Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Ada. Can you tell us a bit about your family, and what it’s like where you live?
When I landed on earth, I barged into a big family, escapees from the Kansas Dust Bowl and almost survivors of the Great Depression. The older kids thought Mama and Daddy had enough children. My oldest sister, Marjorie, was so mad at Mama for having another baby she wouldn't look at me for a week.
Daddy and my oldest brother worked for $1 for a 12-hour day shoveling coal out of railroad cars onto trucks. Yet, Mama believed things were going to get better. They'd bought a 10-acre farm in an irrigated valley in Western Colorado. Fruita was at the base of gorgeous red mountains which surrounded the Colorado National Monument. It
Not quite as spectacular as the Grand Canyon, but the red Rocky Mountains are gorgeous.
Marge finally did check me out, and I grew up in a fabulous loving family. Shortly after I was born Marge went to church with a friend and gave her life to the Lord. Miraculously all of my older brothers and sisters had friends who were Christians and eventually all 10 of us, including Mom and Dad dedicated our lives to the Lord. I'm the newspaper reporter (I had experience with news as the family tattletale) and free lance writer. One brother went into the ministry and the other two have been in ministry and missions, but two became Christian educators, spending the bulk of their teaching years at Evangel University.
In my immediate family my husband, Les, and I have five children, one of them in heaven, eight grandchildren, and three greats. All of our children have been or are in Christian ministry. I praise the Lord they're all serving the Lord, as our grandchildren are.
Thank you so much for sharing that with us.
Question: Is there a story behind Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult?
I began the novel when I taught an after-school and summers program for upper elementary and middle school at our church. Another book, Imagine the Future You, is an outgrowth of the Dynamite Decisions for Youth, motivational Bible study that I wrote as curriculum for "The Dunamis Academy" I started.
The second summer, each day in the afternoons I read from Joe the Dreamer. You see, the kids worked diligently in the mornings with intense Bible study and memorization, and one day a week, puppetry. I decided they needed something relaxing and fun in the afternoons and wrote a chapter of Joe for each day. They loved the suspense.
I had two other reasons to create the story, and that was to let them (many were unchurched) know the Bible is exciting. Joe, trying to increase his faith to believe God would bring his missing parents home, reads the Bible every day and at night slips into the skin of Bible characters—Joseph, Daniel, one of Joshua's spies that went into Jericho, etc. This gives the book a spiritual payload.
Question: What is unique about the setting? How does it enhance the story?
Joe sees the new castle built in the mountains near his home while going down the natural water slide with a group of friends. He investigates by himself, but runs into "No Trespassing" signs and the entrance is chained.
Then he connects with a friend in his old neighborhood who leads a gang, The Gallant Guardians, who use harmless weapons like water, rope, sand, noise and a pet skunk to prevent or solve crimes in their neighborhood. The gang offers to help Joe find his parents. Since Joe wants to investigate the castle, it is fortunate that Thumbs can drive.
Question: Did you have a specific theme in mind as you wrote Joe the Dreamer? Did a theme pop out as you finished the book? Did the theme change?
The theme from the beginning was "God answers prayer." Joe's parents, Darin and Rose Baker, whose plight is shown in the subplot, also pray for miracle. But Joe and his parents know faith is without works is dead, so they do what they can. Joe's parents were abducted because their captors want a computer software program for a device that could stop seizures. The captors want to use the device to cause seizures in influential Christians. The radical group hopes to obliterate Christianity from the earth.
Question: What is the last thing you wrote?
Outside of blog posts, the last I wrote was three devotions for a teen magazine: "Are You Brainy?" "You Have a Text," and "Watch."
Question: What’s your favorite genre of writing?
Whatever I'm writing at the moment. I sometimes write op-ed articles for newspapers; non-fiction articles and books targeted to a number of different audiences; and fiction for Sunday school papers and books. I plan to write sequels to Joe the Dreamer, and I also plan to create them for my yet unpublished historical novel, The Lady Fugitive. A publisher is considering this book. If it's not accepted, I will make it an Indie-book because I don't want to invest more time in marketing.
Question: Who is the most fun character you ever created?
Pete, Joe's friend, is a fun character. He's one of those teens who reads encyclopedias. Drives Joe nuts.
Here's one occasion: Pete helped Joe put unsold dishes and pots and pans into boxes. “Did you know the city of Buffton, Indiana, has a citywide garage sale every year?”
“You’re a walking encyclopedia, Pete.”
“My problem is that the words keep leaking out of my mouth,” Pete chuckled. His new eyeglasses gave him a scholarly look despite his red baseball cap.
“That town must have been quite a sight on garage sale day, with all those garages going down the highway.” Patrick exploded with laughter.
Another from Pete: As they waited in the front yard for Centipede, Pete stared at a butterfly on one of his mom’s yellow mums. Evidently, monarchs were migrating.
“Did you know butterflies taste with their feet?” Pete asked, bending his head toward the butterfly, which quickly flew away. “That’s where their taste sensors are. They stand on their food and taste it.”
Joe and Sham shook their heads and frowned at their friend.
“I’ll bet mixing your food with toe jam helps the flavor,” Sham said with a howl.
“You’re a real book of knowledge,” said Joe, chuckling.
Another from Pete: “Did you know people grow pumpkins all over the world?” Pete said. “Besides being good for pie and making jack-o’-lanterns, their blossoms are tasty in salad, or you can eat the flowers with your sandwich instead of fries.”
“Eeeeuuuuu!” murmured Cockroach.
Pete enthusiastically continued. “The seeds are also good to eat, and Indians used them to make medicine. Before we discovered antivenom, they were tried as a snakebite cure. Women used pumpkin for a beauty mask and found the stuff could bleach out freckles.” He grinned at Shamrock. “That’s not all,” Pete continued. “They’ve grown pumpkins that weigh over a thousand pounds—but they’re 90 percent water!”
“I’ve always wondered about that,” joked Thumbs as he navigated a curve on the dark highway. “Dad grew one pumpkin I figured weighed at least five hundred pounds. I know a guy who weighs about that much, and it looked like him. Had knobby ears and everything.”
The van shook with the erupting laughter.
“That’s about what Centipede looks like he weighs in his outfit,” said Cockroach. “That fat looks almost real. Where’d you get those clothes?”
“Where else?” answered Centipede, grinning. “From Thumb’s big friend.”
Question: Who is the most annoying character you ever created?
One from Joe the Dreamer is Sandy Zogg, the divorced psychiatrist's daughter.
Joe looked at Sham Zogg’s sister again. She brushed her silky blonde hair back and tucked it behind her ears. Her pink cheeks glowed and pulled back into a gorgeous white smile. Her stylish jeans and red T-shirt completed a pretty picture. Joe took a deep breath.
“Mom said beauty is skin deep,” Joe whispered.
Peter grinned. “She’s right, but—ah, it’s nice to look at. Solomon—the biblical ‘ladies’ man’— said ‘Beauty does not last, but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.’”
“Hi, guys,” Sandy greeted them.
Petra took a step closer. “If there’s anything I can do to help ….”
Sandy Zogg wrinkled her nose. “Phew! You guys smell and look like you need a bath! What‘cha been doin’?”
“Helping Joe’s uncle with a garage sale.” Peter bent and brushed his jeans.
Joe sighed. Embarrassment and the urge to run argued for control of his brain.
“Where’s Patrick?” Sandy flung her hair over her shoulder. “My family’s going out for pizza, and I thought I might invite him.”
A frown crunched Joe’s face. “Isn’t he a little old for you?”
“Are you jealous?” she purred.
Question: Do you have a writing system? What works best for you?
Number one is sit down and get to work. I lead a busy life, though, so I have to grab time when I can get it. It helps to write the lead for non-fiction or the opening paragraph for fiction to get me started. Then when I come back, I usually am able to continue and write at a fast pace.
Question: What or who is the biggest influence on your writing?
My greatest desire is to be used by the Lord to win souls or be an encourager. My blog includes the words "Stick-to-your-soul Encouragement," which is my brand as well as my name.
Question: When is your next book due out and what can you tell us about it?
I have a audio version of Imagine the Future You, a motivational Bible study, which should be available in a week or two, depending on corrections. The Amazon narrator told me it's almost ready, and emphasized he was blessed by the book.
That sounds exciting. Thank you so much for joining us here today.
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Or have your local library order it in for you!
Our featured author, Ada Brownell, is giving away a copy of JOE THE DREAMER: THE CASTLE AND THE CATAPULT. You may have your choice of a paper copy or an ebook . The paperback 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. (It's not too late to go back and leave a comment on yesterday's post)