Monday, August 29, 2011
I am thrilled to have a chance to be part of the blog tour for Conversations with a Moonflower, a book by new author Chris Hall.
Whenever I read a book that I love, I want to tell everyone about it in hopes that they will have the same experience I had reading it. That's how I feel about this incredible book. One way or another the messages in this book will speak to you, warm you soul and touch your heart.
The writing is inviting and personable and each chapter gives the reader an "aha" moment of introspection and connection. It's delightful and insightful.
From the back of the book:
What on earth had just happened to me? It was a plant, for heaven's sake! And with the exception of the bright yellow blooms, it looked more like a weed than anything you would purposely put in a garden. But this mysterious plant had captivated me, and I couldn't wait to tell the others what I had seen.
Chris's life is anything but peaceful when she returns to Carraugus County to clean out her deceased grandmother's home. But her life changes forever when an Amish woman invites her to watch a moonflower open. Chris never would have believed that a simple plant could lead her on such a remarkable journey — a journey that would remind her of truths she had long ago forgotten.
This debut by Chris Hall is guaranteed to uplift and inspire long after the story ends.
Once in a great while a book comes along at the exact moment you need it and changes your life. Let Conversations with a Moonflower be that for you as it has been for me. Thank you Chris. I will bloom as soon as I'm ready. — Amanda Dickson, radio announcer and author.
I asked the author a few questions that I had about her and the story and thought you might enjoy reading what she had to say.
1) Where did you get your inspiration for this story?
My inspiration came from my moonflower itself. Within minutes of seeing the first moonflower open at our Amish friend's home, I felt as if it was speaking to my heart. After I brought the moonflower back to Utah and planted in our yard, I spent many, many evenings sitting quietly - waiting for it to bloom and I always learned something as I waited.
As the summers passed, I became accustomed to learning something new whenever I would sit quietly with it. The lessons I learned were profound to me - and yet so universal.
Those first summers after we brought the moonflower home, it was unusual to not have a number of visitors come to our home close, to sunset. They would bring lawn chairs and blankets and sit quietly with their children and grandchildren, as they waited for the moonflower to begin blooming. As I would listen to their reactions to this amazing plant, I began to realize how much it was touching everyone, and they my friends were also feeling peace as they watched it open.
2) In the story you talk about the Amish. For those of us who haven't interacted with them, what would we be surprised to know about them?
The Amish are a people known for simplicity in their dress and lifestyle, but what might surprise people is to know how much we are alike. Amish are devout Christians and their lives are centered around their families.
The Amish are averse to technology because they feel it weakens the family structure. The conveniences that the rest of us take for granted, such as electricity, television, automobiles, telephones and even tractors, are considered to be a temptation that could cause vanity, create inequality, or lead the Amish away from their families and their close-knit community.
They are devoted to their families and they laugh and have fun just as we do. They find joy in their daily lives. But they seemingly live their lives in a much quieter, less demonstrative way. To be among them almost feels like you are watching a movie that is just a little slower motion than we are used to, with the volume turned down.
I think when you get to know an Amish family, you would be surprised, not just with the serenity of their lives, but also by how their serenity calms and slows you down too.
3) What was your experience like writing this story?
It has been a remarkable experience for me from the beginning - and completely unexpected. I had never thought about writing a book. But a few years ago, ideas began to come clearly to my mind whenever I was out working in my yard, and somehow I just knew it was important for me to write the thoughts down before I forgot them. So I would leave my flowerbeds and go straight to my computer and type until I had all the ideas out but I had no idea what I was going to do with whatever I was writing.
After a few weeks, I realized that I was writing a book. The thoughts that were coming to me weren’t really organized into chapters or even topics, and I didn’t know what to do with all of it, but I just kept writing down the ideas as they came. By September, I felt a sense of urgency to begin organizing all these pages and pages of ideas into chapters and begin writing the book. I was aware that part of my sense of urgency was to get all of my ideas written while they were still fresh and clear in mind.
But I had a full-time job, a large family, and a very time-consuming responsibility in my church. I found it increasingly hard to find a block of time long enough that I could actually focus.
One night, the thought clearly came to me that I needed to ask the partners in the firm I work for if I could change my hours for a few months so that I worked longer days Monday through Thursday, and take Friday off. I promised them that as soon as it was finished, I would return to my regular schedule and they graciously agreed. (The best part is that about six weeks later our company switched over to a four-day workweek.) With Fridays off, I now had blocks of time to write and the book was finished in a few months.
After I finished the book, I spent the next 15 or 16 months editing it. I have a dear friend who is a professional editor. She read the manuscript and loved the story and was anxious to help me. But she was working about 70 hours a week at her own job. She would read the manuscript and make suggestions of things I needed to change or rewrite. It would often take me a month to make the changes before I got it back to her. There were a few times when a month or two would go by before she had time to look at it again. The manuscript went back and forth for about 16 months. I was hesitant to submit it, because every time I read through it I found more things I had missed, but finally, last September, we both decided the time had come to submit it.
4) How did you find a publisher for your book?
About six months before I submitted the manuscript, I spent hours on the Internet, researching everything I could find on all the publishing companies in Utah. There were several that looked interesting, but I kept seeing one name come up: Cedar Fort Publishing. The only problem was that CF required a chapter synopsis to be submitted with the manuscript. For most authors, this would probably be an easy task - but I couldn't figure out how to do it. When I don’t know what I’m doing, I can put something off for weeks, but I finally began the process in September. During that time, another friend suggested I send the manuscript to a different publisher who had much easier submission requirements, so I did. But I kept working on the chapter synopsis, getting ready to submit everything to Cedar Fort.
One morning, near the end of October, I took a couple of hours off from work and drove down to Cedar Fort in Springville and hand-delivered my manuscript. As soon as I walked in the building I had such a great feeling about them, (which was the reason I wanted to drive down rather than submit it electronically. I wanted to get a feel for who they were.) I have been so pleased that they published it. I could not have hoped for a better place to be.
5) What do you hope readers will get from your book?
I hope my readers will get a sense of how unique and amazing they are, and know that their lives have a divine purpose, which is unique to them. The chapter, "Exactly As I Am” summarizes the most important lesson I learned from the moonflower, and what I hope my readers will also learn. Let me share a short portion of that chapter:
One afternoon, as I sat on the bench with my moonflower, I wanted to ask it one more question before winter set in.
“Have you ever wished you were different?” I finally ventured.
“Like what?” the plant responded.
“Well, like a flower that smelled really beautiful, or one that bloomed in the day when everyone could see you. Not many people know anything about a moonplant unless they happen to come by at sunset when you are blooming. They never know how enchanting you are. I just wondered if you have ever wished that you were a rose, or a lily, or even a daisy.” The plant was quiet for several minutes, but when it answered, its voice was thoughtful and gentle.
“It has never occurred to me to try to be anything but what I am,” the plant began. “I know who and what I am. I know better than anyone what I can do and be. I wasn’t created to have an intoxicating smell that would become perfume, or to be used in floral arrangements that would grace the most joyful and sorrowful occasions in people’s lives. I was created to instill a sense of wonder in those who come my way, to help them slow down, ask questions, and listen. I know who I am and what my work is. I am a unique and amazing creation, and I have much to share exactly as I am.”
My greatest hope is that my readers will also come to know that same thing for themselves.
6) Are you working on anything now?
I have a second book in the works. And by “in the works” I mean that once again, I have many, many pages written but I’m not quite sure what to do with them or where all of this is leading me. I once heard a toddler described as “A little child who has learn how to walk but has no destination in mind!” I feel a little bit that way about my second book. But I am having such a great time with Conversations with a Moonflower, so I keep writing the thoughts that come to me, and have great faith that when the time is right, it will become clear to me what I need to do.
Thanks so much, Chris.
Make sure you pick up a copy of Conversations with a Moonflower for yourself, and while you're at it, get a few more copies. This book would be a perfect gift for anyone.
You can find Chris's book at: Barnes and Noble, Deseret Book, Cedar Fort or Amazon.com.
To learn more about Chris and her books you can visit her web-site, click HERE