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Struggling journalist Maizy Grace Stewart isn't really a believer, but she manages to "fake it" in order to land a part-time job at a Christian publishing house. When the newspaper editor commissions her to write an undercover expose of her new employer, will her conversations with churchgoing colleagues lead to success---or second thoughts? 400 pages, softcover from Multnomah.
Favorite Verse: Galatians 6:4-5, The Message: "Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don'tcompare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life."
Our Interview with Tamara Leigh
How did you come up with the concept for Faking Grace?
It all began with the title, into which I stirred a timely Sunday morning service about “Cultural” Christians and—voila!—Maizy Grace’s story was born. Well, actually, the process was a bit more protracted than that, but that was the fuel that put my fingers to the keyboard.
How closely is Faking Grace based on your life experiences?
Not only have I had an insider’s view of the enthusiasm and resolve of a new Christian—moi!—but I’ve witnessed it in others. The difference with Grace is that though she was saved ten years earlier, she has done little with her faith in the meantime. Only when it becomes an asset, opening a door for her to be hired at a Christian publishing company, does she pull it out, dust it off, and…well, go overboard.
What tickled me so much that I opened the story with it, and which I imagine some new Christians may become caught up in (consciously or not), is Grace’s 5-Step Program to Authentic Christian Faith that she lays out to “pump up” others’ perception of her faith. As for her purchase of The Dumb Blond’s Guide to Christianity, I did read a book similarly titled when I was exploring my faith. Once I got over being called an “idiot” or some such, I gained some pretty good insight into what Christians believe and why.
Unlike Grace, I’ve never intentionally used props or “Christian speak” to impress others as to the depth of my faith; however, I do like my cross necklace (it just feels good) and have been sorely tempted to slap a fish on my bumper. What keeps me from giving in to one little fish and proclaiming my faith to other motorists? I believe I’m a good driver, but sometimes…
How long did Faking Grace take you to complete?
My contract called for nine months in which to complete the manuscript, which is what I typically need; however, Grace’s story wrote relatively fast and I wrapped up the first draft six weeks ahead of deadline. Oh if only all my books were so cooperative…
Do you have a favorite character in Faking Grace? Why?
I’m partial to Grace…and oh-so-British Jack…and mustn’t forget outlandish Jem who charmed me into giving her a much bigger role than originally planned… But let’s go with Woofer, Grace’s Miniature Pinscher/Shih Tzu something-or-other mix. The peg-legged little mutt kept stealing the scene with that attitude of his, pieces of which I took from my own dogs—a ninety-pound Doberman Pinscher that thinks he’s only fifteen pounds and a fifteen-pound Shih Tzu that thinks he’s at least ninety pounds and doesn’t put much stock in the advice: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Woofer came through for me as a writer, adding zing and chuckles to the story. All good, though I’m not sure Grace would agree.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Oh, the usual: deadlines, revisions, synopses, writer’s block— Yes, writer’s block. I know some writers say it doesn’t exist, that it’s just an excuse and all it takes to get a story on paper is sitting down and doing it, but that doesn’t always work for me. I sit and sit, fingers poised on the keys, poke a bit, sit some more, poke some more, but the block remains. Sometimes it’s a result of having backed my story into a corner and the only way to get it out is with a major rewrite; other times the well simply runs dry.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
The solitude is wonderful. Creating characters that surprise me is wildly fun. And the readers are inspiring. Every time I receive reader mail, I’m amazed by how deeply a reader has been affected by the message in one of my books and how easily they relate to my characters.
Is this book the beginning of a series? If so, what is the name of the series?
No, Grace’s story stands alone, though there are a couple of characters in it who believe they warrant their own story.
Are there any other new projects on the horizon?
Oh, yes! And it is a series. My publisher has offered me another 3-book contract for a series titled: Southern Discomfort. The books in order are Guarding Eden, Marrying Magdalene, and Burning Bridget. I know, I know—me and my “something somebody” titles. But wordplay is such fun!
Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?
I don’t know if there is any one person, but when I started my writing career fifteen years ago, it was a result of reading medieval romances that uplifted me with their tales of true love. The authors of those books made their characters come alive and made me long to weave tales myself. When I entered the Christian market and switched from the medieval genre to chick lit, it had a lot to do with Kristin Billerbeck’s What a Girl Wants, which opened my eyes to the scope of Christian fiction and the possibilities.
What message would you like your readers to take from Faking Grace?
I hope readers will join Grace on her journey from what it means to be a “Cultural” Christian” to what it takes to become an authentic follower of Christ. Though it’s true that Christians can be as fallible as those who don’t share their faith, what matters and sets them apart is how they deal with their circumstances.
What is your greatest achievement?
I have three: marrying my knight in shining armor, giving birth to little knight in shining armor #2 (now 14 years old), and giving birth to little knight in shining armor #3 (now 10 years old).
What is your goal or mission as a writer?
If I can create stories that touch readers’ hearts, make them smile and laugh, and show them God’s love, then I will be content.
What do you do to get away from it all?
Actually, “getting away from it all” usually means uninterrupted writing time. When it’s busy around the house, I often sneak off to a Starbucks or Barnes and Noble café. Of course, this is cathartic only when the story is flowing. When writer’s block sets in, I’m better off getting lost in a good book—fiction or non-fiction.