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Author Interview and Giveaway – Missing Isaac – Valerie Fraser Luesse

34 Comments on Author Interview and Giveaway – Missing Isaac – Valerie Fraser Luesse

I had the opportunity to read Missing Isaac before it released and I quite enjoyed it! Here’s my review:

The title made me think there would be more to the search than there was and the cover and first chapters made me think this was a story of a young boy which I don’t think I would have enjoyed as much as what the book truly turned out to be. The story extends over years and sees him into adulthood and other characters share a lot of the limelight too, but it’s more a story of a set of characters as they grow in a world struggling with change. Valerie’s descriptive ability was simple and authentic feeling, making this town and its people seem real and sucked me in. Reading the author note, she did most of her research by oral history and is likely the reason why it felt so real.

Missing Isaac

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Missing Isaac

There was another South in the 1960s, one far removed from the marches and bombings and turmoil in the streets that were broadcast on the evening news. It was a place of inner turmoil, where ordinary people struggled to right themselves on a social landscape that was dramatically shifting beneath their feet. This is the world of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s stunning debut, Missing Isaac.

It is 1965 when black field hand Isaac Reynolds goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama. The townspeople’s reactions range from concern to indifference, but one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his unlikely friend. White, wealthy, and fatherless, young Pete McLean has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac. In the process, he will discover much more than he bargained for. Before it’s all over, Pete–and the people he loves most–will have to blur the hard lines of race, class, and religion. And what they discover about themselves may change some of them forever.

Valerie’s Website

Luesse_Valerie -

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Image by Mark Sandlin

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Questions about Valerie’s Story

What inspired your story?

I think I was still in college—many years ago!—when my uncle told me about the disappearance of a man who helped him pick cotton on his family farm. The man just vanished and was never heard from again. One of my cousins, listening to the story, speculated that this farm worker had met with foul play and ended up in a backwoods hollow. Those stories were the spark for mine—just imagining what might have happened. Before I knew it, I had a community of interconnected Southern families, a coming-of-age story, and two love stories, all wrapped around this mysterious disappearance.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I would have to say the freedom of it—the joy of just turning my imagination loose. When I first started, I wasn’t thinking about getting published or writing to a particular market. I just wanted to see if I could take what I’ve learned as a magazine writer and produce a good fictional story. I so enjoyed watching the central character, a boy named Pete McLean, grow up, and I loved “meeting” other characters as they materialized: Isaac Reynolds, a black field hand who becomes Pete’s mentor and beloved friend; Dovey Pickett, a beautiful backwoods girl and the love of Pete’s life; Pete and Dovey’s widowed parents, Lila McLean and John Pickett; Miss Paul Pickett, queen of the backwoods . . .

What character in your book turned out to be your favorite?

Dovey’s widowed father, John Pickett, who started out as just a cardboard cutout of a character—very primitive and a little scary. I saw him primarily as an obstacle for Pete and Dovey to overcome. But the more I wrote him, I realized that John was meant to be a true romantic hero and the perfect vehicle to illustrate the basic dignity of every human being: Just because a man is poor, that doesn’t mean he isn’t intelligent and talented and devoted to his family. John embodies the longing and loneliness that I think are key to the book, but he also has great strength, integrity, and passion. Plus he’s one handsome farmer-craftsman. 🙂

Which scene is your favorite, the one you never tired of working with? Give us a reason to look forward to it.

There are actually two—Pete McLean and Dovey Pickett’s first real date and first kiss (Chapter 14), and the scenes during the tornado and its aftermath (Chapter 26). Those were incredibly difficult because it’s so easy for a romantic scene—or a highly dramatic one—to turn melodramatic. I tried to make them realistic—to capture that throbbing-heartbeat moment when you’re not sure what’s going to happen next. Readers will have to let me know if I managed it.

Some of my friends who read the manuscript described it as cinematic—they said they felt like they were watching it instead of reading it. That’s how I wrote the scenes I mentioned. I “watched” them first in my imagination and then wrote what I saw, if that makes sense.

Why did you choose the year your book is set?

There’s a wonderful singer-songwriter named Kate Campbell whose music I first discovered many years ago. I remember listening to her CD Visions of Plenty, which included songs about the South during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. And I was so taken by it because she was singing about that time the way I remembered it—through the eyes of a white Southern child. It was such a confusing time for kids—black and white—because so much of what we saw around us didn’t make sense. And it was such a dramatic and violent era that what often gets lost are the little pockets of humanity I saw back then —just ordinary people trying to do the right thing, only they weren’t sure what that was any more.

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Questions about Valerie’s Reading

Which book got you hooked on reading Christian Historicals?

I’m actually very new to this genre because I didn’t set out to write a Christian Historical—I just set out to tell a compelling story, and it so happened that the characters who interested me were people of faith, and the time period that interested me was historically significant. So I sort of looked up and found myself in Christian Historicals! I had a little exposure to them way back in the eighties (dating myself here), when I worked for a literary journal as a grad student at Baylor. Since then, this category seems to have exploded, with talented writers taking it in countless directions and exploring myriad time periods, settings, and characters. I just got back from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show in New Orleans, and it was almost too much to take in—so many exciting new titles and interesting writers. I look forward to discovering their work.

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Since Valerie is new to the genre, comment below with the name of one  Christian Historical novel you’ve loved that you’d recommend and a Christian Historical novel you really want to read but haven’t got your hands on yet. If you win the ebook, I’ll send you either Valerie’s book or the one you want the most but don’t have. 🙂 (Must be available in ebook format)

Valerie is giving away a copy paperback (USA only) and I’m giving away winner’s choice of ebook. Enter the Rafflecopter below!

**If you don’t want to enter Rafflecopter, tell me in a comment below: “I’m not entering the rafflecopter, but please throw me in the hat” so I can manually put you in for a chance.**

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Their Daring Hearts by Sharlene MacLaren

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Their Daring HeartsGoodreads ~ Purchase ~ Sample

1863 – Pennsylvania

Levi Albright rebelled against his Quaker roots to fight for abolition in the Union army in the first year of the Civil War. Two years later, 19-year-old destitute orphan Josephine Winters, with chopped hair, boy’s clothes, and new name, “Snipp,” enlists in the Union army out of sheer desperation. 
Just over five feet tall and barely weighing as much as a newborn calf, Snipp seems to Levi to be barely old enough to hold “his” gun. But despite being teased by the regiment, Snipp quickly earns admiration for skill with a musket and unequaled bravery. When Levi explains one night that he is a Quaker leading a regiment, it leads to a late-night discussion of faith and a developing friendship.
But Snipp’s secret can only be hidden for so long. After an injury forces Josie to reveal her real identity, Levi is angered by her deception. Worse, Josie is marched out of the company without a chance to explain—or even say goodbye. Will their friendship survive? Or will the hatred saturating the war-torn nation affect even the heart of a peace-loving Quaker?     

Under a Cloudless Sky by Chris Fabry

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Under a Cloudless SkyGoodreads ~ Purchase ~ Sample

1933/Present Day – West Virginia

A charming and engrossing novel for fans of Southern fiction and the recent hit memoir Hillbilly Elegy about a lush and storied coal-mining town—and the good people who live there—in danger of being destroyed for the sake of profit. Will the truth about the town’s past be its final undoing or its saving grace?

1933. In the mining town of Beulah Mountain, West Virginia, two young girls form an unbreakable bond against the lush Appalachian landscape, coal dust and old hymns filling their lungs and hearts. Despite the polarizing forces of their fathers—one a mine owner, one a disgruntled miner —Ruby and Bean thrive under the tender care of Bean’s mama, blissfully unaware of the rising conflict in town and the coming tragedy that will tear them apart forever.

2004. Hollis Beasley is taking his last stand. Neighbors up and down the hollow have sold their land to Coleman Coal and Energy, but Hollis is determined to hold on to his family legacy on Beulah Mountain. Standing in his way is Buddy Coleman, an upstart mining executive who hopes to revitalize the dying town by increasing coal production and opening the Company Store Museum. He’ll pay homage to the past—even the massacre of 1933—while positioning the company for growth at all costs.

What surprises them all is how their stories will intersect with a feisty octogenarian living hundreds of miles away. When Ruby Handley Freeman’s grown children threaten her independence, she takes a stand of her own and disappears, propelling her on a journey to face a decades-old secret that will change everything for her and those she meets.

Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke

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GoodreadsFind Home ~ Purchase ~ Sample

1940 – England

For American Claire Stewart, joining the French Resistance sounded as romantic as the storylines she hopes will one day grace the novels she wants to write. But when she finds herself stranded on English shores, with five French Jewish children she smuggled across the channel before Nazis stormed Paris, reality feels more akin to fear.

With nowhere to go, Claire throws herself on the mercy of an estranged aunt, begging Lady Miranda Langford to take the children into her magnificent estate. Heavily weighted with grief of her own, Miranda reluctantly agrees . . . if Claire will stay to help. Though desperate to return to France and the man she loves, Claire has few options. But her tumultuous upbringing—spent in the refuge of novels with fictional friends—has ill-prepared her for the daily dramas of raising children, or for the way David Campbell, a fellow American boarder, challenges her notions of love. Nor could she foresee how the tentacles of war will invade their quiet haven, threatening all who have come to call Bluebell Wood home and risking the only family she’s ever known.

Set in England’s lush and storied Lake District in the early days of World War II, and featuring cameos from beloved literary icons Beatrix Potter and C. S. Lewis, Until We Find Home is an unforgettable portrait of life on the British home front, challenging us to remember that bravery and family come in many forms.

The Blessed Bride by Lynn Winchester

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blessedbrideGoodreads ~ Purchase ~ Sample

1850 – California

Leaving Ireland for America, Patience “Pati” O’Connor has followed the trail of her heartbroken father west, to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. With no money and a missing father, Pati has no choice but to settle down in a small, gold mining town of Blessings, California. Maybe the rough and tumble place could use a skilled seamstress…

Pete Jones has spent a lifetime fighting. Wounded in battle during the Mexican War, Pete is left with shaking hands, nightmares, and a sour disposition—but his new job protecting gold claims in Blessings just might be what he needs to kick the anguish of his past.

When Pati’s new business is robbed, she seeks help from the ornery yet honorable Pete, who doesn’t seem too keen on sticking his nose into her business. But Pete can’t seem to say no to the vibrant, fiery, oh so beautiful lass, which may spell trouble for his plans to stay lonely and single.

As the town begins to grow around them, and as trouble starts to slither in, Pati and Pete are desperate to find a love more valuable than all the gold in the mountain.

But can Pete be a man worthy of Pati’s love, and can Pati convince Pete she is destined to be his blessed bride?

Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt

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Judah's WifeGoodreads ~ Purchase ~ Sample

168 BC – Israel

Seeking peace and safety after a hard childhood, Leah marries Judah, a strong and gentle man, and for the first time in her life Leah believes she can rest easily. But the land is ruled by Antiochus IV, descended from one of Alexander the Great’s generals, and when he issues a decree that all Jews are to conform to Syrian laws upon pain of death, devout Jews risk everything to follow the law of Moses.

Judah’s father resists the decree, igniting a war that will cost him his life. But before dying, he commands his son to pick up his sword and continue the fight–or bear responsibility for the obliteration of the land of Judah. Leah, who wants nothing but peace, struggles with her husband’s decision–what kind of God would destroy the peace she has sought for so long? 

The miraculous story of the courageous Maccabees is told through the eyes of Judah’s wife, who learns that love requires courage . . . and sacrifice. 

Out of the Ashes by Tracie Peterson

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outofashesGoodreads ~ Purchase ~ Sample

1926 – Alaska

After the death of their father, Collette and Jean-Michel Langelier are no longer tied to post-war France. While his sister dreams of adventure, Jean-Michel is hoping to finally escape reminders of the horrors he faced in the war. When Jean-Michel receives an unexpected invitation for them to visit Alaska and the Curry Hotel, it seems an opportunity for a change he needs.

Katherine Demarchis is a young widow who does not grieve the dangerous husband she was forced to marry. Now she just wants to retreat to a quiet life, content to be alone. First, though, she’s agreed to accompany her grandmother on a final trip, but never expects to see a man from her past.

Katherine and Jean-Michel once shared a deep love that was torn apart by forces beyond their control. Reunited now, have the years changed them too deeply to rediscover what they had? And when Jean-Michel’s nightmares return with terrifying consequences, will faith be enough to heal what’s been broken for so long?

Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse

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Missing IsaacGoodreads ~ Purchase ~ Sample

1960s – Alabama

There was another South in the 1960s, one far removed from the marches and bombings and turmoil in the streets that were broadcast on the evening news. It was a place of inner turmoil, where ordinary people struggled to right themselves on a social landscape that was dramatically shifting beneath their feet. This is the world of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s stunning debut, Missing Isaac.

It is 1965 when black field hand Isaac Reynolds goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama. The townspeople’s reactions range from concern to indifference, but one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his unlikely friend. White, wealthy, and fatherless, young Pete McLean has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac. In the process, he will discover much more than he bargained for. Before it’s all over, Pete–and the people he loves most–will have to blur the hard lines of race, class, and religion. And what they discover about themselves may change some of them forever.

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

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GoodreadsThe Lacemaker ~ Purchase ~ Sample

1775 – Virginia

When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson is abandoned by her fiancé and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

Historical romance favorite Laura Frantz is back with a suspenseful story of love, betrayal, and new beginnings. With her meticulous eye for detail and her knack for creating living, breathing characters, Frantz continues to enchant historical fiction readers who long to feel they are a part of the story.

His Forgotten Fiancée by Evelyn Hill

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is Forgotten FiancéeGoodreads ~ Purchase ~ Sample

1851 – Oregon

Liza Fitzpatrick is stunned when her fiancé finally arrives in Oregon City — with amnesia. Matthew Dean refuses to honor a marriage proposal he doesn’t recall making, but Liza needs his help to bring in the harvest, and maybe she can help him remember…

Matthew is attracted to the spirited Liza, and as she tries to help him regain his old memories, the new ones they’re creating together start to make him feel whole. Even as he falls for her again, though, someone’s determined to keep them apart. Will his memory return in time to save their future?

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