Even at my age (over 50, less than 75), I still anticipate the arrival of the mail…the mail the post office delivers, not Google. It’s archaic and perhaps even silly because I’m old enough to know that, in addition to the useless and often shiny junk mail, I’ll find bills. Even so, there’s just something about the promise of the unexpected that intrigues me as I trot out to the end of the driveway after the mail lady has lowered our little red flag.
Naturally, before I even met her, the title of Marybeth Whalen’s book was enough for me to want to read it; the cover art made it even more appealing. It was a happy coincidence that I came to know Marybeth after I’d known her first novel was soon to be released. She and Ariel Allison, author of eye of the god, contacted me with the jaw-dropping news that Walking on Broken Glass was the April selection for She Reads. From that time until July, the three of us yammered it up on g-chat and email until I had the opportunity to meet them and experience the She Speaks Conference.
Marybeth’s debut novel uses the Kindred Spirit mailbox, a real landmark on the coast of North Carolina, almost as its own character in the novel. Of course, considering my own affection for mailboxes, I appreciated how she used this Kindred Spirit mailbox to draw both characters and the twenty years span of time together in the novel.
As a divorced and now remarried mother, I related to Lindsey’s struggles, her pain, and even her willingness to open herself to the possibility of greater pain. Clearly, after twelve years of marriage, a divorce was not what Lindsey had envisioned for her marriage to Grant or for their two children. Her husband, however, broke their vows with his unfaithfulness, initiated the divorce, and later, transformed into a more manipulative and deceitful version of himself.
When Lindsey and her children return to Sunset Beach, to vacation in a place both familiar and memorable, the story carries us through a love story that began twenty years before and a faith that endures through disappointments and loss. Lindsey and Campbell, discover through their journeys, that the God of second chances never abandons His children.
1. Okay, spill it sister. Admit you’re a clone. A husband, six precious children (ages 18 to 5), a speaker, a writer of nonfiction and fiction…What ‘s a “typical” day in the life of Marybeth?
Typical seems to be a moving target. Every day is different and just when I get a routine down, something changes to mess it up. Take for instance school just getting out. I had a routine but then the kids got out of school and that routine is out the window! Instead I will tell you that a good day includes writing 1000 words (have found that that’s my sweet spot), going on a run, doing something fun with my kids, talking to my husband beyond just passing each other in the doorway, taming the laundry and dishes, and making dinner. Now, understand that said good day might happen once a quarter. The rest is just me surviving the chaos.
2. How/When did your involvement in Proverbs 31 begin? Your speaking ministry?
My involvement began in 1993 when the ministry was just a little home-done newsletter that we folded in a woman’s living room and sent out to people we knew. It’s certainly grown since then! When my third child was born with a severe birth defect that required a trach and g-tube in 1996, I resigned from the ministry and truly thought I’d never come back. God led me back 7 years ago and when I returned, I got involved with speaking– something else I never intended to do. I love how God surprises us with His plans!
3. What was your first nonfiction title? How many since then? What led you in this genre direction before fiction?
I have done two titles for Proverbs 31 as takeaway pieces for our She Speaks writers and speakers conference: For The Write Reason (for writers) and The Reason We Speak (for speakers). My husband and I did a book that came out last year called Learning To Live Financially Free. I started out in nonfiction because fiction felt too risky. I was afraid I wasn’t good enough and was too scared to put myself out there. I had to get over that.
6. What would most surprise the Marybeth of 20 years ago about the Marybeth of today?Goodness, a lot! That I actually did write a whole novel from beginning to end… and that it got published. That I have been married for 19 years and that we have 6 beautiful children together. That I speak regularly to groups and do not pass out– and actually enjoy it. That my love for writing wasn’t just a passing phase. Turns out it was the way God wired me and His plan for how I would uniquely impact other people for Him.
7. What is the “takeaway value” of The Mailbox for readers?
For one it’s just a good love story for those who love to lose themselves in a good love story. But beyond that it’s for any woman who has ever resisted God’s relentless love for her. She will recognize herself in Lindsey, the main character.
8. What can you share about your second novel? Release date?
I will have a new novel coming out in June of 11. It might be the sequel to The Mailbox or it might be the novel I just turned in. We shall see…
9. How is marketing fiction different from or is it the same as marketing your nonfiction?
Marketing fiction’s a little harder. With nonfiction there’s something to discuss– a specific topic about the book that you can be interviewed about via radio, tv, print articles, etc. With fiction there’s just the great love of story that has to come through and resonate with those who encounter you. I have tried to focus on the regional aspect of the book being set on the NC coast, and also to discuss some of the elements of the story— a father’s love for his daughter, teens struggling with anorexia, divorce, etc. That has helped. One thing I would say that is the same is the relationships I have formed are helpful in getting the book into people’s hands because they know me… and getting the buzz going that way.
10. What do you believe separates Christian fiction from “general” fiction? Do you think Christian fiction needs its own section in the bookstore?
I have found that people want to be warned if the book is spiritual in nature so yes, I do think it needs its own section. However, I think that if done correctly a non-Christian can enjoy a Christian fiction book just as much as a Christian. I had a Jewish woman who read The Mailbox and loved it so much she told me she was going to write to Oprah about it. 🙂 So that was such a boost to me to know that the story can touch the heart of any woman who has ever wanted to be known intimately and loved anyway. I don’t want to just write to Christians and my prayer is that non-Christians will discover God’s love for them through this book.
11. If you could write only one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The Mailbox— it’s the book I was meant to write and if I never do another one, I will always be humbled and amazed by the experience.
12. What dream(s) do you have for yourself/your family/your writing?
Just to get published was a dream come true so I am still reveling in that! I would be really happy to see Mailbox as a movie, I must admit. As for my family, just to raise all 6 of these kids to be God-chasing adults would be the best achievement I could ever aspire to.
13. What is your idea of a “Marybeth” day?
Spent on the beach with my family, followed by a nice dinner out and a good chick flick before sleeping at least 8 hours, preferably ten.
14. Anything else???
I can be found at www.marybethwhalen.com where I blog regularly, or at www.shereads.org, where we talk about the best Christian fiction books being published. Would love to see you there!