Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal
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As an old woman’s lifeless body lies on a cold stone floor, her soul stands before an angel who offers her a miraculous opportunity: the chance to do it all again. But that is easier said than done. In order to change the path her life has taken, she must put aside years of self-loathing and pain, so she can help the young girl she once was become the woman she should have been.
At 17 years old, Grace Bennett is a bitter young woman. Though blessed with a loving family, looks and brains to spare, she hides her light under a bushel, spending most of her time in the darkness of her mind with little more than sarcasm and self-pity to keep her company.
But things are about to change for Grace. While delivering food for her family’s bed and breakfast, she turns onto a desolate dirt road and drives straight into her destiny.
It’s on this isolated country lane that the damaged girl meets a strangely familiar old couple and two mysterious young men. Together the group fights the demons that surround Grace, and they teach her what it means to let her light shine.
“Illuminating Gracie” is, at once, a metaphorical tale of the fight between good and evil and a spiritual saga of one girl’s journey from darkness into the light. If you liked “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games,” you will love the story of Gracie.
Can you tell us what the book is all about?
The book really tells two stories. The story of a young woman headed down a very wrong road in her life and the story of an old woman at the end of her long and miserable life. “Illuminating Gracie” relates the tale of a supernatural event whereby these women meet and are forced to put away their innate dislike for each other to reach a common goal – that goal being to change the path the young girl is on. In changing that path, the old woman will also find peace.
On the surface, I.G. is a fun story that pits angels against demons in the fight of good verses evil in a young girls soul. Gracie – who narrates the story – gets help with her many issues from a most unexpected set of sources, and in the course of one short weekend, she is able to fight her way from the darkness into the light. She also meets her soulmate and learns that the future ahead of her will be anything but boring.
On a deeper level, I.G. metaphorically expresses my own journey in life. I wrote the story after my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Having suffered with depression and addiction issues in my young years, I found myself obsessed with the idea of going back and changing those things I did as a young woman that negatively impacted my life and the life of those I loved – namely, my father. Since I obviously could not go back in time, the story allowed me to right the wrongs of my past if only metaphorically. Since writing the book, I’ve been given many, many opportunities to speak with young women – and old – about depression and addiction and where and how they can get help. This, in turn, has brightened my life immeasurably at a time that, due to my father’s death, would have been almost unbearably sad.
What message would you like readers to get from reading your book?
Other than just having a really good time, I’d like readers to get two messages from the book. The first being that happiness comes from looking outward toward other people. I believe that many problems experienced by today’s youth could be solved by those young people simply looking around them to others, rather than obsessing over their own wants and needs. They say depression is anger turned inward, and I believe that. As a veteran of counseling and anti-depression meds I can honestly say – the best medicine for me has always been to think about the needs of others. If your sad, go to a retirement home and play cards with an old person who has no family. If you are unhappy with your weight – spend a little time at a homeless shelter where people have to worry about where there next meal will come from.
The other thing I would like people to get from the book is that it is never too late to change. I’m 52, and my life has been completely altered by writing “Illuminating Gracie.” If you are unhappy – do something different!
How long did it take you to write the book?
Start to finish about two years, but that is really kind of misleading. I wrote a little then put it up for a few months – took it our again – did the same thing. I was caring for my father who was dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, so I only wrote in little snatches. Had I been able to sit down for a few hours a day, it would have gone much more quickly.
Who was your favorite character or what character was the most fun to write?
Oh, that’s easy – Gracie, because so much of Gracie was taken from me as a young girl. I did really enjoy writing Mrs. B. as well for much the same reason. Of the guys, Locke was the most fun to write because he was so conflicted – an arrogant!
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take any unexpected directions?
Oh Boy! To this day I almost can’t tell you. There were days that I would pull out the computer and read what I wrote and think “I didn’t write that! When did I write that?! I didn’t do any outlining of any kind. I never knew what would happen until it came out on the paper! Every direction was unexpected!
If you could go back and change anything in the novel, what would it be?
I would be tempted to change the ending by leaving off the Epilogue – but, I wouldn’t do it for two reasons. One, the Epilogue is needed to pave the way for Book 2, and two, I believe the existing ending with the Epilogue reflects a more realistic view.
How did you come up with the cover?
I had a strong feeling of what I wanted, so it was just a matter of finding the right image. I could see the cover in my mind months before I actually chose it.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Unfortunately, I had no idea I could write – or that I wanted to be a writer until the night two years I sat down and began writing I.G. Once I started writing, I knew immediately that I had found what I was meant to do.
What are your favorite books and authors?
Of course, my all-time favorite is To Kill A Mockingbird by Alabama author, Harper Lee; anything by Agatha Christie, anything (almost) by John Grisham; David Baldacci – my favorite of Baldacci is a series called The Camel Club – just fantastic books!
What are you working on next?
Right now I’m finishing up Instigating Gracie, the second book in the “Illuminating Gracie” series. In Book 2, all the characters are back, along with many new ones. Gracie will be starting a new high school (she will be a senior).
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Write every day – even if its just a journal entry.
Praise for Illuminating Gracie
“A well-paced fantasy story of redemption and self-improvement.” ~Kirkus Review (Sept. 1, 2013 Magazine)
“Just the right amount of love story to the action packed plot line left this book a perfectly balanced read.” ~Maryann (Amazon “Top 1000” Reviewers)
“The story also contains little mysteries that keep you turning the pages, as gems of insight turn up along the way. It is a story of hope and redemption, and a beautiful request of each of us to let our light shine brightly.” ~Kimberly Raadt Higgins (Amazon Review)
“On a personal level, I can relate to Grace in so many ways. As I read, a lot of memories and feelings from my teenage and young adult years have come flooding back, some a little painful, others fun and exciting, even hopeful. Yet it also has me contemplating where I am today as a middle-aged adult; am I who I thought I would be, who I want to be?” ~N.J. Collar (Amazon Review)
“The plot is masterfully drawn and keeps the reader guessing until the end. This book tells the story of the fight between good and evil in a young woman’s life. It is brilliant in its use of humor and emotion to draw the reader into the characters.” J. Pitts (Amazon and Goodreads)
Because he was an angel, Lochedus carried the power of life and death in his touch. With the wave of his hand, he could calm an angry sea or rain down terrible destruction on the heads of the guilty. He could grant peace to the troubled and visit devastating disease on the deserving. But no matter how hard he tried he could not, that night, pull himself from the depression that threatened to tear him apart. It had taken the touch of a small boy to do what a mighty angel could not and the far- reaching fallout from the child’s selfless act would echo throughout eternity.
Through the years, Lochedus had checked in on the boy, quietly keeping vigil – never speaking, only watching. Not one time did the boy acknowledge his existence or seem to see him again. Not even in his darkest hours did he call out for help. That is, until tonight. The boy, now an old man, didn’t beg for his own soul, but for the soul of another – the one he loved most in the world. And now, the angel would move Heaven and Earth – and Hell if he had to – to help the one to whom he owed so much.
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