Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Texas Author Rachel Phifer

Hello Rachel! Welcome to the Loft. Is there a story behind your book, The Language of Sparrows?

I was a high school teacher for several years, and I’m a bit of a mother hen in my children’s education, so writing about a brilliant but troubled teen and a gifted teacher seemed like a natural fit. Though of course, the story is about much more than Sierra’s education. It is most of all a story about friendship and healing.

What started you on your writing journey?
It’s the stereotypical writer’s answer, but it’s true: I’ve been a writer practically since I could hold a pencil. I loved reading stories and writing my own stories growing up. I didn’t take it seriously though until my kids were born. Don’t ask me why. It makes no sense. I was working and taking care of my family. I had no time for writing. For some reason I was drawn to storytelling like never before, even when it meant getting up at 4 a.m. to write and editing during my lunch break. I’ve noticed that a lot of women begin writing after the birth of their kids. Maybe giving birth opens up another part of our brains, LOL.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading? 

I love novels that explore relationships and give the characters the chance to grow and to find some kind of redemption. My favorites are Linda Nichols (At the Scent of Water) and Dale Cramer (Levi’s Will). My dear friend and critique partner, Christine Lindsay, published a historical romance this year set in India, Captured by Moonlight. It was a great adventure, and also blew me away with its spiritual themes.

Which character in The Language of Sparrows most interested you while you wrote?

I fell in love with each one of my characters as I wrote, and would happily spend the day with any of them. Nick’s scenes came most easily to me, and he’s the one I’d love to sit with and just learn at his feet. He’s a gifted teacher and has an unusual way with people. Unlike the other characters at the beginning of the story, he’s already found a way to turn his past into something productive. His turbulent youth helps him reach out to hurting teens, and he’s learned to trust that even when God seems silent, He’s still there, still working behind the scenes. That faith has enabled him to be something of a hero.

What is something you learned while writing The Language of Sparrows?

At the time I wrote my first draft, my pastor was regularly reminding us to reach out to others in our daily life – our neighbors, our coworkers, our relatives, etc. I’m rather shy, and my life was messy. I didn’t think I had it in me to reach out to anyone or had anything to offer if I did. As the story came together, I realized my characters had even messier lives than I did, and yet when they offered friendship to each other, it turned into something powerful and extraordinary. All of us have times when our quirks, our less than picture perfect lives, maybe even our brokenness, is the best we have to give someone else. But God can use that. It’s our handful of loaves and fish. We offer it. God transforms and multiplies.

Let's have a little fun. What is your strangest habit?

For some reason, I think better when I’m walking. So I take long walks along the creek in our neighborhood, but when I’m in writing mode, I’ll wear out the carpet pacing next my laptop too. I also pace when I’m on the telephone, apparently with one hand behind my back. I never realized I did that until my two-year-old daughter started pacing, one hand behind her back, the other holding her toy cell phone to her ear. Both of my girls are too old for toy phones now, but they still pace while they’re chatting on the phone. You never know what you’re unintentionally training your kids to do!

What do you like most about the area where you grew up?

I grew up in eastern and southern Africa, mostly in Malawi. Though it was and is one of the poorest countries in the world, it was also a place of great natural beauty and space, even in the cities. Life was slower. The people there worked harder than you can imagine, but taking time to be friendly always took precedence over the schedule. I love Houston, where I live now, but there are a lot of days where I miss that more personal way of life.

What's your favorite meal with family and friends? 

To be honest, I’m a distracted cook and I have more under-cooked and scorched meals to my credit than I want to admit. I’ve spent too much time talking to my characters and not enough watching the stove, I suppose. So my favorite meal is the one someone else cooked. I like experimenting with different restaurants and love big dinners with my extended family. I can usually be trusted to bring the salad or soda.

When I was in college, my Romanian roommate would bring her mother’s wonderful food back to the dorm with her. To me it seemed to be a cross between Greek and German. While I was writing, I turned to her for some recipes since Luca likes to cook. Here’s her recipe for langoş, a pastry Luca makes in the story:

2 lbs of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 instant yeast envelope
Feta cheese and dill for filling

Knead and leave for 1 hour till the dough rises. Grease counter top or cutting board with oil and make balls out of the dough. Leave 15-20 min. Take each ball and roll it out. Place feta cheese and dill in the middle. Make a pocket of it and close it. Roll it again and then deep fry in oil on both sides until golden brown.

That recipe sounds wonderful! Thanks! Now, could you share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you?   
Psalm 42:7 & 8:
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

By day the LORD directs his love,

at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
I first remember reading this psalm when I was in college and was struck by its beauty. It’s in the middle of a psalm of despair, but these verses right in the middle show such hope – of a life with God that is immersed in him, baptized in his presence really. Night and day, dark and light, His presence never leaves. It runs like a waterfall to the depths of a river. It sings like a song. No wonder David was a man after God’s own heart. 
When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?

I’m still early in the first draft, and am calling it Ember for now. When Ember is assaulted outside her office one night, her rising career is brought to a halt. In the down time at home, she begins to look around her, and realizes she hasn’t been paying attention to the people around her. The little girl next door appears to be raising herself. And her friend has run away from her husband and career without ever hinting something was wrong.

Thanks for sharing with us today!

Connect with Rachel Phifer:

Rachel Phifer is giving away a copy of The Language Of Sparrows. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.



Anonymous said...

Hello friends. A interesting interview. Rachel I see you live in Houston. I am your neighbor from Pasadena. Do you ever have any book signing around our area? I would sure love to win your book. By the way, I also pace when I am on the phone. I am a follower of this blog. Thanks for this give-away.
MAXIE mac262(at)me(dot)com

Teela said...

Rachel, I was excited about the pastry recipe but being a southern gal, was totally expecting SUGAR in this pastry. haha...I will try it anyway, as we entertain alot. Thanks for sharing in your interview, very interesting. I hope I win your book!The Language of Sparrows sounds really interesting. teelayoung at hotmail dot com

Rachel said...

Hi, Maxie. You are close. The book just released last week, so no book signings yet, but I hope to have one eventually. If you like my facebook page it will keep you updated about happenings. Or you can simply check at my website from time to time: www.rachelphifer.com. Thanks for your interest.

Rachel said...

LOL, Teela. Yes, cinnamon rolls and peach tarts are my thing. But the Langos is really very good. I haven't had one in years, but still remember them.

Linda Kish said...

I would love to read this book.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

sm said...

I would like to win THE LANGUAGE OF SPARROWS because I have never read any of your books and you grew up in Africa and so did I, so we must have some things in common. thanks , sharon, ca

squiresj said...

I would love to win this and get to know your work. I've not read any of yours.
jrs362 at Hotmail dot com

Deb Forbes said...

The book sounds great and so does the recipe

rubynreba said...

The Language of Sparrows looks very good and enjoyed the recipe too!

Veronica Sternberg said...

This sounds like a fascinating story! shopgirl152nykiki(at)yahoo(dot)com

Hope Ford said...

Awesome interview :) Rachel, I loved your comment about having babies opening up another part of a woman's brain lol! I would say you hit the nail on the head! Your book sounds really interesting, as well as the one coming out next :)


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