Friday, June 10, 2011

Author Interview: Lisa Velthouse, Part 2

Today's post is continued from yesterday's interview with Lisa Velthouse, author of a new memoir called Craving Grace (which I reviewed here).

AK: Have you had moments of regret in terms of how honest you were about various events and thoughts? How have you dealt with the vulnerability brought on by the book's publication?

LV: I’m not sure I would call it regret, but yeah. Brutal honesty does bring about a certain sense of increased vulnerability. I can be a people-pleaser, so I have a hard time in particular thinking that some of what I wrote might unintentionally shed negative light on some people, groups, and things. Concealing character identities helps with that fear—you mask somebody so that nobody knows who you’re talking about—but there’s only so much a writer can do.

For instance, Amy, in your earlier review you note that Craving Grace is a bit harsh about Saving My First Kiss (that’s a terrible summary of your review, but you get the idea). You’re right; it is a bit harsh, probably unfairly so. Part of the deal with this memoir, though, is that I didn’t want to caveat my behavior for caveat’s sake. The reader gets a true picture of who I am and who I’ve been, which often includes unfair reactions and levels of emotion. Hopefully we can all learn from the ugliness of it. For instance, I’m not nearly so harsh about my first book now. :)

AK: I would imagine memoir writing gets sticky when you begin to tell other people's stories as part of your own. How have the friends and family members portrayed in the book reacted to your stories about them?

LV: This relates so well to the question above. I learned early on in writing that it should be a careful matter, telling other people’s stories. In the past, I’ve written about another person, thinking that the story is wonderful and portrays them in a wonderful way, only to find that they felt differently and were offended by something. Now I try to give people a heads-up early on and then an advance read that includes veto rights. With Craving Grace, the reactions I got were pretty fun. Several family members and one of the Coras reacted with, “I had no idea!” Revelations everywhere. :)

Along with this, one of the crazy writing lessons in Craving Grace for me was that books, when compared to real life, have a miniscule capacity for characters. Many of the people who are big parts in my life—some family members and friends in particular—don’t have a place in the book. They simply weren’t big parts of certain events and conflicts, so they didn’t make it into the story. I wish I could’ve managed to honor everybody by working them in, but it would’ve become a free-for-all that way. Thank goodness for the Acknowledgements.

AK: A significant element of the book is your experience of grace through living in community with other believers. How will you look for that kind of community in new places after having experienced its rich sweetness in Michigan?

LV: The Apostle Paul writes that we are to “bear one another’s burdens.” Implicit in this is the idea that Christians should, rather than carrying burdens on their own, make their burdens known. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. The burdens I tell of in Craving Grace are of the sort that most Christians consider obvious and urgent: I was in debt, I was lonely, I was sad, I was confused about God, I needed a place to live. These are the sorts of things that Christians are good at helping with: a little cash, a little friendship, some answers, some encouragement, a spare room in the basement. I experienced new depths of faith when others provided for me, eased my burdens, and let me be part of their lives.

But circumstances have changed for me, and now my burdens are the less-obvious sort. Still-newly married and newly moved across the country, I crave deep friendships here. I need advice on how to be a better wife. I’m worried about my military husband’s ever-looming next deployment. I need to figure out how to weed the backyard. We could really use help getting rid of the boxes in our garage. Why don’t I think to say these things? Why do I assume they’re not burdens, that they should be borne by only me?

The other side to that is: Two weeks ago, my husband and I are now living in our first house. We were able (because of a terrible market) to buy a place that’s a little bigger than only we need, so a family member of ours is living with us too. It’s a great arrangement; it helps us pay the mortgage, offers him cheap rent, and gives us all a better sense of community and reliance. But it’s harder on him than it is on us, because this is our house. Without us, he wouldn’t be living here, but without him, we still would. So he’s more likely to feel like an inconvenience. More likely to apologize for being a burden. And it’s so easy for me to forget that I’ve been in that place myself, to forget how awful and consuming it can be. So I’m learning, I hope, how to give with graciousness and how to bear others’ burdens better.

AK: Can you now answer Cora's question on page 59: How has your life changed as God has become the sweetness in it?

LV: Certainly I can’t answer it fully, but I can give it a shot now, and that’s progress. I’ve begun to understand the depth of my own sin—it is sinfulness, the reality that even my nature is an offense against God. But with this, God’s grace has become real in my life of faith, because now it’s not merely Bible verses, memorized and mostly forgotten. It’s real, both in need and provision. There is such joy in that, and such worship. I used to follow God because I knew it was what I should do. Now, hopefully more each day, I follow him because I like being with him. He is love to me, and justice and hope and truth, even when I don’t understand what he’s up to. That makes it a pleasure to follow and obey.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Lisa! I so enjoyed "talking" with you a bit more about your book and your life.

Find Craving Grace on Amazon and be sure to check out Lisa's blog as well!

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