Within My Heart, Timber Ridge Reflections Series #3Within My Heart, Timber Ridge Reflections Series #3
Tamera Alexander
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Widow Rachel Boyd struggles to keep her ranch afloat and provide for her two young sons, though some days it feels as though her efforts are sabotaged at every turn. When her cattle come down with disease and her sons' lives are endangered, she must turn to Rand Brookston, Timber Ridge's physician and reluctant veterinarian. While Rachel appreciates his help, she squelches any feelings she might have for Rand--her own father was a doctor and his patients always took priority over his family. Rachel refuses to repeat the mistakes her mother made. But when she's courted by a wealthy client of the local resort, she faces a choice: self-sufficiency and security or the risk inherent in the deepest of loves.
     

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tammyTamera Alexander is the best-selling author of the critically acclaimed historical series–– Fountain Creek Chronicles (Rekindled, Revealed, and Remembered), and Timber Ridge Reflections (From a Distance, Beyond This Moment, and Within My Heart). Tamera’s The Inheritance, the 2010 Christy Award finalist and winner of the 2010 RITA Award, is the first historical for Women of Faith Fiction. Tamera's deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots, and poignant prose have earned her devoted readers—and multiple industry awards.

These awards include the 2008 and 2009 Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, and the 2007 and 2010 RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance. Her books have also garnered the 2010 HOLT Medallion, the 2010 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the Bookseller’s Best Award, the International Readers Choice Award, and top praise from the Library Journal, among other accolades.

Favorite Verse: Hebrews 12:1(NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.


 

 Our Interview with Tamera Alexander


 

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

After living in Colorado for seventeen years, Tamera has returned to her Southern roots. She and her husband now make their home in Nashville, Tennessee where they enjoy life with Tamera’s father, Doug, and with their two adult children who live close by. And don’t forget Jack, their precious—and precocious—silky terrier. Tamera uses her writing to draw closer to the Lord, and hopes that her readers will take steps closer to Christ as they read.

Will you give us a brief overview of the Timber Ridge Reflections Series?

Set in the town of Timber Ridge, in the Colorado Rocky Mountains (1870s), these three stories of faith and romance feature women who break the gender boundaries of their day not only by daring to have careers, but careers traditionally held by men. First, we join photojournalist Elizabeth Westbrook in From a Distance as she defies the odds and learns what it means to follow God’s dream for her life. Then in Beyond This Moment, we meet college professor Dr. Molly Whitcomb who travels the road of second chances and of accepting consequences for decisions she’s made, while also encountering a depth of grace she’s never known. Finally in Within My Heart, Rachel Boyd, a widow raising her two young sons, shows us what it means to take risks, and not only risks with her ranch, but also with something of far greater worth––her heart. These three women seek to fulfill their dreams and hopes in an untamed land where every advancement is hard-fought, every opportunity is cherished, and where love has the transcending power to change lives.

Can each book in the series, From a Distance, Beyond This Moment and Within My Heart, be read as a stand-alone book?

Certainly! I always tell readers that if they’re going to read all of them, why not read them in order for the richest experience. But each book is definitely a story within itself and can be enjoyed individually.

How did you get started as a CBA writer?

I first considered writing a novel in 1999. But I need to go back a bit farther to really get to the “seed” of where all this started for me. In 1995, my mother-in-law, Claudette Harris Alexander, shared a book with me, one she thought I would really enjoy. I was busy and let time go by without reading it. She asked me again if I’d read it. Several times. I said no, but that I would. The best laid plans…

Very unexpectedly, Claudette died that same year from a brain aneurysm. Weeks passed, and as I was cleaning bookshelves downstairs, I happened across that little volume and immediately sat down and read it. Claudette was right! I felt an immediate connection with the thread of hope woven through that gentle love story—Love Comes Softly, by Janette Oke, originally published by Bethany House Publishers in 1979. That sent me searching for more inspirational fiction published not only by Bethany House, but elsewhere in the Christian Booksellers Association market (CBA).

A few years later my husband and I were driving back to Colorado from Texas late one night. I finished a novel, turned to him and said (only joking at the time), “I think I could write one of those.” Without blinking, he said, “Well, do it.” Competitive at heart, I nodded and said, “Okay.”

My first novel made it to the review board at Bethany House Publishers in 2000, after which I received a very nice (and spot on!) rejection letter. Writing that first story was a learning experience for me that I took to heart. And with renewed determination, I set out to seriously study the craft of writing and have been writing ever since. Within My Heart is my seventh published novel.

 

How did you come up with the concept for Within My Heart?

So far, all of my stories have grown out of struggles I’m having in my own faith walk or from questions I’m wrestling with at the time, and the story in Within My Heart (WMH) is no exception. When thinking of great faith, we rarely think of great fear. But the Bible shows repeatedly that people of great faith also trembled in their boots as they took that first step in following God’s will for their lives. Nevertheless, they took those steps, trusting Him and then running for Him with everything they had. We should do no less.

I believe the timing of my writing WMH was orchestrated by God, and I know without a doubt that He shaped and re-shaped the fabric of this story so that I would learn some crucial lessons of faith that I needed to learn at this time in my life. Lessons I needed in order to walk the road He set before me and my family. And I’m so grateful that He did.

How did you choose the time frame?

The timeframe for this series (1875-1877) is set just before Colorado was granted statehood, and the actual event of its achieving statehood is celebrated in the course of these stories. My novels are filled with historical events that I weave into the plot and lives of the characters. Not only is this an era of history I love, it was an exciting time to live in Colorado and in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

What is the symbolism for the title Within My Heart?

There’s meaning behind the title, of course, but practically speaking we needed to start this title with a preposition since we’d already established that pattern in the series. We have FROM a Distance, then BEYOND this Moment, so we naturally needed another “prepositional phrase” type title. But even more importantly, the heart of this story is about trusting your own heart’s desires to God. It’s about taking steps of faith while we’re neck-deep in fear. It’s about trusting that still small voice within your heart, even while the storms of life rage without. So…it seemed a fitting title.

What made you choose both Colorado and Tennessee as your settings?

It’s said that writers tend to write what we know. And since I lived in Colorado for seventeen years, and since I’m a daughter of the South (born and raised in Atlanta), I guess that saying holds true for me. I’ve always loved history, especially the Old West and Southern history. So, I suppose you could say that my own personal loves dictated the settings. I only hope the love I have for these areas of our country, and their history, come through in my writing.

 

Do you have a favorite character in the Within My Heart? Why?

Of course I love Rand and Rachel, the hero and heroine of WMH, and the journey their relationship takes. But two other characters who really captured my heart are actually secondary characters whose story spanned the 3-book series. Ben and Lyda Mullins (named after my own Uncle Ben and Aunt Lyda Mullins) took on lives of their own, and it pleases me when readers share that they, too, have fallen in love with this couple. We learn more about Ben and Lyda’s personal story in Within My Heart.

Was the hotel you wrote about in Within My Heart based on a real hotel from the 1899's?  If so, is it in operation today?

I based my hotel VERY LOOSELY on The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (not constructed until the early 1900s), but only in the idea of a "fabulous warm springs resort that was open back in the day." Still, I tried to capture the Rocky Mountain setting, the warm springs, and the overall grandeur of the Stanley in Tolliver's Colorado Hot Springs Resort. 

The Stanley IS still open today.

How much research did Within My Heart take?

I spent over two years researching the information for this series, and really, even longer than that when you consider all the traveling I did when my family and I lived in Colorado for those seventeen years. I visited every place I write about in these books, interviewed numerous historians, read diary after diary from early settlers of the area, and loved every minute!

What is the most interesting fact that you learned while researching and writing Within My Heart?

While researching WMH, I poured over medical books from the 1870s and wasn’t too surprised at how much we didn’t know back then regarding the human body. What I found very surprising were the insights some very forward-thinking physicians did possess. Of course, Dr. Rand Brookston, the male lead in Within My Heart, falls into that category. Dedicated to their calling and tireless in their pursuit to heal, doctors like Rand blazed the trail for many of today’s remedies and procedures by their stubborn thirst for knowledge and commitment to caring for their patients.

How many books will be in the Timber Ridge Reflections series?

There are three––From a Distance, Beyond This Moment, and Within My Heart. All three books have Discussion Guides available for download, which include recipe suggestions for group meetings. I love doing Virtual Book Club Meetings with reading groups. Visit my website for more information.

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

I’m fairly outgoing, an extrovert by nature, so all the alone time spent writing can be a challenge. That said, the older I get and the more I’ve been writing, the more I’m enjoying this quieter life. By necessity, perhaps?

 

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

The glamorous wardrobe! Exercise pants and t-shirts all the way! On a more serious note… The connections made with readers are precious to me, and are such an unexpected and appreciated blessing!

What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?

At the top of the list is American Christian Fiction Writers. ACFW is a professional writers organization dedicated to equipping authors in the craft of writing Christian fiction. Their affordable annual membership offers online classes, critique groups, and an annual conference (held in September) that’s among the best in the industry. The knowledge I’ve gained through my affiliation with ACFW, along with the relationships I’ve made there with other writers, have made all the difference. Check it out at www.acfw.com.

What do you do to keep your writing fresh and improve on it each time you write a book?

By embracing the undeniable fact that I have so much yet to learn about writing, about life, about faith. God’s creativity is boundless, and as I write, I pray to always draw from His reserves, not my own. At the outset of each book, I come with all my research and brainstorming and piles of notes, and I place it all before the Lord and ask Him to guide the story. To help me get out of the way and write the faith journey He has in mind for these characters. And ultimately, for me too!

Are there any other new projects on the horizon?

Absolutely! I’m already working on my next series. Historical, of course, except these next six books will take place in my native South, which I love! These books, post-civil war era, are set in Nashville and are rich with historical detail and with characters who truly step off the page, because many of them are based on people who actually lived during that time. The first book is scheduled for release in 2011. Visit my website for more details.

 

What message would you like your readers to take from reading Within My Heart?

That everything we experience­­ in this life––both the painful and pleasant––is shaping us for eternity, and that sometimes the greatest steps of faith are taken neck-deep in fear. But we must take them! Even while not knowing where they’ll lead. Because the best is yet to come!

What is your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement isn’t really an achievement, per se, but rather an ongoing pursuit. And that’s to be the best wife and mother I can be. Of all the earthly blessings God has placed in my life, my family is most precious. I adore the relationships we share and treasure our time spent together. And I love that our eternity together started here. Then comes the writing. Granted, sometimes it’s a tough balancing act to keep the priorities in proper order, but if I earn every accolade in writing and yet fail at being who I need (and so want) to be in my family, I will not have succeeded.

What do you do to get away from it all?

Read, watch movies, take walks, cook, bake, and spend time with family and friends while doing all of the above. Anything that doesn’t require my laptop.

 

Tamera’s website:                        www.tameraalexander.comTamera’s

blog:                                             www.tameraalexander.blogspot.com

Tamera’s group blog:                    www.writespassage.blogspot.com

Connect on Facebook:                  http://www.facebook.com/tamera.alexander

Connect on Twitter:                      http://twitter.com/tameraalexander

Contact Tamera:                        tameraalexander@ymail.com


 

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