Your novel, eye of the god, releases with Abingdon Press on October 1st. Why don’t you tell us a little about it?
According to legend, the Hope Diamond was once the eye of a Hindu idol named Rama Sita. When it was stolen in the 17th century, it is said that the idol cursed all those who would possess it. But that doesn’t stop the brilliant and ruthless Weld brothers from attempting to steal it from the Smithsonian. However, they are not prepared for Dr. Abigail Mitchell, the beautiful Smithsonian Director, who has her own connection to the Hope Diamond, and a deadly secret to keep.
When all is said and done, and the dust has finally settled over the last great adventure of the Hope Diamond, we understand the “curse” that has haunted its legacy is nothing more than the greed of evil men who bring destruction upon themselves. No god chiseled from stone can direct the fates of men, nor can it change the course of His-story.
What inspired you to write this book?
In the Spring of 1995, I stumbled across an article in Life Magazine on the Hope Diamond. The two-page spread showed Michelle Pheiffer wearing the jewel and gave a brief history of the legendary curse. I knew instantly that it should to be a novel. Being the curious gal that I am, I dug around and was surprised to find that although most people were familiar with the curse, no one had done anything with the concept. So I began researching and writing. That was fourteen years ago this spring.
How do you develop your characters?
This may sound a little odd, but I always come up with the title and premise for my novels first. And then my characters spring out of that concept. For instance, I knew instantly that eye of the god was the title for this book and I knew that I wanted to explore the legendary curse. But who were these cursed people? Half of that answer came from history, but the other half was found in my imagination. What kind of person would become obsessed with a big blue rock? Why?
So I ponder these questions and as I explore the answers, my characters and their individual quirks become clear.
Do you have a favorite character in eye of the god?
Abby Mitchell, the main character, is my favorite. She’s a strong, intelligent woman, but she wrestles deeply with her faith and her relationship with her dad. Like many women, Abby struggles with the propensity to manipulate her circumstances to bring about her desired results. That is something that plays out on many levels in eye of the god.
Do parts of your book come from real-life experiences? If so, please tell us about them.
The main character, Abby Mitchell, has a very broken relationship with her father. Unfortunately, that is something I know a great deal about. My dad died five years ago and I had to ask him on his deathbed if he loved me. So I was intrigued by the idea of a woman who would do anything to gain her father’s love – even if it meant betraying her own values.
In addition, my little sister is named Abby, and in many ways, the character in this book is a combination of the two us – both physically and emotionally. It was fun to cherry pick bits and pieces of my sister and I, stir them all together, and come up with this imaginary person.
How did you decide on the geographical setting for your book?
eye of the god takes place in several different locations around the world and each of them was decided for me before I ever began to write. The Hope Diamond resides at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. So any contemporary story involving the diamond, or a possible theft would have to be located there. For each of the historical narratives, I simply used the locations that those characters lived in or traveled to. As a result, the story revolves around three places: Golconda, India, Paris, and Washington, D.C.
Having that decided for me at the outset actually made the writing process easier. One less decision to make.
What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing eye of the god?
There were several so I’ll give you a few of my favorites:
The Hope Diamond was pawned by Evelyn Walsh McLean in order to pay the ransom in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.
Jackie Kennedy petitioned the Smithsonian to allow the Hope Diamond to visit the Louvre in Paris just months before her husband was assassinated.
The Hope Diamond was confiscated from the possession of Louis XVI a short while before he was beheaded during the French Revolution.
Who has been your biggest mentor in your writing career?
Much of what I’ve learned in my career has happened through trial and error. But there are two people that have made an extraordinary impact on me as a Reader and a Writer.
As a Reader – My Mother.
My childhood was spent atop the Rocky Mountains in a home with no electricity or running water (think Laura Ingles meets the Hippie Movement). For well over a decade my mother read to me by the light of a kerosene lantern. By the time I was five years old I knew every character in the Chronicles of Narnia by name. As far as I was concerned, J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, L.M. Montgomery, and Charles Dickens were household names.
My mother loved books and she loved to read them to her children. I owe my passion for the written word to her alone. I first learned how powerful stories can be while curled up on the couch next to my mother. Even at a young age I understood that Aslan was a type of Jesus, and because I loved Aslan I later came to love Jesus. So I longed to write stories that had meaning and purpose. That desire never wavered through the years.
As a Writer – My High School Creative Writing Teacher, Mrs. Wilson.
I know it sounds a bit cliché, but the time I spent in Mrs. Wilson’s class was a turning point in my life. At some point during my freshman year she heard about me in the teachers’ lounge. Apparently, a few of my teachers mentioned the fact that I was a decent writer and she got wind of it. So one day after Algebra (I still have nightmares about all things math) she approached me in the hallway and asked if I’d take her Creative Writing class the following year. I did. And by Christmas she abandoned her lesson plan and sent me in the computer lab to write. To this day she is the biggest cheerleader I’ve ever had when it comes to my writing. I wouldn’t be doing this if she hadn’t shown such an interest in me or invested so much in my development.
What sacrifices have you or your family made for you to pursue a writing career?
Nights. Weekends. Early mornings. Sleep, in general. I have four young sons, ages six and under, so my spare time is measured in minutes, not hours. And most of those are sacrificed so I can write. Time is a luxury I don’t have, so I’ve learned to make the most of every second I can get.
Novels tend to give readers “time to escape.” Have you ever felt this escape while writing? If so, please describe it.
That is the moment that every writer strives for – when thought and creativity blend seamlessly on the page and the story unfolds right before you. I had a number of those moments while writing this novel – when you know you’ve gotten it “right.” I can still read those passages today and get an electric feeling in my fingertips. They are the parts that practically wrote themselves, the parts that have gone unchanged through each draft and the editing process. One passage in particular is committed to memory because I know it was told exactly the way it should have been. I remember where I was when I wrote it (a green velvet chair at Starbucks), what I was drinking (white chocolate mocha), and how I got goose bumps as the words spilled onto my laptop. My prayer is that it translates to the reader and they feel that same sense of belonging to the story.
Do you write yourself into any of your characters? If so, does your family know who you are?
I think every writer does that whether consciously or not. There are bits and pieces of me in each character: hopes, dreams, struggles, sin, fear. As creative people, writers mimic God in the way he created. To a certain extent, I think we all make our characters “in our own image.”
I think my family would recognize pet phrases and mannerisms, but wouldn’t be able to point to a specific character.
Tell us about your hometown or where you grew up and how that place has impacted your writing.
Taos, New Mexico. Hippie capitol of the world (in my opinion at least). New Mexico is called “The Land of Enchantment” for a reason. And my hometown in particular attracts people who are drawn to the quirky, the artistic, the unusual. I think growing up in a place like that allowed me to see life a bit differently – to experience a certain amount of diversity that falls far from the beaten path. Artists. Native Americans. Woodstock Rejects. Environmentalists. And I think I’m better for it.
What is your writing style? (Do you outline? Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants? Or somewhere in-between?)
I am a serious outline kinda gal. It may be because I’m a control freak, but I like to know where the story is going before I start. I plot my books right down to chapters and scenes. I interview my characters. I outline my subplots. And then I weave it all together. It sounds strict, but I have found that the story comes together best when it isn’t left up to chance. And since I have limited time to write each day, I have to know what needs to happen as soon as touch my fingers to the keyboard.
Have you always enjoyed writing or known it was something you wanted to pursue? What determined this for you?
I knew from the time I was five years old that there was no other career for me. This is what I’m supposed to do. Not that the journey has been easy by any stretch, but I’ve never wavered in my desire to tell stories and impact the world through the written word.
How much research did you do for your book to lend it credibility?
Oh my. I easily spent as much time researching as I did writing. Years. Because I tell four different stories in one novel, I basically had to do four times the research. On one had I had to understand security procedures at the Smithsonian Institute and on the other I had to delve into the intricacies of the French Revolution. Then I’d thumb through books on 17th century India and 1920s Washington D.C. It was both exhausting and rewarding.
Do you dream about your characters or plots?
Day-dream, yes. They find me at the least convenient times: in the shower, when I’m driving, at church – whenever I can’t write the ideas down. I often put myself into a scene and converse with them. That’s how I write dialogue best. I have to get into that character’s head and make them talk. If they make me laugh or cry, become angry or sad, then I know I’m on to something.
Readers love to identify with characters and want them to do the right thing. Do you feel a responsibility to give your readers what they want?
I feel the responsibility to tell the truth. Sometimes people don’t do the right thing. The truth is, sometimes I don’t do the right thing. Or my readers for that matter. I’ve yet to see a life where all the loose ends tie up neatly at the end. I want my stories to reflect real life: the hard choices and the heartbreak. But I do want to portray hope and redemption in the process. My job as a writer is to give my readers what they need, not what they want.
What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
I have finally made peace with the fact that I will stop writing when I die. At the moment there are fifteen novels in various stages of development novels tucked away on my hard drive. The two that I am concentrating on at the moment both involve mysteries: one from Shakespeare and one from 1930’s New York. But you’ll have to wait for details.
What is your goal or mission as a writer?
To write words that point to Jesus. When I was a child my mother read the Narnia tales to me and I knew that Aslan was Jesus. At five years old I knew that even though she never explained it to me. Those are powerful words and I hope and pray that mine are just as strong.
What do you do to get away from it all?
Honestly? I’m a big fan of sleep! There isn’t much rest or relaxation in my season of life so I try and take little escapes: a warm cup of coffee, a nap on a rainy day, getting lost in a good book, or snuggling with my children.
Is it difficult for you to write about the death of one of your characters?
Depends on the character and the havoc they have wreaked on the pages of my novel. Sometimes they deserve it. Sometimes I cry with each letter typed.
Although she speaks and writes, Ariel Allison is first and foremost the wife of Ashley, and mother of London, Parker, Marshall, and Colby. She has a penchant for adrenaline-infused madness such as rock climbing, running marathons, and jumping off bridges – as if raising four pre-school boys were not adventure enough. Her first novel, Eye of the God, releases in October 2009, from Abingdon Press. She is the co-author of Daddy Do You Love Me: a Daughter’s Journey of Faith and Restoration (New Leaf Press, 2006), Jesus: Dead or Alive (Regal Books, 2009), and the Justin Case series of children’s books (Harvest House, 2009). When not immersed in a book, changing a diaper, or rescuing her dog from the death-grip of a toddler, you can find Ariel loitering in her little corner of cyberspace at www.arielallison.com. She also ponders on life as a mother of all boys at www.themoabclub.blogspot.com and on her thoughts as a redeemed dreamer at www.arielallison.blogspot.com. She and her family make their home in Texas, which is, according to her husband, the greatest state in the union.