Watching the Tree LimbsWatching the Tree Limbs
Mary E. DeMuth
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Callously passed from relative to relative, 9-year-old orphan Mara takes comfort in her imagination---especially playing Nancy Drew with her best friend, Camilla. But some mysteries seem unsolvable. Who is her mother? Why won't the neighborhood bully stop abusing her? Can she endure the heartache of a shattered childhood and begin again, with God's help? 416 pages, softcover from NavPress.
     

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Mary Demuth
2 Corinthians 12: 9,10 - "And He has said to me ,'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with difficulties for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Our Interview with Mary Demuth

How did you become a CBA fiction author?

I have always wanted to be a writer. In the second grade, I had a teacher who encouraged me and wrote a note home to my mom that said I was creative—the first nice thing a teacher said about me! In college I majored in English. Once I had children I started a for-profit newsletter for stay-at-home-moms which I produced for several years. As my children got closer to all being in school, I started writing more, trying to figure out what in the world a query letter was. Eventually, I sold my first piece to Marriage Partnership.

What is a query letter?

It's a letter of introduction for the article that you want to sell. In other words you don't sell your piece directly to a magazine, you first write a query.

How did you start writing novels?

One day I had this burning passion to write a novel so I decided to sit down and do it.

I had done extensive research about my great-grandmother's life during the Great Depression. She had seven children and had to learn how to survive after her husband was killed in a rock quarry accident. I sat down to write about it and four months later I finished a novel. Two months after that I went to Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference (www.mounthermon.org/writers) and that book got me in the door. I found a great agent and I guess the rest is history.

How do you like living in Paris?

Actually I live in Nice in southern France on the Mediterranean. I've only lived here a year and a half. My husband and I are church planters in the south of France. It has been very hard. Our children go to French schools. There's been a lot of tears and a lot of stress, but I feel like now our heads are above water and we're starting to feel like things are clicking. I have three children; thirteen, ten and seven, girl, boy, girl.

What is your favorite Bible verse?

It's 2 Corinthians 12, 9&10. NASB.

How closely is Watching the Tree Limbs based on your own life?

It’s loosely based on my life. I did not grow up in Texas and all the characters are completely made up. But I was sexually molested as a five-year-old. All of those things that God has been bringing me through, even as an adult, went into that book. So, in a sense, I'm not Mara because we are very different , but in another sense, all of us who have been molested as children are the same; we kind of like feel like we're all wearing the same scars.

How did you decide on the title?

It's a controlling metaphor of the book, the tree limbs. When I was five, the boys who molested me took me to an old park where there were huge evergreen trees. I just remember watching them; watching the tree limbs. So it came from my own personal experience.

How did you decide on the story line?

I didn't have the whole book in my head when I started. I'm more a fly by the seat of my pants author. I don't plot. I had the first scene in my head and I just started writing it and it flew out in four months. I didn't know who Denim would be. It all just came to me as I wrote the story. It was a really exciting, fun adventure to write it because I wasn't sure exactly what was around every turn. I had a general idea of where I wanted to go but I didn't have any of the twists figured out until they plopped in front of me and the characters took over the story.

Do you prefer to write contemporary or suspense fiction?

I write what I call emotionally-charged fiction.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

Time. I am part of a church plant in France and with three children it takes a lot of time. Thankfully, I'm a fairly fast writer so when a story comes to me I will be writing 10,000 words a week just to get it out.

I find the editing process wonderful, exhilarating and stressful—all three of those things. But I'm so thankful for my editor for both of the books in the series. She has been just so terrific. I've learned and grown so much as a novelist because of her.

How much research did Watching the Tree Limbs take?

Thankfully, when my husband and I moved from the Northwest, we moved to East Texas which is where this book is set. I made up a name for the town but it really helped that I lived in East Texas for two years. A lot of the details came from my recollection. I did returnto East Texas to do some interviewing and note taking for the book. The book feels real, like an actual place, because I was moved to that culture as an outsider. I had to become a student of what the culture was about as opposed to if I had grown up there. I may not have been able to make the same observations. I was able to see things differently.

Who was your favorite character?

I think it's Denim He intrigues me. He's afraid, and yet he's not afraid. In a backward way, he’s my Atticus Finch.

Do you have any other books on the horizon?

The book’s sequel, Wishing on Dandelions, will be released September 15th with NavPress. I’m writing a book about how to parent in a postmodern context with Harvest House that will be released in 2007.

Who is the person who most influenced you with your writing?

I think it's definitely Leif Enger who wrote Peace Like a River. I want to write books that are lyrical and beautifully written but make the reader want to turn the page.

What were your favorite books as a child?

I loved the Little House series. I have discovered children's fiction as an adult and have appreciated it perhaps more than if I’d read it as a child. I love books like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the Anne of Green Gables series, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

What message would you like your readers to take from this book?

The message I want people to take away when they shut the book is that God can redeem even the most impossible situations.

What is your goal or mission as a Christian writer?

My goal is that I would authentically represent God and His people in such a way that is invitational.

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