Storyteller Susan R. Lawrence portrays biblical and historical characters in engrossing presentations; she also writes engaging novels. She’s a retired special education teacher who has published two family devotionals, contributed to three anthologies, and written many articles for various Christian publications.
Today Glenda Mathes interviews her in connection with the current launch of her new novel (recently released by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) Atonement for Emily Adams.
Glenda: Susan, Atonement for Emily Adams depicts one of most people’s worst nightmares: being the driver of a vehicle that hits and kills a child. Why did you choose to write about something so tragic and traumatic?
Susan: This is a question people often ask. I wrote Atonement for Emily Adams to illustrate the message that God’s atonement is not based on what we do – we cannot earn it – and that nothing we have done is too terrible for his atoning love.
Glenda: If this didn’t happen to you personally, how were you able to write about it so realistically?
Susan: All of us have things we have done that fill us with so much remorse we have difficulty imagining God’s ability to forgive us. I could imagine Emily’s grief and shame because I have had the same emotions. I also had a good friend whose husband had an accident with a car that killed someone. She was extremely helpful with some of the more difficult passages.
Glenda: Atonement for Emily Adams features the viewpoints of the young woman driver, her husband, the child’s father, his grandmother, and his aunt. Some people advise writers to use fewer points of view, but you effectively show how the accident affects each of these people differently and how each individual experiences unique conflicts. Why did you feel it was important to include these various viewpoints?
Susan: Your question captures an essential aspect of the story. The trauma from a tragedy like this ripples into the lives of multiple people. Isaiah’s death affected more than his parents. Each of the people you mention—the driver, her husband, Isaiah’s father, his grandmother, and his aunt—all had such different stories. They had different needs for forgiveness, and their stories had to be told from their viewpoints.
Glenda: Because Donna comes closest to my age and personal experience, she’s my favorite. Which of the characters is your personal favorite and why?
Susan: Carrie Ann’s story was perhaps the most fun to write, but also very difficult. Because Carrie Ann serves as a missionary in Bogotá, Columbia, writing about a foreign country challenged me. I did a great deal of research about the area, and still probably missed the mark on some details. That was the fun part; the difficult part was the emotional investment of writing about her personal trauma. But I loved her faithful response to it.
Glenda: Would you please share how you’re using this fiction narrative about the death of a child to bless children surviving in the real world?
Susan: All my proceeds and royalties are going to a non-profit organization called Pour International, for the purpose of building a home for abandoned babies and children in Swaziland. This area has been hit hard by the AIDs epidemic and hundreds of children are left with no family members to care for them. Pour International is raising money to build a village of small homes. A staff of Swaziland people will raise the children in a Christian, family-style atmosphere.
Glenda: What are you doing to market Atonement for Emily Adams during this launch period?
Susan: I am a professional storyteller, so I am marketing the book by offering churches a free Bible-based story containing the principles of atonement. In return, I ask the churches for a table where I can sell books and spread the news about Pour International.
Glenda: How can readers help spread the word about this gripping story?
Susan: Buying a book and reading it, of course. Then, if you like it, post a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Tell your friends. Post about it on social media. Invite me to tell a story at your church (yes, I will travel, even out of the state of Iowa.)
Glenda: Where can readers buy the novel and how much does it cost?
Susan: If you are in the Des Moines, Iowa area you can purchase books directly from me. Contact me through my blog at this page. When purchased directly, the cost is $13.75, and includes tax and shipping fees. Each book purchased gives Pour International $6.50. Print and ebooks can also be purchased from Amazon. The book is currently listed on their site at $11.66.
Glenda: Many writers read this blog. I’m sure they’d be interested to hear about your life as a writer. What does that look like? How do you participate in the creative experience of writing?
Susan: I was blessed to be able to retire from teaching to spend more time speaking, storytelling and writing. I am a very slow writer, so my usual daily goal is to write 500 words on my WIP [Work In Progress]. I belong to three critique groups. The first consists of two dear friends who pray for me, drop almost anything for a phone call if I need advice, and read with a critical eye a submission of any length – sometimes multiple times. The second group is an internet group with several other professional writers who give invaluable and honest critiques. The third is a local chapter of Word Weavers. These three groups help me to grow and to polish my words till they shine.
Glenda: What other works do you have in progress?
Susan: I have two other Maple Valley stories, set in the same Missouri town as Atonement for Emily Adams, but with different main characters.
The second book is the story of Sophie, who was adopted as a baby and, after the death of her adoptive mom, undertakes a search for her birth parents. Ultimately, Sophie realizes she is searching for far more than her biological roots.
My current WIP tells of a young man who renovates a Victorian home as a restaurant on a bike trail, the dream of his late wife. He hopes fulfilling her dream will bring him healing.
As I polish and seek publication for these novels, I’m trusting God to use them to bless others.
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