Thursday, July 8, 2010

Want a GREAT Read???

I recently read a book that has easily jumped to my Top 5 ever list. That is not an easy feat because I'm a self proclaimed SLOW READER. If a book is not good, I can't finish it. This book titled, The Weight of Shadows, was phenomenal. Listen to me. RUN, don't walk to your local store to get this book. It's powerful and captivating and, well, made me think about a lot of things in a whole new light. Let me start by introducing you to Alison Strobel, the very talented author (with a great first name, spelled exactly the same as my Ali's! :o) ). Then I will give you my review of the book. So, without further ado, please welcome Alison Strobel!

Q. Alison, when did you first discover that you were a writer?

A. I started writing stories when I was in kindergarten, but I didn't think of myself as A Writer until I was in high school. Until then it was just something I liked to do, but I took a creative writing class in high school (thank you, Mr. Leece!) and at that point began to think maybe this was something I actually had a talent for, and not just something I did as a hobby. It wasn't until I got my first contract, though, that I thought I could be a career writer, and I think that's when I started to consider myself a professional and not just a dabbler.

Q. What other books/short stories/articles/poems have you written, whether published or not?

A. Oh gosh, floating around in some Illinois landfill are all sorts of beginnings of novels and stories! I probably started a new book every summer, including one that was very similar to the show "Party of Five" (but mine came first!). I completed my first book in junior high, full of all sorts of tween drama--the world is a better place for its disappearance. :D In high school a friend and I (Meg Gronau, actually, who is also part of the blog tour) wrote two stories by going back and forth and picking up where the other left off. Meg is much funnier than I am, and it was always very clear what sections she wrote--they make me laugh out loud to this day.

I had a couple articles published a few years back in Relevant magazine, and a couple years ago I wrote 2 different 8-page booklets with Easter themes for Outreach that churches can order and use as invitations to their Easter services.

And, of course, I have three more books coming out over the next 18 months--Reinventing Rachel in September, Memory of the Heart next spring, and a currently untitled novel coming out next fall.

Q. Do you have an all time favorite book? Which genre do you prefer to read and why?

A. If I could only have one book to read for the rest of my life...probably Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. The expression of community the book portrays is really beautiful to me. And Coupland's just a great writer. In terms of genre...just plain old contemporary fiction is probably my favorite, because the stories typically ask some really intriguing questions and challenge how I think.

Q. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

A. Quite often I feel like I haven't kept my sanity. Run, run, run is a pretty good description of what my life has been like for the last year. Just in the last few months I've made some changes so that I don't get completely burned out. No more working on the weekends, at least not while the girls are awake. I take an entire month off after I finish a book. I try really hard (though quite often fail) not to spend too much time on the Internet when I've got the girls in the morning (my husband watches them in the afternoon so I can work), and I try to give them as much of my time, energy, and attention as I can. I took up crochet--partly because I wanted to have a hobby, partly because I really love making things with my hands, and partly because I think it's important to have a variety of skills. I've found it's really relaxing, though, too, which was a great plus!

Q. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

A. I have to cheat and give two: my daughters. I love them so much. Though I guess technically they're God's accomplishment and not mine! So that being the case...I think having a successful HBAC (homebirth after cesarean--Abigail was born via c-section, and Penelope Jane was born naturally at home) is an accomplishment I'm extremely proud of. A close second is actually getting published!

Q. What was your greatest roadblock in writing this book and others, and how did you overcome it?

A. Trying to balance writing an accurate portrayal of domestic abuse without making the reading too heavy and graphic. I didn't want my readers to get depressed, or give anyone nightmares--but I also didn't want to gloss over it, because I felt like that wasn't doing justice by the women who have experienced it. I achieved that (I hope I did, anyway--you readers will have to tell me what you think!) by not describing the abuse blow-by-blow, but in more general terms, and then trying to let the reader into Kim's head whenever possible, to sort of give them an escape.

Q. What advice would you give to an author just starting out?

A. Write and read, write and read, lather, rinse, repeat. Write when you are inspired, when you're not inspired (that's an even more important time to write), when you're totally and completely stuck...studying the craft is important, but if you never implement what you learn then what's the point? And don't just read books on the craft, or books that are similar to what you want to write--read the best in a lot of different genres, because even if that genre isn't what you most enjoy reading, that author may be really good at a particular facet of the craft and you'll learn a lot by reading their work.

Q. Tell us about the featured book - back cover blurb plus what this story means to you.

The book is The Weight of Shadows--here's the back blurb:

After a difficult childhood, Kim has built a successful life for herself ... but she'd leave it all if it meant being rid of the guilt she harbors over a tragic mistake she made years ago. When she meets Rick, she finds everything she needs---including a way to pay for her sins every time he hits her. Kim and Rick's new neighbor, Joshua, knows more than Kim realizes about Rick, but Joshua has battles of his own to fight. Soon to intersect Kim's and Rick's lives is Debbie, who has saved countless women from abuse through the shelter she runs, but Debbie might be as desperate for love as the women she serves. Meanwhile, as Rick's wrath extends to their baby, Kim must decide if her penance is more important than protecting that innocent life---and if she should dare leave Rick when he has the power to bring her hidden crime to light.

This book means a lot to me, though not exactly because of its themes or story line. It represents a big change in the kinds of stories I write, as well as highlights the ways in which I've grown as a writer. If you've read my first two books you'll see quickly that this is a very different story. It also represents what I hope will be some big growth in my career. I really do want to make my living doing this--very, very tough to do, but with four compelling books coming out over the next two years I think I may have a chance of at least establishing myself as a writer to be watched, and that's the first step.

Q. Please give us the first page of the book.

A. Unfortunately I only have a PDF of the first chapter, so I can't easily copy off one page--BUT you can download the ENTIRE first chapter on my website at

Q. How can readers find you on the Internet?

A. My website,, has everything a reader might want--my blog, my books, trailers, first chapter downloads, calendar of events, stuff for book clubs, newsletter sign-up, etc. Stop by and leave me a note in the guest book!

Bonus question: Tell us one interesting fact about you that your readers would find interesting, and maybe even surprising.

A. When I was in college, I was addicted to an internet-based roleplaying game (a "MUSH" -- multi-user shared hallucination) called Shadowrun. It was set in the 2050's and was modeled after the cyberpunk literary genre--super high-tech, somewhat dystopic (though I think I may be inventing that word--spell check thinks I am, anyway), with some magic thrown in. What I loved about it, though, was that you were basically writing a story by playing your character. It was all text-based, no graphics at all, so when you walked into a room you got a description of what it looked like, and then you just wrote what you did, dialoged with other characters...I think the fact that I got to be creative in such a different setting was as addicting as the social aspect of it. I really enjoy that literary genre now--William Gibson and Neal Stephenson are two of my favorite writers--and I never would have even tried it had it not been for that game.

Thanks for stopping by, Alison! To find out more about Alison, check out her blog:

To find her book on Amazon, click here:

To find her book on, click here:


Now, just in case you need a little extra incentive to get this book, here's my review:

In The Weight of Shadows, Alison Strobel tells a powerful story that vividly illustrates the torture that comes when we fail to leave our burdens at our Savior's cross. As a result, of a terrible, unresolved event from her past, Kim, succumbs to abuse, first at her own hand and then at the hand of another, as a means of justification. Likewise, Debbie is a stranger at love because of the guilt she harbors from a tragedy she feels she could have prevented. Ms. Strobel delicately interweaves these characters lives and circumstances, eventually leading to a shocking twist that left me breathless, and ultimately proving that God's mercy and goodness will truly guide a lost soul home. The Weight of Shadows made me want to cry, scream, laugh, and dance. It will definitely minister to anyone who has ever had a tortured spirit, and it will remind us all that shadows only occur when WE STAND IN THE WAY OF THE LIGHT. Well done, Ms. Strobel! I'm sincerely looking forward to your next release!

PRAYER REQUESTS: Unfortunately, I have quite a few. Please forgive me today as I simply list them and ask that you pray mightily however you feel led.

Please pray for: Wilma Hohler and Sandy Venable who were both recently diagnosed with breast cancer and will begin treatment soon, Megan Allen and Andy Marino who recently lost their not-quite-three-year-old, Monica who suffered with a cardiopulmonary condition from birth, Connie Maxwell Scoggins and Carolyn Koch who both recently lost their mothers, Karisa Martin Strickland who was recently in a car accident, and Marilee Joy Neal who has just left the states for a five week long mission trip to Albania a poor area that has a strong, primarily young Muslim population.

If I have missed your prayer request, please forgive me. This summer is turning out crazier than I expected. Crazy is good, but I'm often feeling like I'm losing my mind! :o) Thank you for stopping by when you could be hangin' out at the pool! Don't forget to leave your comment for a chance to win The Weight of Shadows by Alison Strobel and I'll be updating you about The Heart's Lullaby in just a week or two!


Deanna said...

Thanks for the great insight into Alison Strobel and her writing. I look forward to reading her books! And thanks for the prayer request for my mom. Means so much.

Diane Moody said...

How nice to get acquainted with Alison through your wonderful interview! Can't wait to read her book now!

Alison Strobel Morrow said...

Thank you so much for your review, Jen!! I really appreciate your enthusiasm for the book. Can't wait to read *your* next one!

Wendy said...

Thanks for offering this book. I have read one of Alison's books already and look forward to reading this one.

Jen Riffle said...

Alison, you are very welcome! It truly was my pleasure! I recommend it to everyone! And thank YOU for thinking of The Heart's Lullaby!

Deanna, I know how much you love to read. This is one you have to put in your collection. Diane and Wendy, you're gonna love this one!

Lou Ann said...

I so enjoyed the interview. It sounds like a very good book and one that I would enjoy. Thank you for the interview and the opportunity to enter for "The Weight Of Shadows."