Thursday, May 27, 2010
Author Interview: Laurie Lewis
No, Awakening Avery is current, so it’s a nice diversion from my historical work.
What is the message behind the title, Awakening Avery.
Our lead character is an LDS author/wife and mother who gets catapulted from her comfortable support role in the family to the lead after the untimely death of her wonderful husband. Although her husband, Paul, had been slowing fading for a long time, Avery had closed her eyes to the toll his illness and death had taken on her and her family. Her oldest son tells her he needs to get away to deal with his grief, and she is forced to face some hard truths—things are falling apart in her once perfect family, and instead of preparing for the eventuality of Paul’s death, she has been shriveling away. Avery needs to step up and take action, a daring thing that requires her to grow and stretch in ways she never imagined.
So is this story primarily about handling grief?
The Thompson family’s grief is the vehicle we use to address the major theme of the book, which is family vigilance. Their grief opens cracks in their spiritual veneer that weakens them, and makes them vulnerable, but hopefully readers will recognize that all of our families are vulnerable if we lower our vigilance for whatever reason. But another lesson from the book is the power available to us as we draw upon our families and friends for strength. The book is very hopeful.
The themes are serious, but you call Awakening Avery a chuckle-out-loud and grab-a-hankie read. Why?
Avery is grieving, but she goes through a summer of self-discovery where she opens her narrow world up to receive a host of quirky new friends. They all have life experience and strength she can draw from, and she discovers she has a few things to teach them as well. So it’s not a sad book. Parts are very tender—happy tender and sad tender— and parts are a riot. We’ve got some fun, crazy characters in here.
Like Teddie and Rider Davis? They’re hilarious!
Yeah, I love them! They remind me of kids playing dress-up, but they have already been through the fire, and under all their designer duds, they are people of great substance. They have been tested in the crucible of faith, and they are stronger because of it.
And George? I hear the dedication of Awakening Avery is also very personal to you.
It is. It reads, “To my father, Allen K. Chilcoat, the chef behind the magic of slumgolian and peanut-butter balls; and to my mother, Bernice, who kept us alive despite his kitchen exploits.”
Of all the books I’ve written, or that I will ever write, this one probably best reflects my childhood memories of my father. He is the model for George because when Dad went into the kitchen to cook we knew it was going to be an adventure.
So Slumgolian is a real dish? You actually ate it?
Oh yes! I think the recipe had its beginnings in Iceland where my father was stationed for a time. The men threw whatever they had into a pot and called it Slumgolian. One evening when we were camping, after a long day of crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay, my dad offered to make dinner. Mom was horrified at what was being thrown together—baked beans, chicken noodle soup, corn, peas, you name it—but Dad insisted we’d love it. It looked dreadful, but Dad’s presentation and sales pitch transformed it from slop to Slumgolian, a very exotic foreign dish.
And the Kool-Aid pancakes and Peanut Butter Balls?
Yeah, they were all my dad’s recipes.
Avery is an author. Was that meant to be another biographical element?
No . . . I needed Avery to have a career that made her mobile enough to take this journey, and to provide her with a tool with which she could measure her personal growth. Writing her as an author fit that bill, and I already understood that industry. For Avery, her writing and the writings of another author—Axel Hunter—provide an outlet for expression . . . of her grief, her fears, her hopes. I think we all need an outlet. Hopefully one of our outlets is good friends.
Axel Hunter figures critically in this book.
Neither Avery nor Gabriel sees any personal life for themselves after their spouses die. Axel’s books open their eyes and hearts to possibilities they had shut out. As a writer, I’d love to think my books made a difference like that in anyone’s life.
That’s powerful, but there is also great power in humor. I love the story of the Carson sisters and the pink flamingo rug!
That was the most fun scene to write! I hope to begin a new pink flamingo trend in home décor!
The Thompsons are LDS but the Carsons are not. That becomes a major theme in the book as well.
Awakening Avery explores the additional tensions that arise in a marriage when religious differences exist, and the devastating consequences that occur when partners allow that to build a wedge in their family. The absolute essential nature of strong families is the underlying theme of Awakening Avery.
So what other projects are you working on?
I’m still promoting my Free Men and Dreamers series. Volume three, Dawn’s Early Light, debuted in December, and I’m hoping we’ll see book four on the shelves by late summer.
Thanks for the interview, Laurie. Awakening Avery sounds like a great gift for mothers and wives.
Reviews. . .
Readers will love the journey that Avery takes them on and will find themselves transformed in the process. —Martha Adams
“Teddie and Rider are most delightful, and they immediately find a place in Avery's heart and in the reader's heart as well.”
“I had to chuckle out loud.”
“A very . . . compelling read.”
“[This] author has a definite knack for making her characters' voices distinct.”
“I love Avery . . . a middle-aged woman being the heroine.”