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Amy Wallace

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The Advocate

Amy Wallace Interview

by C.J. Darlington

"Sacrifice, obedience, and God’s amazing grace is the short answer to how I juggle all the hats I wear. " -- Amy Wallace

Amy Wallace is a wife, homeschool mom, writer, Bible study teacher, and chocoholic. And that’s only a small snapshot. She is married to, in her words, “an awesome, incredibly good-looking, and God-honoring man.” Together they homeschool three amazing daughters. Some of her favorite moments are the ones she spends laughing, reading, and being goofy with her family.

C.J.: Amy, tell us what it was like writing your second book, Healing Promises. Was it harder or easier than the first? In what ways?

It was like surgery sans anesthesia. Really. I was in physical pain due to a rotator cuff tear and other problems in my right shoulder. Knife-like pain was a constant. Then God allowed some difficult relational situations and, on top of all that, walked me back through two of my most painful memories.

All in all, it wasn’t fun.

BUT… I had a prayer partner say to me after she’d read the book, “I could really see your suffering during the time of writing – it came through in strong emotions. God used it. I could also understand why you were under such attack. There’s a lot of healing in it for those going through the spiritual battles Sara and Clint did.”

As soon as I read that, peace and tears flowed. I knew God hadn’t allowed the pain for evil. But reading it in black and white filled in some of those hurt places and reminded me again that God never wastes anything. And that His goal in it all is always good. Looking back, I can see how walking through that time of writing Healing Promises catapulted me into my heavenly Daddy’s arms. And that’s the only best place to be.

I know a lot of your stories deal with subjects you’ve actually experienced either directly or indirectly. Was that the case with this novel?

Yes. Healing Promises grew out of two painful memories, times when I’d wrestled with God and doubted His goodness and trustworthiness. One was attending a friend’s funeral after three years of praying for healing from cancer. My faith was rocked to the core and I struggled to pray for a long time after my friend died. The second difficult season was that of losing a baby before becoming pregnant with my third daughter. Both dark paths took me to the end of what I understood about God. And as I worked on Healing Promises, I went back to those memories and poured into the pages all the pain of those moments as well as the intimate realness of God’s arms surrounding me.

One of the main characters is an oncologist. Was there a lot of research involved in making the medical details sing, so to speak?

Yes, and the research made me bawl and praise the Lord at the same time. Mostly because I’ve walked through cancer with some very dear friends and loved ones, so it was a difficult process. But I saw faith in the fire and it was beautiful.

One of the neatest research stories started with sending a prayer request to a large writing group. I’d hit a place where I knew the specific cancer Clint would face and had done all the textbook and professional interview type of research I could to. But I still wasn’t sure I was ready to write. Thus the prayer request.

One of the ladies who answered offered to detail her and her husband’s cancer journey if that would help. As a fellow writer, she gave me so much information I was blown away. But what awed me was that her husband was dealing with the same cancer I’d researched for my story. I mixed my tears and prayers with theirs and the result was a great friendship. Because of Chris and Tiff, I was able to create characters who breathed on their own and I pray offer hope to those battling cancer or any other painful trial.

And I’m thrilled to report that my friends are cancer free and I’m so honored that they opened their lives to me to help me write a story full of real emotion, deep struggles and the powerful love of God.

Healing Promises by Amy WallaceWhat surprised you most in your research for this book?

The beautiful, painful, beyond understandable faith my friends and their families have lived as they’ve battled the beast of cancer. Some of those friends are now with Jesus. Some are cancer-free. All held tight to the hand of Jesus even as they dealt with anger, haunting questions and fear. And they showed me what it means to love the Lord and trust in His goodness all the time.

Healing Promises asks the question: “Can God be trusted?” In a nutshell, what’s your response?

The truth that carried me through so many dark points in my life and what God showed me again in writing Healing Promises is that God is good even when life doesn’t go the way I pray. The bedrock truths that remains when everything in our lives are shaken are that God is with us, He loves us and no matter what our feelings say, He is good. Always. It’s what we do with those facts that change everything.

How do you write a serial killer believably without dragging yourself, and your readers, down with the portrayal of evil?

In some ways I had to face evil first and cry through pages of notes, books and interviews for research. Had it not been for God’s protection and the wisdom of my husband to say, “enough” I wouldn’t have slept for the nightmares.

My college degree helped keep the nightmares at bay too. I have a counseling background and at one time wanted to work with the FBI’s behavioral sciences. My college courses combined with current research helped me write what’s true but portray it without glorifying the evil or making it too dark and leaving readers without redemption and hope.

But the research proved easier than being in a serial killer’s head. Often, writing from the killer’s POV was disturbing. But I knew if I wrote him well with realistic scenes, I might help parents see ways to teach their children how to stay safe. And remind us all to hold even tighter to Jesus.

Now that you’ve gotten into the writing groove, what have you learned about balancing being a mom, teacher, wife AND writer? How do you juggle all your responsibilities?

I don’t get a ton of sleep, but I do have a lot of help from my family. There would be no writing groove without them! What works for us is my homeschooling during the week, then during the evenings doing marketing, editing and other writer things. I do the majority of my actual writing on Saturdays.

It’s sometimes really hard to go to work when my kids are playing or going to friends’ parties and I’m left home alone. But it’s a sacrifice we’ve all decided to make for this season. Sacrifice, obedience, and God’s amazing grace is the short answer to how I juggle all the hats I wear.

The longer answer involves a whole lot of messing up and getting back up to try again. I also get by with a little help from my friends. In addition to my wonderful family, I have a group of incredible prayer warriors who pray for me every week. They keep me encouraged and focused on doing what God has called me to do.

What is the biggest obstacle in your life that God’s helped you overcome?

The biggest obstacle in my life is contained within my gray matter. It’s my choosing lies over truth, getting down on myself or trying to push beyond what God has given me at this time.

Thankfully, God is not impatient or at a loss for circumstances to put in my life that drive me back to Him and His truth. Add to that His loving arms and I’m learning what faith and courage look like in the dark when I sometime wonder if I’ll ever get it right.

Amy, I heard you had a rather dramatic conversion experience as a teenager. Could you share with us how you went from an alcoholic thirteen-year-old to a believer?

You know, it’s something I don’t talk about often anymore. But it’s good to share it in the context of what an amazing God we have.

I grew up in an alcoholic home and started drinking before I hit my teen years. Nearly died a number of times. But God in His amazing mercy brought me back to the States (I spent some growing up years in Germany) and plopped me down in a school full of really weird Christians. ;-) They were weird to me because the few times I’d gone to church God was holding thunderbolts and ready to condemn me, but these people showed me a God who could smile, deal with sin on the cross and love me no matter what I’d done.

That was Someone I wanted to know. And every time I’d ask my friends questions, I wanted to know more. I finally let them drag me to church—I was still afraid God had thunderbolts hidden somewhere—and came to a point where I knew God had open arms extended to me. And so into them I ran.

What do you do when you hit a brick wall in the process of creating a book?

There are three ways I handle this…

In my few mature moments, I step away from the computer and talk over with the Lord what’s keeping me from writing, what has me stalled. Often, it’s an issue I’m trying to ignore, something undealt with in my heart. And God is awesome to turn on the light and keep working in my heart until I’m able to get back to work. Many times I end up writing into the scene exactly what God just had me walk through.

Another way I handle the brick wall is panic. That’s when I keep pounding the keyboard and write pure drivel. Then I have to make liberal use of the delete key and remember I need to pray instead of panic.

Then in those totally less-than-mature moments, I spit at the computer and go take a chocolate break.

My favorite way of handling it is to combine the chocolate and prayers. That’s a sweet way to make those brick walls crumble.Ransomed Dreams by Amy Wallace

As a homeschooling Mom, I bet you’ve learned a ton right along with your daughters (I can relate, I was homeschooled for all my schooling years). What is YOUR favorite subject to teach your kids? Why?

How awesome that you were homeschooled! Gives me hope for my kiddos and me that we’ll survive and thrive. On those rough days, that hope is such a strength!

To answer your question… I’ve learned more homeschooling my kiddos than I did in sixteen years of school. Some of that, I’m sure, is because we take time to really delve into the subjects that interest us the most. And with the ones none of us like, I try to find ways to make them more enjoyable.

My favorite subject to teach is a tie between history and science. I love reading original documents and studying the uncensored version of history that hasn’t been scrubbed clean of religion or boiled down to one “acceptable” point of view. I like showing my kids multiple takes on each time period we study and raising questions that make us think. And I love science because we have a blast with experiments and I get to see the wonder of God’s creation and the thrill of exploration through my children’s eyes.

How much say do you have in the titling of your books? Have the final titles been one’s you’ve selected?

My publisher, editor and all the other people involved in title decisions have been incredible to allow me a great deal of input. Both Ransomed Dreams and Healing Promises were my working titles which made the front cover. The third book, Enduring Justice, went through four full outlines before my editor and I found the right story. So, following its own crazy journey, we went through upwords of thirty-something title suggestions. All of the ones I turned in were brainstormed with my prayer team and crit buddies. Thanks to them, I had a handful of titles the publisher also liked. And together we settled on Enduring Justice.

Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers about the creative writing process?

The creative process is the best of times and the worst of times. And all points in between. But if you can’t not write, then do it with all that you are.

My favorite part of the process is when I start hearing the Holy Spirit whisper ideas through my dreams, from the conversations around me or out of the clear blue. The story begins as a song and grows in my heart until the Lord wraps His arms around me and together we type out all the notes.

I also enjoy editing. I feel a little like Michelangelo chipping away at a block of stone until he discovered the statue inside. It’s amazing to be part of the process where words are chipped away until this beautiful statue appears and the story is set free to shine.

What’s next for you after the Defenders of Hope series?

Sleep? Hum…. Probably not. ;-) I’m still dreaming about, praying over and doing the research for three very different suspense projects. Two I’ve started writing and I love the characters and the stories. The third is still being pieced together in my heart.

What do you wish your readers knew about you that maybe you haven’t shared with anyone yet?

I’m not sure I’ve shared this in an interview, but I hope readers know they’ve been on my heart and in my prayers as I write.

Where can we find you on a Friday night?

Often with a Starbucks in one hand, popcorn in the other, watching a DVD with my family. Or playing board games. We set aside Fridays for family fun and can also be found painting pottery, swinging like monkeys at the park or reading books together at the library.

What will your epitaph read?

I’m kinda hoping I won’t have an epitaph. I’d much rather be caught up in the air with Jesus and end my time on this earth that way.

But, if I have to have a headstone, I hope it will say that I loved well, prayed hard and lived in my Father’s footsteps.

Favorite food of all time:

That’s easy… Chocolate!

Your most memorable vacation was:

Short answer is the beach because that’s where I most easily hear the Lord. But I have a really neat beach story for an illustration.

A few years back, we piled the kids into a big raft and paddled a ways out to see what we could see. We’ve been within splashing distance of huge sea turtles and surrounded by rays. But this year we didn’t see any of that and ended up coming back to terra firma because our youngest much prefers sand to surf.

When we packed everything up to head inside, I realized I’d lost one of my favorite black flip flops during our rafting. I figured it got stuck to the bottom of the raft and ended up in the waves. My girls immediately prayed that God would return my shoe.

I smiled and explained it was just a shoe. But instead of joining me, my husband prayed with our girls about the shoe’s return. I was afraid they were going to be very disappointed.

But the next morning on our condo balcony, my husband—still believing a shoe was worth God’s intervention—spotted a black object on the beach and went to check it out.

It was a big rock.

But a few steps away from that rock, right there, floating in the sea foam, was my flip flop.

I’ll never forget the tears that flooded my eyes or the thanksgiving that flooded my soul when David handed me my shoe. Because after a particularly difficult year, I’d desperately needed a reminder that God really did love me and really did care. And He sent both in the form of a black flip flop and the faith-filled prayers of my little ones.

As a chocoholic, what is the very best chocolate you’ve ever had?

Another yummy question. ;-) My favorite chocolates are Godiva dark chocolate mint medallions and Godiva’s marzipan and chocolate treats.

When was the last time you cried?

Typing the beach story about my flip flop. I’m sure it could sound silly to some, but that returned shoe was a tangible reminder that God sees everything and tenderly cares about His children and every detail of our lives.

Parting words?

Dream Big! God is truly able to do abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine. And He delights in giving His children His best. Sometimes that takes longer than we think it should or doesn’t come wrapped as we expected. But keep your eyes and heart focused on Him and God will do amazing things in, around and through you.

C.J. DarlingtonC.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.