Gail's Book Nook

Monday, March 31, 2014

Looking Out the Window: Mental Health Counselor Weaves Inspirational Romance about a War Veteran Amputee with PTSD. Connie Almony Tackles a Tough Problem Faced Today.



Connie will give away a print copy (U.S. Only) OR an e-book--winner's choice. To enter to win leave a comment and an e-mail address below.

It's a pleasure to have Connie today. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am trained as a mental health counselor and though I no longer see clients, I still work at a Christian counseling facility. I’ve been married over twenty years to a man who inspires the mischievous banter of my hero and heroine. I also have two children who model the quirkiness of my more colorful characters.

Lots of writers liked to read as children. Were you an avid reader as a child? What did you read?

Okay, this is where all you avid-reading-child-people cringe … I watched WAY too much T.V. and read mostly non-fiction as a child. I know—it’s awful!!! But then I hit twenty, and found some books that interested me.

Eventually, I started reading classic 19th century literature (I LOVE Jane Austin, George MacDonald and Charles Dickens) and finally read many of the children’s books I’d missed when I was young. I consume books now!!! My kids used to cry when I lifted a novel because that meant they couldn’t talk to me for a good long while. In my late twenties, I discovered what it really meant to be a Christian and began to study the Bible and its relevance in my daily life. When I found Christian music and Christian fiction it was almost like sinking into a Calgon bath—ahhhh. I rarely read or listen to anything else now. I needed to fill a spiritual pit that had been empty for so long. Now, I have something worthwhile to put there.

Ah, that's great. What about writing, why do you write?

I think the real answer is, “Because I have to!” I’ve written off and on as long as I can remember, but really became inspired watching my prolific daughter write stories (from the minute she could sound out words) and make them sing. A few years ago I helped her brainstorm ideas for a school project, a Cinderella story set in Greece, and got the bug, myself. I watched her use some of our ideas to create a beautiful story, but most of all grieved the ideas she left behind. It was at that point I decided to write seriously, and I’ve never looked back!



Thanks for sharing that neat story. Tell us about your latest book.

Cole Harrison, a war veteran, wears his disfigurement like a barrier to those who might love him, shielding them from the ugliness inside. He agrees to try and potentially invest in, a prototype prosthetic with the goal of saving a hopeless man’s dreams.

Carly Rose contracts to live with Cole and train him to use his new limbs, only to discover the darkness that wars against the man he could become.

At the Edge of a Dark Forest is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Only it is not her love that will make him whole.

What an inspirational storyline. What inspired you to write this particular book?

This book began from an idea to do a series with my critique partners, based on Fairytales without the magic. My critique partners include June Foster, Mildred Colvin, Vanessa Riley, and … uh … what was her name again? Help me out here, Gail. Oh! Gail Pallotta!!! I’ve always been intrigued with the story of Beauty and the Beast because of the element of loving someone for their insides and not their looks. However, as a counselor who’s worked with abused women who’ve chosen projects, as boyfriends, rather than soul mates, I’m always concerned about encouraging the idea that it is a woman’s job to change a man with her love. So, in At the Edge of a Dark Forest, it’s not Carly’s love that makes him whole.

We call this series “Fairwilde Reflections.” A new fairytale will be released each month by one of my critique partners. Check the schedule here.

As I mentioned above, I’ve always loved the story of Beauty and the Beast. I had to figure out how this man would be a beast, and how could he be transformed without magic. After having done a Military Ministries Series on my blog Living the Body of Christ a couple of years ago, I’ve been particularly moved by the many ways our veterans have sacrificed so we could be free. That’s how the idea of a war-vet, amputee with PTSD came to mind. Carly, the female protagonist is a physical therapist who’s developed an innovative prosthetic socket design. I got the socket design from a youtube video showing how it worked, and spoke to someone from the company who manufactures it. If you want to learn more about this socket design, go to the BioDesigns.com website. It’s really quite amazing!

LOL, about the critique partner. I'm glad you brought it up. It gives me the opportunity to say I've read the book and can highly recommend it. Where do you get ideas for your books?

My first manuscript was inspired by my time living in an all-male dorm when I was a grad student. I ran the building and was the only female among 500, hard-partying, testosterone-laden, young men. It was quite the experience. The second in that series was inspired by my work as a counselor with women who’d had abortions. When describing the actual event, I discovered, for many it was the most traumatic event in their lives, even though, at the time, they had believed it was the right thing to do. I wanted to capture that. So I guess you can say I get my ideas from life.

How do you get to know your characters?

I need to sort of marinate in their world. It’s hard for my family to talk to me when I’m developing stories because I am often in “story world” unless called out to cook dinner or—gasp—clean the house.

I often joke that I take on mannerisms of the character least like me. While writing a guy with long wavy blonde hair who was a rock musician, I began to dress differently (daughter called me “rock n roll mom”) and my usually straight hair took on waves. In the next story about an exotically beautiful flirt, my hair developed spiral curls at the base of my neck and I caught myself winking at people. I used to think this was cool until, as I began writing At the Edge of a Dark Forest, my hair began to fall out in the shower. I gasped when it dawned on me the character least like me in this story is bald!

LOL. I'm glad you finished before you lost all your hair. Are you a plotter or a pantzer?
 
I’m a Snowflaker—using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. No, I didn’t say “flaky,” though some might assume that is true. I think global-to-specific, intuitive, top-down. I often don’t even write my stories in order. I might start with pivotal scenes and fill in other scenes like glue, pasting them all together at the end.

Does your faith affect your writing? If so, how?

Sure it does. I could never write a story where God didn’t play a major role. That’s how He fits into my world. If I were to write without Him it would feel flat and shallow--meaningless.

I never wanted to write stories that preached at people or where people were getting saved at the end. I always intend to write a simple romance involving two people who happen to be Christians.

However, in the world where I grew up, there were not a lot of actively Christian people who made faith a priority in their lives, let alone a potential love interest. So it’s always hard for me to develop a setting where two devout Christians just happen to meet in a highly secular area. So, in the end I often write about one character who has some level of faith and another who is practically oblivious to the real Jesus of the Bible. They say write what you know and that’s what I know—the constant clash between these two worlds.

I recently read a blog where an agent wrote she was sick of salvation stories. Her reasoning was that there is more to life than the actual moment of when one gets saved. She asked, “What happens to the character after that moment?” Well, in a highly secular world, though the now Christian will not need to be saved again, hopefully, she will witness others doing the same. That WILL BE part of her story. What is the Great Commission after all? My sister became a Christian a few years ago. She has the gift of evangelism. She tells me a new salvation story every week! She inspires me to write about these moments in other’s lives.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Hmmm. What should I share? (Connie scratches chin)
I’ve got it!
You know how movies always portray romance writers with their hair pulled up in a sloppy bun, wearing yoga pants (or sweats) and an old, beat up “grandma” sweater? That’s me. I think there’s a magic in it. You cannot write a good romance without the uniform. My grandma sweater was even once my grandma’s. Only it didn’t get all the holes in it until I started wearing it. If I’m not careful putting it on, my hand will go right through the hole in the elbow. But still, it’s very cozy and makes me feel close to my grandmother who is now with God (probably telling Him what to do). 

Thanks for sharing, Connie.

Author Bio:
Connie Almony is trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. Her newest release, At the Edge of a Dark Forest, is a modern-day re-telling of Beauty and the Beast about a war-vet, amputee struggling with PTSD.

You can find Connie on the web, writing book reviews for Jesus Freak Hideout, and hosting the following blogs: Infinite Characters and Living the Body of Chist

You can also meet her on the following social media outlets:

Twitter
Facebook
Pinterest

Buy At the Edge of a Dark Forest at: amazon and smashwords

13 comments:

Miss Mae said...

Okay, I had to laugh about living in that male dominated dorm! Oh, my! How did you manage??? LOL

Love the premise of your book, and that cover is gorgeous. It's very nice to meet you, and glad you discovered the love of books, even if it took you a while. *wink*

Connie Almony said...

Miss Mae, the story about how I survived in that all-male dorm is woven through another manuscript!!! Thanks for stopping by. Oh, and the cover was crafted by another critique partner, Vanessa Riley.

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

I love the idea that this book is written with the inspiration of a fairytale. Especially Beauty and the Beast! That's one of my favorite fairy tales. May God bless you to touch many hearts.

Sally said...

Great interview, Connie and Gail! Very fun. Now I want to read the book. :)

Laurean Brooks said...

I enjoyed this interview to the hilt! Connie, I love the idea that your story ideas come from fairy tales. How neat is that!

Congratulations on an intriguing release

I've read books since 4th grade, but my sister would not read no matter how much I tried to encourage her to. Finally, I found a mystery book I really loved (can't remember the title) but my genuine enthusiasm spurred sis to read it.

From that day on, all way through high school, (sis was in the 8th grade when I gave her the first book), she had books checked out of the school library. Her nose stayed stuck in her current one. Well...when she wasn't eating. I'm not exaggerating much. She even replaced studying with reading her books.

I'd created a monster. I'd say, "Sis, wanna go do something?" "No. I'm reading my book." She wouldn't even look up to answer.

To this day, Sis reads 6 books to my one. LOL. She's gone from mysteries to Christian Romance (usually Amish), but she still consistently reads.

Connie Almony said...

Linda, B&B is one of my favorites, too. My favorite scene in the Disney cartoon is when the beast gives her the library. No, not a bobble he assumed every woman wanted. He gave her the thing he knew SHE wanted, because he'd come to know who she was--Sigh!
Sally, Thanks for stopping by. I can't wait to read one of YOUR books :o).
Lauren, Wow! You gave your sister a lifetime of enjoyment!!! I relate!!!

Gina said...

Very nice to meet you, Connie. What a great interview, you will reach many folks with your writings. Blessings to you always.

Gail, your blog is just awesome!

Connie Almony said...

Thanks, Gina. Nice meeting you, too.

Shirley Strait said...

Great interview. I like the concept of the book. I look forward to reading it.

Connie Almony said...

Thanks, Shirley!

Becky Lewis said...

I love the idea of a Christian book based on beauty and the Beast; however, glad to see that you have written it such that it takes more than a person's love to rescue a truly troubled person. Thank you. Too many people enter relationships based on the idea of changing or worse, rescuing their mate.

Connie Almony said...

Yes, Becky. And I've seen that. Jesus is our One True Hope. He uses us to show Himself to others, but He alone is the Savior

June Foster said...

I already have a copy of this unique book, but just couldn't resist saying: the story is for our times. It offers help and hope for anyone who's suffered from PTSD. I'd recommend anyone read it.