You’ve recently seen the publication of your second Middle Grade novel, Speak No Evil. Tell us about the book and the Rustic Knoll Bible Camp Series.
Each of the books in the series can be read as stand alone books. The major characters are introduced in the first book but each story follows a different character as they come to camp for the first time or return in following years. Hear No Evil, Book 1 is the story of Brady, whose mother leaves him at camp with the news she doesn’t want him living with her anymore. Besides trying to figure out what he did to earn her rejection, Brady becomes the target of the camp bully, a boy named Taylor.
Taylor is the hero of Speak No Evil. His dream is to get his driver’s license and eventually become a racecar driver. His younger sister is the only one who believes in his dreams, but her thirst for adventure always gets Taylor in trouble. When she goes to camp with him, he figures she’ll be a pain, but he never expects the pain to go so deep.
Your connection with youth camps is obvious from the vividness of your setting. Are these stories autobiographical?
A lot of my background plays into them, but the stories themselves come from my observations of other children. My childhood at the camp where my dad was director was pretty idyllic, but as I’ve raised my children and watched the tragedy of dysfunctional and broken families in the lives of their friends, it made me want to write stories of hope for these kids. They carry so much pain within them, and most of the time, we never have a clue what they’re dealing with.
What was it like to write about a bully as the main character?
It was a challenge! Taking a character I didn’t really like and making him likeable was not easy. I went back to my school days and remembered a boy who was considered a goof-off. He always had an attitude and acted like he didn’t care about anyone or anything. When a teacher assigned us to small groups to work on a project and made him the leader of my small group, I thought for sure we’d get a poor grade. But to my surprise, this boy was the best leader I’d ever had. He assigned different parts of the project to each of us and made sure we did the work. I gained a lot of respect for him in that small group. So when I fashioned Taylor’s character, I found what he was good at, and gave him a dream. And I ended up falling in love with his character.
What do you want readers to take away from Speak No Evil?
I hope it will encourage them to look past the outward behavior and appearance of people who seem difficult to get along with. Many times with kids especially, their behavior is a defense against deep hurt. A kind word or deed, a willingness to extend grace to them and to show yourself on their side will often break through that tough façade. Kids really need to know that someone cares about them.
Any more books planned for this series?
I’m working on one more book, titled See No Evil, that’s due out next year. This book will feature Steven, a blind camper who befriends Brady in the first book and plays a small part in Taylor’s story.
How can readers interact with you?
Hear No Evil: http://tinyurl.com/kl5bovo