I have the honor of welcoming Fay Lamb, whose debut novel Because of Me is available now and let me tell you, this is NOT your typical Christian fiction. We'll jump right into the interview and you can see why.
Fay, please tell us in your own words what readers can expect from your debut novel, Because of Me.
I can tell you they shouldn’t expect it to be your typical Christian fiction. Because of Me covers some pretty tough issues. It’s suspenseful, and there are a few surprises as well as humorous moments.
Your novel covers some tough issues indeed, though in an inspiring way. Was it difficult as an author to tackle the long-lasting scars that sexual assault leaves on everyone involved?
For personal reasons, yes, it was. In Because of Me, I wanted those who read this story to realize that the two women who were victims of sexual assault used coping mechanisms to get them through. While Issie and Roberta might believe those mechanisms worked, we find that beneath the surface some issues remained. Sexual battery is a theft upon a victim’s soul. It takes something from them that they’ll never get back, and for intermittent periods they may not miss what has been taken from them, but there will always come a time when their memories will thrown them back into the nightmare. In times like those, they’ll remember what was stolen, and they will undoubtedly mourn.
That did make for some difficult reading in parts, but because those scenes were so emotional. If I can be very honest Fay, I would never have believed the kind of forgiveness your characters are able to show is believable if I hadn’t heard the testimony of a pastor in India who baptized one of the men who assaulted his pregnant wife and almost beat him to death a few years before. What would you say to a reader who remains skeptical that such Christ-like character can be exhibited by everyday people?
I’d tell them that it may not be easy, but not only is it possible to offer others Christ-like forgiveness, it’s imperative. Christ forgave us long before we even recognized the need for that forgiveness. His love for us took Him to the cross to die for us. If we realize our dependence upon that forgiveness and a need to turn from our sins, He is faithful. There’s no condemnation in Him.
Christ suffered and died for me in a way that I will never fully comprehend the agony He went through, the sorrow at having the Father turn away from Him at the cross—not for anything that He’d done but for everything that I had done and will ever do that separates me from the love of God. How can I bow my head before my Savior and tell Him that it’s okay for Him to forgive me, but, well, forgiveness isn’t something someone deserves from me?
Well said, Fay. Well said. For a total change of pace, I have to know, how fun was it to write Roberta’s character with her I Love Lucy eccentricities, among others, and is she based off anyone you know?
My daughter-in-law, Cheryl, loves all things I Love Lucy, so I got the idea of Roberta’s eccentricities from Cheryl. As far as Roberta’s character, there’s a lot of people I know combined to make her who she is, but mostly, she’s my mother—a side of my mom not many people got to see and a side that I didn’t realize shined through in her life until a long time after she was gone. And, yes, Roberta was very fun to write, but not as much fun as her husband, Ted.
Ted was fantastic. I think the times I laughed out loud were always at some of his barbs aimed at Michael. There's something else I really want to know though. Have you ever personally milked a cow? There are two featured in Because of Me more prominently than I would have expected. So have you and if not, do you want to?
Ah, that would be a no on both counts. I did watch my pastor milk a goat at a petting zoo once. While I enjoyed a good laugh watching him do it (and so did all the pre-school kids on the church field trip), I was thankful I wasn’t the one they pulled out of the crowd.
Interesting. I actually would love to milk a cow, or even a goat, at least once. But enough about cows. Let's talk about heroes in Because of Me. Michael was a classic hero but what surprised me is how much I came to love Kip. I don’t want to ruin anything for the reader but that moment in Roberta’s diner where he asks forgiveness and he explains the scar running the length of his face stayed with me for a long time. Did Kip surprise you at any points in the writing process?
Kip surprised me from the start. He was always meant to be one of the antagonists, but he wasn’t having anything to do with that role. The most surprising thing to me about Kip was the fact that although he’d had a part in causing Michael and Issie to lose so much, when it was all over and done, he actually is the reason they end up with so much. In the book, there’s only a brief mention to the protection he afforded Michael in the most dangerous of circumstances. That moment could very well be overlooked, but Kip’s protection allows Michael to give Issie a very valuable gift and provides the readers with one of the sweetest twists in the story.
Kip was a surprise to me too as a reader, and ended up my favorite character of all of them. Cole was a VERY close second, though. Another surprise for me to appreciate were some stellar parenting moments. One element I’d like to ask about is the safety measures Isabel had in place for her son. The safe room, a secondary and always charged cell phone, the knife in the attic door, they all seemed like good ideas in any family, not only those with dangerous felons out to get them. Can I ask where you learned those skills or how you decided to write them in?
I mentioned my mother above. She was a victim of a very violent crime. The night before my sixth birthday she was shot in the face. She survived, but a portion of that bullet and the fear of that moment remained inside of her. The man who shot her was actually released from prison only six years after he committed the crime, and he came back to finish what he’d started. He ended up back in prison, but my mom was thrown into a prison of her own. She was wrapped up in her fears. If she’d known about a safe room, she’d have had one, even in our tiny little home. She did, however, always carry Issie Putnam’s weapon of choice, and she always taught me to be careful around that weapon.
And, oh, the knife. Many of my cousins will recognize where I got that idea. Our grandparents’ house had a hallway door behind which were attic stairs. Stabbed between the frame and the wall was a butter knife that was prevented anyone from pushing the door open from the attic side. It was a safety measure in case someone entered the house through the attic windows. As a kid, the attic was a scary enough place, so seeing that knife in the doorframe was always a comfort to me.
I'm so sorry that happened. I won't even pretend to be able to appreciate the gravity of enduring such a thing. We all have different seasons and ways that our world can be yanked out from under us that make for a long road back to wellness, even with the Lord. Who do you think had the harder journey to wholeness and healing? Michael or Isabel and why?
Issie did. No doubt about it. Issie may have believed she’d moved on, and where it concerned her, she may have. But when it came to the wrongs done to Michael, her anger and resentment pour through. She’s unyielding until Michael becomes Issie’s example, but it’s hard for her to let go of the anger she has for those who harmed the man she loves.
I wonder if that's common to women everywhere. We can get over what's done to us, but don't mess with the people we love. That reminds me of Michael's mother. Though we never meet Michael’s mother, Grandma Rhonda, I felt like I knew her and that in many ways she contributed to the shaping of the end of the novel by pouring love and speaking truth and hope into Cole as much as she could. How would you defend that as walking in faith and not manipulating an impressionable child?
When I think of Cole’s Granny Rhonda, I always look at Cole as being the Lord’s outstretched arms for Rhonda. Her son was taken away from her, and in his place is a little boy that many would say shouldn’t have been in her life at all. Rhonda had a faith in God that allowed her to see Cole for what he was—a precious gift, but she also knew the heart of her son. Her telling words to Cole, the words Cole repeats to Michael, could only have been said in faith. And from them, Michael is able to feel the outstretched arms of the Lord as well.
Yes, that scene he tells Michael how he knows he's his dad was one of the most tear-filled moments but I'll stop before I ruin it so readers can experience it themselves. With regard to readers, what do you hope they take away from Because of Me?
In the novel, Michael tells Kip, “Move forward.” Truly, my prayer is that the words of Romans 8:28 will have lasting meaning to the reader, that they will see it played out in the pages of Because of Me, and that they will be able to “move forward.”
While Romans 8:28 is often a verse of comfort once we get through the trials of our lives, it’s always one of the toughest verses to grasp when we’re in the midst of our troubles. We don’t want to think that the awful things we’re going through will someday be turned to good. We’re more likely to ask God how He could put us through what we’re going through at the moment.
We spoke about forgiveness earlier. Do you realize that Romans 8:28 is the most poignant example of God’s forgiveness. All things . . everything that we find ourselves up against, whether caused by our walk away from God or caused by others, God will turn those things to good for us. Wow! Even when we sin, God is making provision. He doesn’t condone our sin. He’d rather we not walk in it, but that forgiveness is a done deal, and with this forgiveness what is preventing us from “moving forward.”
As your debut novel, please describe what it was like to get THE CALL.
When I learned Treble Heart wanted the story, I was a little numb—happy, but numb. I’d always thought my short contemporary romances would be the stories I contracted first. My husband had wisely counseled me that my novels like Because of Me were ambitious, and I’d need to prove myself with the smaller, less complex stories first. So when I got the communication that Treble Heart not only wanted to contract it, but they didn’t expect to change the story at all, I was very happy. I think the numbness came from realizing that in all my careful plans to make a breakthrough in the industry, God wanted to take a different route—the one I would have rather taken all along.
While I stood there in shocked silence, my husband was the one who showed the emotion. He has always been my biggest supporter, and when I wanted to give up, he wouldn’t let me. Maybe he was just relieved that all his hard work had paid off as well.
Hats of to Mr. Lamb for sure and congrats again. Thank you so much Fay, and write on!
For those of you who may not already know all about Fay, she is an acquisition editor for Pelican Book Group, offers services as a freelance editor, and is an author of Christian romance and romantic suspense. Her emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Because of Me, her debut romantic suspense novel is available at all book retailers and Treble Heart Books/Mountainview Publishing, www.trebleheartbooks.com/MVLamb.
Fay’s passion is working with and encouraging fellow writers. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she co-moderates the large Scribes’ Critique Group and manages the smaller Scribes’ critique groups. For her efforts, she was the recipient of the ACFW Members Service Award in 2010.
In 2012, Fay was also elected to serve as secretary on ACFW’s Operating Board.
Fay and her husband, Marc, reside in Titusville, Florida, where multi-generations of their families have lived. The legacy continues with their two married sons and five grandchildren.
Not your typical Christian fiction.
Michael Hayes’ fiancée, Issie Putnam, was brutally attacked and Michael was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Now he’s home to set things right.
Two people stand in his way: Issie’s son, Cole, and a madman.
Can Michael learn to love the child Issie holds so close to her heart and protect him from the man who took everything from Michael so long ago?
Available through all fine book retailers, Amazon.com, and Mountainview Publishing (http://www.trebleheartbooks.com/MVLamb), a division of Treble Heart Books.
Fay has generously donated an e-copy of her debut novel Because of Me, to a lucky commenter selected at midnight next Saturday night. You know the drill. Leave me an e-mail or make sure I have a way to reach you. Please ask any questions, share any thoughts, or just show her some love!