What compelled you to write?
I am different from most. I had no desire to write for most of my life. I did well in school and scored high on any writing assignments, I just didn’t enjoy it. It was a task to get through. It wasn’t until my forties that I even considered anything fiction. The short of it is that our family served in Mexico as missionaries, and I found an escape through writing. I think I couldn’t process some of the pain and injustice around me, so I created a story world where I could. Where the good guys always won and where redemption was not just “possible” but guaranteed.
So, your debut novel, Something I Am Not … Why did you chose to write about human trafficking?
I didn’t start out with that in mind- the story just grew in that direction. Billy was oppressed for sure by his dad, but I didn’t know how deeply at first. Our team had a women's shelter in Mexico that handled many cases of trafficking, etc and I hungered for a happy ending. As the story grew, I wanted (needed) it to be redemption in the face of that darkness. But even more, I wanted it to be a message about living under the wrong father—believing the shame of our brokenness and the lies the enemy throws our way—and the freedom in finding the right one. It became a faith allegory for me. Billy's life reflects what it means to live under the wrong dad and what happens when he comes home. And that no matter how far we are from Him, the Lord can reach us and turn even our most bitter ashes into gold.
Who inspired some of the scenes in Something I Am Not?
Some came from my dad. Not in the relationship between Billy (my main character) and his father, but in the scenes themselves. I have always been fascinated with my dad’s childhood. He grew up after the Depression. During a time, in my mind at least, that seemed slower than it is now. Boys spent most of their time with their buddies outside. My dad shared stories of trapping muskrats, shooting bee-bee guns, and accidentally burning down his detached garage (now he tells me it was only the couch). In fact, when Billy McQueen and his best friend Pepé shoot the pumpkins off of Farmer Sanchez's fence post and get caught by the sheriff, Pepé shoves the pellet gun down his pants to escape trouble with the law—that was my dad and his best friend (who happened to be the sheriff's own mischievous son).
Any of the boxing scenes in both of my books, SOMETHING I AM NOT and my newest, REGENT, also came from my dad. He grew up in Chatham, NJ. He and his buddy used to ride their bikes down to a boxing training center at the bottom of Snake Hill to watch the fighters. He spent hours ringside and I picked up many stories and boxing details from him. Especially the mention of Kid Gavilan in REGENT.
Tell us about your character Billy in Something I Am Not:
Billy is seventeen and trying to balance two lives. One with his friends and mentor (his voice of faith), and the other with his father in the boxing club. It’s an allegory in many ways of how we all live—balancing the voices of truth and lie. Living, often times, under the wrong father. Believing our value comes from what we can do and how well we do it. Believing the voices—from others and often in our own head—that say we’re a failure, less than. That we could never measure up because we are too far gone. That’s the story of Billy. That’s how he sees himself. Broken. Filled with shame. Alone. That’s his inner journey.
And where does someone run in the face of his deepest shame? Many times it can bring us to the destruction of ourselves, and of those around us. We can become the one thing we are actually running from. We can choose those things that we think help us escape it, but in the end, they speed up our own obliteration.
Or we can choose freedom. We can choose to live under the right Father. Finding wholeness at the foot of the cross. Believing in who we truly are despite ourselves.
Did you always know how the story would end?
Actually, no. I had a perfect plan for the ending. A very romantic, satisfying ending. When I got there, I wrote several versions of it. But nothing fit. It didn’t feel right. I tried again and again to have it turn out the way I wanted it. But ultimately, my characters themselves wrote the end of the story. That may sound odd, but it was true. They had taken on a life of their own. They knew how it should end. The romance is there, but it's not how you think it will go. Blame them. They took us there.
Do you have any questions? Is there anything about the story or the author that you would like to ask?