Sunday, January 30, 2011

with Eleanor Gustafson

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Eleanor!
What started you on your writing journey?

Probably my mother reading to me before bed each night. She didn’t think much of my early attempts at writing and saw me only as a musician, but the seed had been planted and had to grow.

What most easily distracts you from writing?
In a word—life. Interacting with people who need attention or a word of love and encouragement. Email, of course, comes in there, big time. Church involvement. Husband tending. Answering questions for Author Interviews. . . . :-)

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
Starting in 1979, I have written down every book read, starring the ones I really liked. My all-time favorite novels are Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. Other favorite books are anything by Daphne DuMaurier, Philip Yancey, Charles Dickens, John Eldridge, Tim Keller, etc. Anne Perry has become a favorite detective writer, though you have to be into Victorian malfeasance. Contemporary Christian novelists would include Angela Hunt (Afton of Margate Castle), Susan Meissner (The Shape of Mercy), Davis Bunn (Heartland), Jerry Jenkins (Riven, Hometown Legend), and Lynn Austin (Fire by Night).

Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote?
Well, we can talk about The Stones, which is on the market, or Dynamo, which is currently searching for a home. In the David story, I can’t decide between his third wife Abigail, former wife of Nabal the fool, or Joab, David’s ruthless commander-in-chief. Both are complex characters, but they share an intensity of purpose and direction, though in totally opposite ways. In Dynamo, I like Maybelle, an old lady who serves as Christian mentor for the main character. She has taught me a lot. An excerpt:

Jeth called Maybelle one Sunday afternoon. He desperately needed the balm of her voice and heart. “Maybelle, I’m in a junkyard. Three people, totally broken. And I can’t figure how the pieces go together.”

“Jeth, remember what I told you. God is in the salvage business. He’s put you there with all that brokenness. Do you remember the verse, ‘I can do all things through Christ who—’ Can you finish that verse, Jeth?”

“All things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“No, that’s not always how it goes. ‘I can do all things through Christ who weakens me.’ The Apostle Paul had to learn that. When he was in trouble, God said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness.’"

“ ‘Through Christ who weakens me.’ The Revised Maybelle Version. You’re something else! You got me here in one piece, you know. Did Rob tell you about my not being able to see much?”

“He did. God put blinders on you so you’d have to trust him.”

If you were a style of music, what style would you be?

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Am I limited to one? How about stretching the life of warm, furry slippers with duct tape? People do notice and surreptitiously ask my husband if they could buy me a new pair. Or wearing clothing, some of which dated back 50 years, to make a point in a church Missions Moment? (A few people, not knowing what I was up to, told me how nice I looked.) My husband and I are probably the only couple in the world who have celebrated their 33 1/3rd, 44 1/4th, and 55 1/5th anniversaries. I have run a chainsaw, helped build our house (hands on, up on the roof, etc.) run a maple-syrup evaporator, sewed a 15-foot tepee, climbed a sheer cliff in Supai Canyon, AZ, with the inside leg seam of my old slacks totally gone from hem to hem. With three men. Your choice of quirks.

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
Oh, all the time, every day. But they go on a list, and the list MUST be obeyed!

What's your favorite meal with family and friends?
My favorite meal with family and friends is one I don’t have to cook. I do cook, though—the hard way (first you grow the food, then you clean it, figure out how to hide healthy greens palatably, etc.)—but it’s never anything I do for fun. Here’s a recipe I cobbled together. (I’ve always wanted to write a Cook’s Book for people who already know how to cook and can adapt recipes to suit their tastes and quantities. This is the sort of recipe I would include. If the idea sounds good, play with it.)
Saute chopped-up sweet potato and onion and maybe some collards or other greens in olive oil till nearly done.
Break up multiples of two slices of bread (preferably whole-grainy types), depending on how many people will be eating. Toss them into the fry pan.
Add 2+ eggs (1-2 pp) and stir madly, coating everything and adding just enough milk to make it hang together. Keep cooking till the eggs look done.
Add pepper somewhere along the way, maybe some grated cheese, and there you go. Fast, easy, AND my husband likes it.

Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?
As my “official” bio says, I like to explore the cosmic struggle between good and evil in light of God’s overarching work of redemption. Grace is, of course, a big one. Dynamo showcases God’s sovereign activity in saving and molding a true servant who rises from the ashes of personal disaster to help bring redemption to the brokenness around him. It’s a theme that challenges me, and I hope it will similarly challenge others.

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
2 Corinthians 12:9— “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

When I first went to Wheaton College and explored the bookstore, I saw and bought a small, spiral notepad with this verse on the cover. Didn’t much know what it meant, but I think God knew I would need it throughout my life. Again and again, it has spoken to me, reminding me that it is not my cleverness or skill in writing that will move me along, but God’s power working through me in whatever direction he chooses.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
In raw faith that it will be published, here’s the blurb on Dynamo:

Jeth Cavenaugh hires on with Rob Chilton at his stable of show jumpers and a cranky five-gaited stallion named Dynamo. He studies Rob and Katie’s spiritual commitment but doesn’t step over the line of faith until his girlfriend Janni slaps him viciously. From then on, God begins to work in unorthodox and unsettling ways. But he does have a church friend Maybelle who serves as his interpreter in this foreign territory.

Jeth’s obsession with the stallion Dynamo leads to a tragic accident and recovery, after which he is placed in an excruciating situation, needing to defuse three bombs. Jeth himself must become “Dynamo,” pushing his body and spirit to the cliff’s edge in his attempt to bring redemption to the brokenness around him. This is God in your face: Who is he really? What does he ask of us?

The three main characters in the novel are God (subject), Maybelle (verb), and Jeth (object). The story is not about horses; it is God acting sovereignly. Jeth takes him seriously, and in return, God puts him through spiritual boot camp to turn out a trained, disciplined, and effective servant. I have tried to counter the common perception of a God who exists only to serve each person’s needs, rather than the all-powerful God who is “greater than our mind and heart and perfectly free to reveal himself where and when he wants.” (Henri Nouwen)

Maybelle, an old lady who serves as Jeth’s personal prophet and God interpreter, loves Jeth and walks him through the spiritual minefield of God’s unusual activity in his life. She sees, even before Jeth becomes a Christian, that God has chosen him for a special purpose. Drawing on the Old Testament prophets, she feeds him passages that strike terror in his heart but that bolster him at critical moments.

Scriptural Inspiration: The God of Ezekiel and Daniel; the sovereign God who pulls and shapes and lifts Jeth into the unfathomably rich fellowship of suffering servanthood.

You can purchase The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David from Amazon.

Eleanor is giving away a copy of The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David . To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.


Marianne said...

The more i read about Eleanor G and the book Stones, the more interested i become. Thanks for entering my name, and for the chance, Esther.

Meredith said...

I love meals that I don't have to cook either!! Luckily, my boys are becoming good cooks, and since they are always hungry, there's almost always something yummy to eat.

meredithfl at gmail dot com

Joanne Sher said...

Ooooh - Definitely want in this giveaway! Book, and lady, sound SO cool :)

Anonymous said...

Want a chance at getting this book!

Anonymous said...

would love to win this book.It sounds so moveing.

Charlotte Kay said...

I love reading about King David!
We can learn so much from him!
Thanks for the giveaway!
Blessings and Smiles,
Charlotte Kay
charsaltz at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

would love to read this book...thanks for the chance :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Roanna said...

Please enter me for the book. Thank you! :)

ohiobuckeye91 [at]gmail [dot] com

Judylynn said...

Please enter me in this giveaway. Sounds like a good book!


Linda Kish said...

Please include me

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

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