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

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PHOTO CREDIT: Image by Mark Sandlin


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.


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.


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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