Friday, January 31, 2014

A Very Warm Welcome to Lisa Hess

I'm tickled pink to introduce Lisa Hess here today! And her book sounds fantastic! 

Is there a story behind your book Casting the First Stone?
There are a couple, so I’m going to tell the one I don’t usually tell.

I go to a large church, and so impatience in the parking lot when it’s time to go home is a common occurrence. One Sunday, as I sat waiting for a break in the traffic and several drivers passed by without even making eye contact, let alone allowing anyone to merge, I wondered aloud at the incongruity of spending more than an hour in church, then forgetting everything in the parking lot.

That started a stream-of-consciousness series of thoughts on the drive home, including speculation as to whether or not going to church made someone a better person, all of which sparked the creation of a character who talks the talk but doesn’t necessarily feel he needs to walk the walk.

By the way, my church has since changed the parking lot patterns -- LOL! -- no connection, though.

What started you on your writing journey? 
Not a what, but a who -- my middle school English teacher, Miss Lee. She also taught me to love words and the importance of choosing just the right word to convey exactly the message you want to send.

What distracts you from writing the easiest?
Noise! And the older I get, the less noise it takes! Running water, clinking dishes...I’m terrible! Any sort of conversation is the worst.

Oddly enough, I’ve learned to work in ambient noise that doesn’t call to me to do things. When I’m having trouble focusing at home, I often go to my local Starbucks to write. The same noises there don’t bother me as much because they blend into the background instead of reminding me of what I need to do around the house. If it gets too loud at Starbucks, I put in my earbuds and listen to music...which, oddly enough, I can’t work with at home. I’m a study in contradictions when it comes to distractibility!

What kind of books do you enjoy reading? (Book recommendations very welcome!)
I enjoy character-driven fiction, particularly when it’s not predictable. When I know what’s going to happen by the end of the first chapter, I have no desire to finish the book. Because of that, there are certain subgenre of women’s fiction that I never read...unless the book was written by a friend.

That said, I will stick with the feeblest plot in the universe if I like the characters. Hook me on a character, and I’m yours.

My favorite books are The Art of Racing in the Rain, which my sister recommended to me for at least two years before I finally read it (silly me!), and To Kill a Mockingbird, which I re-read last year when my daughter read it for English class. Gorgeous prose.

Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote? Why?
I love all of my characters! I love Marita’s feistiness, and I admire Angel’s unwavering devotion to her family and her faith. The best friends (Bets and Gina) were fun to write, but for different reasons. Bets softened Marita and showed how much she’d grown from the girl who got pregnant at 16 to the responsible mom who still wanted to have fun. Gina’s a counterpoint to Angel, so the contrast was fun to write.
Even the baddies are fun to put on the page. Carmella is such a villain, and while Jim is not someone I’d want to hang out with, I know why he is the way he is...and that made it easier to tolerate him.

What makes you smile and/or laugh out loud?
My daughter. I’m so blessed to have a teenager who is cool and fun, and who shares wacky stuff (like the things she finds on Facebook and youtube) with me. And sometimes, she says things that just make me laugh out loud.

What is your favorite season of the year?  
Fall. I love the beauty and the smells of fall in Pennsylvania. Much as I’d love to live in a more temperate climate, I would miss the trees in the fall if I moved to somewhere like California.

What do you like most about the area where you live and/or grew up?
Though I’ve spent most of my life in Pennsylvania, I grew up in NJ, and will always be a Jersey girl at heart. I attribute my feistiness and determination -- both of which I’m happy to embrace -- to being a Jersey girl.

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them? 
I hate to clean. I love to organize, though, so the best cleaning at my house happens when I have to organize something. Fortunately, my husband picks up the slack, and while I have a pretty high threshold for dust and clutter, I have a low threshold for actual dirt.

Where is your favorite place to travel/vacation in?
The beach. There’s just something about the beach that’s not just a destination, but a way of life. I’m more relaxed there than anywhere else...which is funny, because I fry in the sun (so I hang out under an umbrella in shorts and a tee shirt when I’m actually on the beach) and I don’t swim. There’s just something about the atmosphere -- I get some of my best ideas there.

Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?
I like to write about how real people face challenges to their faith. In Casting the First Stone, Marita rejected not just the church and the people who let her down, but God as well. Angel, on the other hand, is determined to hold on to her faith and let it guide her through a very discouraging period, but is also finding that that’s not as easy as it sounds. When people go through rough patches, they often go to one extreme when it comes to faith -- embrace it, like Angel, or reject it, like Marita. The really interesting part is what comes next -- after that decision.

Where do you escape for some quiet time to reflect, pray, read, etc?
Because I no work outside the home every day, there are lots of days that I have the house to myself when my husband is at work and my daughter is at school. I’m very spoiled by the amount of quiet time I have -- my challenge is making sure I use my time wisely and well.

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you. (and why it's special)
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

When I was making the very difficult decision to dive off the deep end and take an early retirement, I hung onto this verse. Now, when I catch myself worrying about what’s going to happen (or not happen), I go back to it so I can let go and let God. As a friend of mine says, “He hasn’t brought me this far to abandon me now.”

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
No due dates for the next books, but I’m working on several things: a non-fiction book on the topic of organization, revisions on a second novel in the same genre as Casting the First Stone, a possible sequel to Casting the First Stone and a collection of blogs. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on self-publishing and am thinking I might give it a shot with the organization book, though I’m not sure I want to go that route with the rest of the projects. Most are fiction, and significantly longer, and I’m not sure that’s a battle I want to take on. We’ll see.

To buy Lisa's book, go here:

Casting the First Stone:  Amazon

About Lisa:

Lisa is a transplanted Jersey girl who has lived in Pennsylvania most of her adult life. A graduate of Bucknell University, Lisa worked as an elementary school counselor for 27 years before deciding to plan her work life around her family life. Now, she works as a writer, community education instructor and adjunct professor of psychology at York College of Pennsylvania.

Lisa is the author of two books inspired by her interactions with her students, Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce, along with numerous blogs and articles. Her latest book, Casting the First Stone is her first novel.

Connect with Lisa here:


LISA is giving away a copy of Casting the First Stone. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses.
To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You may enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Happy Reading!

Caroline Brown


Linda Kish said...

I would love to win a copy of this book.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

cjajsmommy said...

I think this book carries a relevant message that needs to be heard by many. Please enter my name to win a copy. cjajsmommy (at) gmail (dot) com

Lisa Lawmaster Hess said...

Thanks for commenting, ladies! Be sure to get your info to Sharon so I can get the book to you, Linda, and Sharon, I'd be happy to send some "swag" your way if you are interested. Just let Sharon know how I can get in touch with you.

I hope you enjoy the book!

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