Lee Carver is once again failing at retirement. After being born, educated, and married in the United States, she established homes and reared their children in Greece, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Indonesia, Brazil, Spain, and again in Brazil. Her husband Darrel, once a US Navy pilot and then a VP in Citibank’s International Division, took early retirement to be a missionary pilot over the Brazilian Amazon. They now live in a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, where they continue to be involved in missionary aviation.
It's my pleasure to welcome Lee to 'Behind Every Story.' I'm excited to learn more about her newest novel, titled 'A Secret Life.'
WWII is the new Amish. This new genre is becoming quite popular. As the WWII veterans are rapidly dying, the war moves into the classification of historical. What prompted you to write this story?
I’ve never been a history buff. Biology and chemistry, such logical sciences, pushed away any desire to study history, politics, and especially wars. My husband is quite the opposite, and had always wanted to visit the European battlefields where his father fought. The book and TV series Band of Brothers brought that desire to a slow burn. Robin Sink McClelland, the daughter of Col. Robert Sink, Regimental Commander of the Parachute Infantry Regiment featured in Band of Brothers, is a personal friend. Having never traveled out of the US, Robin organized a private tour to visit the area where Col. Sink fought. We were invited to join the tour, which became a remarkable, world-expanding experience. I had toured Germany several times and used to speak the language, but this trip changed my understanding of Europe, its history, and World War II. I simply had to write a story about fictional characters caught in that scene.
You’ve never written a historical novel before. Does this represent a change in your genre for the future?
No, I’m returning to contemporary fiction. The intensive research necessary to write A Secret Life totally involved me for more than a year, and I’m so glad I did it. I have a renewed appreciation for the immense sacrifice required to keep America free from foreign rule.
While other WWII novels are written from the perspective of American soldiers and the women who fall in love with them, the central character of A Secret Life is a young German man. Why did you take that approach?
As a person who has lived in seven countries and traveled to more than forty-five, I felt that the attribute I could offer readers was a foreign view. I walked the hills in this story, I ate German food, spoke German, and toured the great cities of Europe. And while most war novels show Germans only as detestable Nazis, I knew and loved Germans who suffered terribly under Hitler. Without becoming too graphic, I wanted to show that there is another side to this beautiful country.
Romance novels, almost by definition, begin with a man and woman who must fall in love, but they have compelling reasons why they shouldn't. And then they do, and the story ends. Again, yours is different. Why did you break the pattern?
Can you imagine marrying someone who is not at all who you thought? The sweet love story covers a profound deception. The compromises of marriage are based on faith in the person and personality represented during the courtship. What if all that were totally false? Could love survive? Would God even bless such a marriage? The development of the character Karl—who he is, what he believes, and his purpose in life—continues to play out out after his marriage. He grows, strengthens, and takes control after his return to Germany. He is no longer reacting to events; he is making them happen. That’s when Karl becomes the hero of his own story.
You say that every novel you write is inspirational. How do you work that into a novel about war?
There is no pulpit event, no point at which action stops and I, the author, hop up on a soapbox and explain Jesus and salvation. It’s just there. My characters live in the Christian worldview. Karl comes from a Christian family, though his faith has not been tested as it will be. His mother, an American from a Jewish family, converted before she met her husband, and her faith runs deep. Karl’s relationship with God deepens as he perseveres, as he learns what love is. His faith is the foundation of his life, as it is for his wife Grace, and as it is for us.
One final question: you self-published three books before this one, which has a traditional publisher, the Inspirational line of Prism Book Group. Why the switch?
The Most Excellent Adventure, a collection of experiences—mostly humorous—all over the world, was first published in Brazil. Later I edited it and published through Amazon. Then I wrote the first novel, Love’s Second Verse, almost as on-the-job training. The plot involves a woman working as an IT specialist in the world largest international bank (go figure). As technology rapidly advanced, the story line was becoming dated. I had to either publish it right away or toss it. The third book, Flying for Jesus, is totally autobiographical, a nonprofit venture to give testimony to God for our amazing years as missionaries in Brazil. These are all available through Amazon.com. But my goal to be traditionally published is rooted in the desire to be recognized as a worthy novelist. I want to be admitted into the ACFW Conference courses for “published” authors—published by ACFW recognized publishers. It’s a gratifying professional step.
A romantic excerpt from the courtship of Karl, living as the American Henry:
“If I were wealthy, would your father consider me a better prospect for his only daughter?”
She bent her head. “It’s terrible to say, but I think so. He wants me to marry a ‘good provider.’ Sometimes he even tries to match me up with guys he meets in his business.”
Henry abhorred the thought of losing her to another man like grit in his teeth. He took both her hands in his and locked eyes with his love. “Someday, Grace, I will be wealthy. I will be the son-in-law your father respects.”
She drew a sudden breath.
His words were tantamount to a proposal of marriage.
He watched her recover from mild shock, and attempted to do the same. In truth, he had declared his intention.
She looked down with a blush. Then she leaned toward him. “Money isn’t important to me. I love you. We’ll make it fine. I’ll work…”
“You won’t have to, my sweet.” In an echo from the past, he borrowed Father’s words. “I have a plan.”
Her smile opened her expression as if in wonder. Whatever her thoughts, pleasure ran through them.
He found courage to continue. “I don’t know how long it will take, but I will not dally.”
Give us the back cover blurb for your new novel.
Life and love keep going awry for Summer Snow, until her grandmother sends her on an unexpected adventure with one Martin Langtree—a kind and quirky young man from Summer's past. With Laney the Chihuahua along for the ride, a childhood friendship is rekindled, a romance is sparked, and mysteries are solved in one magical Texas summer. Will Summer strike out on love again, or will things finally go her way?
You like fairytales. Tell us about that.
My mother read me fairytales when I was a kid, and I believe these stories had a profound effect on me. I have been told my stories read like modern-day fairytales, and I am hoping that Summer’s List will have that same fun feel to it.
Do you have any unique rituals while at the computer?
In the morning, I answer my emails. Then I allow myself a bit of time for social media. After that I check to see how my ranking is on Amazon and if there are more reviews. I probably will not read those, although I might. Then when all of that is accomplished I start on my work for the day.
Tell us a bit about your writing journey.
I have been writing for thirty years, and I have forty books published. To be honest, it’s been a rough journey. I have known a great deal of failure before I ever knew any success. But then that is a common tale among writers. As far as where my journey will go, only God knows the answer to that question.
Got any pet peeves?
Sure. I suppose one of them is that occasionally we’ve forgotten how to be polite and kind when it comes to social media posts and emails. I think it would be lovely to go back in time to a simpler, gentler era when people had a deeper sense of the preciousness of humanity. Harsh words spoken in haste can really hurt—sometimes for a lifetime. I say this from having experience on both sides of this issue, so I’m not holding myself up as perfect. I’m far from perfect. But wouldn’t it be wonderful to care about each other in the same way Christ loves us?
Do you have a Bible verse that is particularly meaningful to you?
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NIV)
What is the hardest part of writing?
All of it. I’m not kidding. Sometimes I still can’t believe I write books. Yes, it’s about fun creative stuff, but it’s also about keeping my bum in the chair and writing even when I’m not inspired. It’s about getting the job done. No. Matter. What. And sometimes that’s not easy to do.
Where do your ideas come from?
Everywhere. While I’m running errands. While I’m at church. While I’m talking to friends and family. With each story, colorful bits of life end up in my final piece of art—a little like the way a mosaic comes together, making a lovely picture.
What have you read recently?
Recently I read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. It’s a masterwork—a true story about slavery in America—and a book that everyone should read.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about your new novel, Summer’s List?
One of my characters is taken from real life—a sweet Chihuahua named Laney. This little dog was considered a love-gift from God since she helped my daughter-in-law get through a painful passage in her life. It was a true joy for me to add this beloved dog, Laney, to my story.
How can your readers get in touch with you?
Here are two of my media links. I’d love to hear from you!
My first published novel after almost twenty years! God is SO GOOD ALL THE TIME!
Betsy’s life is one crisis after another. She never wondered, or cared, who her birth parents were until her friend Bett confesses, “I have a child.” Bett and Betsy’s adoptive mother, Harriett, have been best friends since college. Could there be a connection?
Betsy resents that Bett secretly set her up with over-the-top handsome Noel with Crayon blue eyes, tons of dough and a quirky psychological problem. But, when her kitchen blows up, he saves her life – over the phone!
When daughter Brie shows up pregnant and abandoned by her husband, like Betsy’s husband, The Jerk, abandoned her when she was pregnant with Brie, Betsy takes charge. Noel could help, but will he? And, how does his old friend Muriel fit into the equation?
Will Betsy’s messy life ever get straightened out? How can she help Brie restore her marriage, as well as nurse Noel back to health from the flu with her leg in a cast, the leg she broke visiting him during one of his marathon hospital stays?
Will Noel turn out to be the hero Bett claims him to be and the lover Betsy hopes him to be? Or, will Noel disappoint her and become another butterfly dream?
Bonnie Engstrom loves to write and she loves food, especially sushi and salad. She used to love to cook, but since her husband partially retired he took over as resident chef. Many of her stories are centered around food, two around Swedish food reflecting the couple’s heritage. She grew up in Pittsburgh, he in Chicago, and they met in Washington, D.C when they attended George Washington University. They raised their children in Southern California (that is a separate state from Northern California, or should be!), so several of her stories are set in Newport Beach where she wrote the education column for two local newspapers, and where she was a PTA advocate for education, for over thirty years. Education is her passion, and she now volunteers in her grandchildren’s classrooms.
She lives in Arizona with her psychologist husband Dave of fifty years, is the mother of three grown children and the proud grandmother of six grandchildren (the explosion of a decade!), four of whom live in Scottsdale and two in Costa Rica on the beach! Pura Vida! Surf’s up!
The couple’s eldest son is a IT expert who taught his mother everything she knows about computer literacy. Unfortunately, he and his wife live in Maryland, too far to fly home for a weekend to help Mom as he used to when she lived in California and he in Arizona. One of her dreams is to take the Arizona grands to Costa Rica where their uncle and cousins can teach them to surf. Their mother is the director of a Christian preschool/Kindergarten in Scottsdale which all four Arizona kids attended.
Almost all of her stories are set in Arizona and in California where she used to live. One is set partly in Sweden in the cities and towns where her husband’s and her ancestors lived.
She loves to hear from her readers and can be contacted at her website at www.bonnieengstrom.com. Feel free to write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to put Butterfly Dreams in the subject since it will go to junk mail until you are put on her safe list.
Butterfly Dreams is available on Amazon, and in a few weeks will be in print.
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