy's broken-hearted friend who blames himself for her disappearance. To protect her own vulnerability, she lashes out at Ouisie and Hixson, the two friends who repeatedly offer kindness, support, and loving truth. Don't they realize she is beyond redemption? And why do these cryptic letters keep arriving in the mail, containing prayers and instructions to visit difficult places and uncover gaping wounds that she'd rather leave alone?

What will it take for Emory to realize how deeply she is loved? A Slow Burn is a masterful story to ponder long after the last page is turned.

Mary DeMuth is an expert in the field of Pioneer Parenting. She helps Christian parents plow fresh spiritual ground, especially those seeking to break destructive family patterns. Her message guides parents who don’t want to duplicate the home where they were raised or didn’t have positive parenting role models growing up.

An accomplished writer, Mary’s parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture, Building the Christian Family You Never Had, and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God. Her real-to-life novels inspire people to turn trials into triumphs: Watching the Tree Limbs (2007 Christy Award finalist, ACFW Book of the Year 2nd Place), Wishing on Dandelions (2007 Retailer’s Choice Award finalist), and Daisy Chain.

Mary is a frequent speaker at women’s retreats and parenting seminars, addressing audiences in both Europe and the United States. National media regularly seek Mary’s candid ability to connect with their listeners. Her radio appearances include FamilyLife Today, Moody Midday Connection, and U.S.A. Radio network. She also has articles published in Marriage Partnership, In Touch, and HomeLife.

As pioneer parents, Mary and her husband Patrick live in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France where they planted a church.

Learn more about Mary at her website and her blog!

To find a list of other stops on the blog tour for A Slow Burn and to read other reviews, click here.

You can purchase A Slow Burn at Amazon. I highly recommend that you do so!


View blog reactions


quilly said...

Having been an abused child and knowing my strength comes from surviving -- from knowing and hanging on to Gos through it all -- I still cannot read books on that theme. I get so angry and so frustrated that I literally make myself physically sick and have horrid nightmares.

Still, I am glad Miss DeMuth rites them, because there are so many people that need the messages that God is bigger than any problem we could have.

quilly said...

-- from knowing and hanging on to GOD through it all --

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

REally interesting interview.

And yes, I wrote #11 with you specifically in mind.

Mary DeMuth said...

Thanks so much for reviewing the book and hosting the interview. I so appreciate it!

A Stone Gatherer said...

I've gotta tell you that I'm almost afraid to read these books! They do sound good and gripping, but I've experienced guilt similar to that and wonder if it will be hard to read. They sound compelling though.

Kim said...

EXCELLENT interview my friend! I can't WAIT to read this!!

CeeCee said...

I need to get off your fan page, but you do great interviews. Keep them up! I'm reading this one now. Mary DeMuth writes beautifully.