Friday, November 21, 2008

Let Them Eat Fruitcake by Melody Carlson

Melody Carlson is a familiar name in Christian fiction. She's written fiction for adults, children and teens--150 books in all. And she's won awards. "Let Them Eat Fruitcake" is a Christmas-time novel and is part of the 86 Bloomberg Place series.

Here's the back cover copy:

It's the holiday season, and all of the roommates are a little blue. Megan's dealing with a ridiculous boss, and now her mom is leaving her alone for Christmas. Lelani can't afford to fly home and isn't sure she'd be welcomed. Anna's old boyfriend has sailed back into her life, just when she's met a for-real "nice guy" (who she's keeping away from her crazy Latino family). And Kendall's got a crush on a famous actor who might be the answer to her money woes if she could only convince him she's the love of his life. Thank goodness God's around to listen!

Let's face it, relationships can be hard work whether they're with family and friends, coworkers and customers, or boyfriends and girlfriends. And when you've got your first house, a real job, and grown-up responsibilities, relationships are loaded with confusion, emotion, and secrets you can't tell to anyone but God.

Here are my thoughts:

Melody wasn't afraid to tackle tough issues right from the beginning in this David C. Cook imprint. Writing this ensemble cast allowed her to explore some very real, and some might say “edgy,” elements. But she also provides a balance by including a Christian witness in the midst of her storylines. Because I had several books ahead of this one in line I wasn't able to finish reading it before the blog tour deadline of today, so this "preview" will have to suffice. It's sort of a "first impressions preview" rather than a review. What a reader can likely expect is the redemption of the edgier elements as the book progresses. You'll have to read it to find out. :-) And if you're like me, you enjoy reading seasonal books this time of year, so this one is an addition to your stack of Christmas fiction for reading during the holidays.

Here's an interview with Melody:

Tell us a little bit about your background and your family.

I grew up in a non-church-going home with divorced parents and considered myself an atheist until my teens when I did a complete 180 turn and gave my heart to Christ. I’ve been married 30 years (to the same guy!) and I have two grown sons and a four year old granddaughter. Also a lovable chocolate Labrador named Bailey. We live in the Cascades mountains in Oregon. I’m a full time writer.

What has God been teaching you lately?


It seems like I have to keep learning some lessons over and over again. Particularly patience. I am, by nature, the most impatient person I know. I want it done and I want it done now. And I want it done right…yada-yada. But that’s not how life generally works. And it’s not how God usually works. So I have to continually remind myself to keep my mouth shut, to keep praying, and to JUST WAIT. You’d think I’d have it down by now (hear my impatience there?) but I don’t. I probably never will. I can imagine being 100 years old and on my deathbed, saying, “Okay, God, could you just hurry it up, please?”

What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?


We’re pretty low key about the holidays. Mostly we enjoy being with family members and try to keep things light and bright. My husband’s birthday happens to be Christmas day and years ago, he decided he prefers lasagna to turkey so we have “Christmas lasagna.”

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?


I think it changed a lot. Everything from a lawyer (since I loved to argue) to a doctor (except I don’t like gore) to a teacher (probably because my mom was one). I never seriously considered being a writer (although I wrote all the time) because that seemed like the impossible dream to me.

How did you get involved in writing?


In my mid-thirties, I got the strongest desire to get serious about writing. I’d been doing some op-ed pieces for the newspaper and suddenly I just wanted to write a book. Fiction, of course. So I simply began writing and it seems I’ve been writing ever since.

How do you find time to write?


I treat writing as a fulltime job, which it is for me. Aside from procrastinating, I usually write daily (Monday through Friday, office hours) until the book is finished and then I give myself “time off” until it’s time to start the next one.

What did you enjoy most about the writing process?


I love not knowing exactly what’s going to happen next. I don’t outline, and I’m as surprised as the reader when a story takes a twist or turn.

What was the most difficult aspect of the writing process?


Sometimes I’ll procrastinate. I’m not even sure why exactly, but it’s like I get distracted with any little thing that will keep me from sitting down to write. But then, once I sit down, I write pretty fast anyway, so maybe my procrastination is actually a way of stewing on a story before I begin putting it all down in writing.

When you write do you generally know where you’re headed or are you sometimes as surprised as your characters about the way things end?


Yes, as I said above, I don’t know. I guess it’s that impatient thing again, but I would be bored if I knew where the story was going. I’m a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. That used to worry me…until I realized there are others out there just like me. Viva la difference!

Tell me about your road to publication.


I really wanted to write fiction, but back when I started writing there wasn’t a lot of fiction in the Christian market. To me that meant there should be more. To publishers it meant “it won’t sell.” Thankfully I was right—there needed to be more. But for my first few years, I was rejected time and again (for fiction). I just kept on writing until I had about five books completed (some adult, some teen). And finally an editor who believed in me asked if I’d consider writing nonfiction. So I did and it sold. About the same time I began to sell my fiction as well. Fortunately I have my little stockpile of books, all which sold. And, over the years, I’ve published with some of the very same publishers who originally rejected me. I guess, besides being impatient, I’m also persistent. In the publishing arena, persistence pays off.

What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?


Like I just said, be persistent. But besides that, write and read A LOT. Take a writing class. And perhaps most importantly (to me) was to join a critique group. I learned so much from that group. Also try to keep an eye on the market—ask yourself what kind of books are selling? What kind of books are not? Finally, write from your heart—you’re a one-of-a-kind original and you probably have some one-of-a-kind stories to tell.

Where did you get the idea for the book?


Having written for teens for nearly a decade, I wondered about my readers who were in their twenties now. I think that’s a hard age these days and I wanted to create something that would speak to that young career woman who’s trying to sort out her life, her values, her friends, her faith…. I think fiction is a great way to teach truth and my hope was that these 86 Bloomberg Place characters living together under one roof would inspire readers to be better friends, share their faith, and live life more fully.

What are the major themes of the book?


I jokingly tell people that 86 Bloomberg Place is like that old TV sitcom “Friends” with faith mixed in. The main themes are relationships, life decisions, and where faith fits in.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?


I hope they’ll enjoy a few laughs, a peek into the lives of some very human-like characters, and perhaps a spiritual challenge that they’ve found tucked between the lines.

Will we see any of these characters again?


Let Them Eat Fruitcake is the second book in a four book series (86 Bloomberg Place). The next installment is titled Spring Broke and the housemates end up going to Maui, where some mysteries about Lelani’s life are resolved. Also, there is romance and few other surprises. The final book is Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah.

You can find "Let Them Eat Fruitcake" by Melody Carlson on www.amazon.com and her website at www.melodycarlson.com

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