Crystal LiesCrystal Lies
Melody Carlson
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Shaken by her 19-year-old son's crystal-meth addiction, Glennis Harmon is further devastated by the discovery of her high-profile attorney husband's affair. Plunging into the role of rescuer, Glennis is determined to save Jacob at any cost. Will that high price include her relationship with her daughter, her marriage---and her own sanity? 352 pages, softcover from Waterbrook.
     

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Melody Carlson:

John 3:16 Itís the ďwhosoeverĒ part that gets me. Thatís who I write for Ė ďwhosoeverĒ and to me that means everyone and anyone.

Is Crystal Lies based on a true story?

The inspiration was the result of my younger sonís meth problemóand the book is dedicated to him. He took our family through lots of trials and ended up in rehab. Call it ďlife research,Ē but I think experiences like this shouldnít be wasted. Of course the story and plot is fiction, but some things like the mother-son relationship were close to reality. I made Glennis a real queen of codependency to make a point. I interviewed a lot of other moms when I worked on a book called Lost Boys and Their Moms Who Love Them. As a result I heard many stories about co-dependency and enabling. And I probably inserted bits and pieces of many mothersí stories in this book. So you know that while thereís a lot of truth in there itís not just one personís story, thank goodness. At least, thank goodness itís not all mine.

Itís amazing how common meth use has become. Because of this book, Iíve followed news stories and statistics and have discovered that meth use is on the rise. Unfortunately, crystal meth is the cheapest drug to manufacture and itís one of the most addictive drugs available. This combination makes it a very serious problem. Add to that how easily it lands in the hands of young people and you can see why itís a huge concern.

How did you get started as a writer?

Iíd always loved to write and as I got older, teachers told me I was an extraordinary writer and that I should take writing seriously. And in college whenever I had term papers I could just ace them based on writing not necessarily knowledge. But because writing came so easy I didnít take it so seriously I just figured it was probably something anyone could do.

Finally as my kids were hitting their teens I suddenly felt that I was going to explode if I didnít write, so I just started writing. I really didnít know anything about writing professionally or being published. I just started writing with a legal pad. I joined a critique group shortly after that and ended up getting published within the first year. Then I sold my first book the second year and by the third or fourth year I think I sold six books. It was just amazing. It was a God thing. Finally I got to the place where I had to acknowledge that this is a gift and not something you take for granted. So, when I talk to people I like to remind them that sometimes we donít know what our gifts are because they come easily and we take them for granted; so weíre not always utilizing them to the utmost. I really do love to write. And I write for all ages and various genres. Iíve limited myself to one big novel a year (WaterBrook) and then I do the small novels with Baker. I also write a lot for teens (Multnomah, NavPress). I love writing for teens because I feel like theyíre in such a vulnerable place and itís a great time for God to get them right by the heart. So how can you miss that?

Are you doing anything similar to Crystal Lies?

Finding Alice is on schizophrenia. And the one following Crystal Lies was going to be about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)... but we decided to take a little break. So the next novel will be lighter. Iím working on it now. Itís called On This Day and involves five women at this big wedding and I write their different points of view. Theyíre all at various stages of love, life, romance, and broken hearts. One just got divorced, one was just widowed, and theyíre all at this wedding. But thereís one main character that pulls you through it. Itís fun, but itís not just light, fluffy. And certainly itís lighter than drugs, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and schizophrenia. I want my readers to know Iím more than just a mental illness writer. Plus I felt like I needed a break.

Was Crystal Lies emotionally tough to do?

When I actually wrote it, my son was doing really well. I sort of wrote it during something of a comfort zone. But if you know anything about meth and addiction, you know that life doesnít travel in a straight line. My son still has his ups and downs. But I have discovered that writing about tough things like drugs or mental illness can be very therapeutic tooóas long as youíre not writing while in the thick of it. That would be tough.

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

Good question. Probably the biggest challenge is to make sure that Iím hearing Godís direction as far as whatís the next thing to do and not just getting pulled along either by a trend or by a publisher or editor. Trying to discern what is bestÖknowing what God is leading me to do. Right now Iím doing a Bible study series for teens. And the book Iím working on right now is focuses on how to discern Godís voice verses all the other voices. This is especially important when it comes to your gifts and who you are and your identity. So here I am trying to get teens to start figuring it out but I know we adults have a hard time too. Probably the other challenge is all the distractions of life and family and being a grandmother, now, which I love doing. But I think itís just keeping things in balanceÖkeeping Godís voice in my ear and not everyone elseís. I try to honor God and hear his voice. Knowing when to say yes and knowing when to say no and then seeing how it plays outÖhow God really has a plan. Itís such a relief and so much peace staying in that place. My life can get really hectic. I have had some ďHollywoodĒ interest in my booksÖone has been optioned for a film and others are being considered for T.V. and it would be really easy to get distracted by those possibilities. I could end up running around trying to work those things out. But itís like I just get to say, ďYou know whatís best, God. Itís all up to you, what happens, happens.Ē My career has never been planned. Goodness, I never planned any of this. Itís just been amazing. Iíve published more books than anyone has a right to publish in such a short amount of time. Who knows whatís right around the next corner?

How long did Crystal Lies take to complete?

A couple of months, I write extremely fast. When I try to write slower, the story gets stodgy and I start figuring things out too soon or trying too hard. Besides when I write fast itís like Iím experiencing the story, Iím never sure whatís coming next. And I like to be surprised.

How much research did Crystal Lies take?

I've been researching it for years. When I see any news blurbs I pay attention. Partly because of my son, partly because Iím just curious. So itís been an ongoing research, and probably will continue to be. Once I get involved in these issues, that curious part of my mind just follows the story. And I wonder if things are getting better or worseÖhow are people dealing with it? When drugs hit our lives years ago, it seemed really unusual; it wasnít happening too much and everyone elseís lives seemed just perfectly normal. There wasnít as much help out there back then. It was harder to find information about Crystal Meth, and then as years passed it became more and more prevalent. Now it just seems itís on all the news shows and more people are getting more up-in-arms about the drug crisis. Sadly I think itís a growing problem, our family just happened to get hit by it on the ground floor.

How did you think up the characters?

In books like this I equate my characters with their problems. I actually conceptualize their problem before the character materializes. Like I know thereís this woman with this specific kind of problem, but I canít even quite imagine who she is yet. So Iíll just start writingÖpieces of her emerge as I write. And slowly I get to know her. Some people cut magazine pictures. Iíve even tried that but it doesnít work for me. Iím more visual in my imagination. So slowly that person just starts to materialize as I write. I am definitely a character-focused writer. Plot is secondary. When I write a book itís always about the character and their problem, everything else just follows; that becomes my plot. Some people are plot-driven, but I latch on to the person and the problem.

Who is your favorite character?

At this point, Finding Alice is very near and dear to my heart. The protagonist ďAliceĒ just really latched onto me. I wrote that book in first-person and present tense, so itís a very intense read.

How did you choose the setting?

I like setting my stories in the Northwest, because when Iím writing anything thatís really intense I want it to be in regions that Iím very familiar with, otherwise Iím distracted with questions like.. what does it smell like, feel like, what kind of plants are growing there? I get more freed up to get involved with the story and the characters by placing it on familiar turf. I live in Oregon and have spent time in Washington, so I put it there. I wanted it near a big city but not in a big city. I also wanted it to be like it could be where anyone could live. Kind of like that typical suburb kind of town, Anywheresville.

Are there any other projects on the horizon?

I'm doing the wedding novel with Waterbrook. I have a new small novel releasing with Baker, Revell early next year, called Three Days: A Motherís Story. Hereís a book near and dear to my heart. Itís Maryís story following the crucifixion. Itís very intense. Every once in a while Iíll write a book thatís not contracted. The story takes place primarily in three days. Itís written in first-person and present tense. I discovered a strange numerical thing when I started working on it. Based on history, Mary was probably about 15 when she conceived Jesus, and I realized I was 15 when I got saved. And at the time I was writing the book I had known Jesus for 33 yearsóMary had spent 33 years with Jesus as she watched him die. Consequently my age is probably the same as hers. So I felt I could relate to her. Add to this all the heartaches Iíve been through with my sonsÖlike how many times it felt they had just died to me. My heartís been broken so many timesÖusually in the middle of the night. Anyway, I felt like the story was very real, so I wrote it quickly and was excited about it. I felt like I discovered a lot about Mary and this eraóthings Iíd never considered. It was an amazing experience!

Who is the person who most influenced you?

I was in an excellent critique group with published writers and that was so helpful. Also, I read books by talented writers who inspired me. I wanted to write like that. I loved how they communicated womanís stories and heartfelt things. Somehow it made me think I might be able to take writing to a deeper level, to write stories about people who are flawed and struggling and leave the reader with hope. Back then I thought I would write lighter, happier stories. I didnít think that I was going to go so deep. But I just feel that God has pulled me there. You donít want to let it go to waste. And if people donít get it, they have been to the dark places yet and, then God bless them, maybe they never will. My theory is if your heart gets broken, it just that itís been softened and more ready to love everyone.

What were your favorite books as a child?

The first book I remember reading was the Velveteen Rabbit. I was in the library in the second grade. I remember just sitting there and crying. I couldnít believe that reading a book could was make me cry. I also remember reading books like Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables, Girls of the Lumber Lost. I wasnít a voracious reader. I liked being outside with friends and playing. But I read a variety of things, like Call of the Wild, and Robert Frost poetry. I was really fortunate for three years to have the same reading teacher. I actually dedicated one of my childrenís books to him, The Lost Lamb; my teacher was Mr. Lamb. He inspired me to love literature and reading. I think that had something to do with me becoming a writer. We had to keep poetry notebooks in his class and after three years, my notebook was huge.

What message would you like your readers to take from Crystal Lies?

What matters most to me in writing is grace. I want my readers to experience grace for themselves and then to carry it to someone else. Like a reader might see herself or a friend as Glennis and she would experience grace for both. Or if the reader sees her grandson as Jacob, she will have grace on him. You know when you see the other side of something, the hidden parts that you didnít understand; it makes you feel more compassionate. Thatís my goal. To show the underside, the things we donít want to see. It inspires mercy in all of us.

What is your goal or mission as a Christian writer?

To encourage readers, but also to enlighten. And I really want to share the hard stories, but not to beat up the reader. I want to show them how life can be for someone else, and to hopefully inspire them to be more merciful. They may know someone going through a similar challenge. Itís the same goal with the teen books. And most of the responses I get from teens are phenomenal. Iíd like to think my overriding theme is graceóeven in the kidsí books. Iíd like for grace to be the theme in my heart.

What is your favorite Bible verse?

John 3:16 NIV

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