Telling Love Stories

This week is Holy Week throughout the Christian world. It’s the week where we are reminded just how much God loves us. It’s the week that the past several weeks of Lent have been leading up to–the crescendo in the opus of God’s masterpiece about love.  How remarkable that it was late in Lent when I was given the beautiful gift of realizing why what I do is so special, why my writing is so meaningful to me and to many others, and why it’s all about love.

My regular followers know that I recently attended a writer’s conference in Milwaukee with my dear friend, Alexandra Hamlet. One evening, as Alexandra and I were hanging out in our hotel room talking girl talk, swapping family stories, and comparing writing notes, Alexandra said something to me that was so profound, it completely changed the way I look at my writing. I was telling her that I was a having a hard time with some in the “romance” community because my books don’t always fit the bill, so to speak. As I’ve said before, I don’t like rules, and I often don’t follow them! This does not go over too well with the romance writing folks. I have been searching for a while now to find where and how my writing fits into today’s literary world, and Alexandra laid it out perfectly.

So what was it that she said to me that profoundly expanded my way of thinking?

My dear and wise friend said, “Amy, you do not write romance novels. You write love stories.”

Wow.

That was it. The life-changing realization.

Alexandra and I talked about this at length that evening and continued to come back to it all weekend. She is absolutely correct. All of my novels have a romance or two, but it’s rarely the main thrust of the story. More often, there’s an abundance of love going around that doesn’t even involve the love between two people. My books are often about love between man and woman, but they are actually more about the love of family, love of community, love of Country, love of God, and more. There are scenes in Summer’s Squall that clearly demonstrate love for nature. The Devil’s Fortune contains themes of love of family, love of history, and even the love of a house. It was this book that allowed me to bring my grandmother back to life and show my deep love for her. My Chincoteague Island books portray love of community at their core as well as familial love and the love that comes with true friendship. My children’s books are also about love–Crabbing With Granddad is about love for my grandfather and love for a disappearing way of life while The Greatest Gift is about the kind of love that comes wholly and perfectly from the heart. All of my books share the common theme of discovering love of oneself.

I wish there was a genre that was simply for readers looking for books about love, not romance, just LOVE!

With love, there is often loss. There is hardship and pain and compromise and perseverance. Love is deeper than romance. It’s more enigmatic than any mystery novel. It can generate faster heart-pounding than a suspense read. It’s more mystical than a supernatural or paranormal tale. Love contains history, religion, and sometimes even elements of horror. Love is all-encompassing, and true love endures longer than the butterfly phase of even the greatest romance. Love is the one thing that can always make everything, good and bad, even better.
Mother Teresa on Love.jpg

I had another profound realization while at the conference. When meeting with one particular agent, everything I ever knew about my personal genre was confirmed. The agent looked at me and said, “You write inspirational women’s fiction.” It was not a question. She had read an excerpt from the upcoming Island of Hope and knew immediately what my writing was all about.  We talked about the strong element of faith in my books, and she said, “I bet your writing also contains a lot of scenes with family and with female-friend relationships.” And she was correct. I write to inspire, and what’s more inspirational than stories of true love for family, friends, and God? 

So, as we close out Lent and begin the journey from death into life, I urge you to look around you and identify all the loves in your life–those people and things you love as well as those who love you back. In a recent blog post, one of my favorite bloggers said, “I think the meaning of life is to love. To love people where they’re at…not to judge, or condemn…but just to love. Like Jesus did. And be a light to the world.”

To be totally honest with you, that’s all my writing has ever been about–using my God-given talent to be a light to the world. Is there really anything better to write about than love? I’ll let the great Catholic literary genius, Flannery O’Connor, answer that.

“To maintain any thread in the novel there must be a view of the world behind it & the most important single item under this view of the world is conception of love—divine, natural, & perverted. It is probably possible to say that when a view of love is present—a broad enough view—no more need be added to make the world view.” – Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O'Connor Love.jpg

What I was writing about a year ago this week: The Blank Page.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

 

 

 

 

Favorite Novels – What’s on Your List?

DSC04542As I sit here this morning looking out over our backyard, a heavy mist shrouds the landscape.  The snow and grass seem to be in a struggle over which parts of the yard belong to whom.  Across our property lies a patchwork of white, brown, and green bordered by trees that actually seem to be looking down upon the earth wondering when it will be time to awaken from their long, cold slumber. And as if the East Coast hasn’t already had more than its share of winter, more snow is heading our way.  The good news for those of us in the Mid-Atlantic is that at least we’ve been able to thaw a little in between each storm.  Not so for Boston, Buffalo, and many other cities and towns north of here!

I’ve already accepted the fact that there will be four people in the kitchen tomorrow baking Katie’s sweet sixteen cake rather than just one, and I might just have many more hands available to decorate for her party on Friday. However, I so long for an entire week of writing without interruption!  I understand that many people are just itching to get into their gardens and out in their boats.  I would just love to have a five-day stretch where I can sit in quiet and complete a chapter or so per day in my next novel.  Alas, that doesn’t seem to be in the forecast for me this week, but perhaps a good read is in your future.  So I’ve decided to share with you my list of my all time favorite books.  Like all good librarians, I will categorize the list.  I hope there is something here that you will enjoy reading.  I believe that you will find a few hidden gems amongst some of the more well-known titles.  So pick a book, sit by the fire, and remember that spring is just 15 days away!

Amy’s All Time Favorite Books:

Historical Fiction

The Lady of Arlington by Harnett T. Kane – a novel based on the life of Mary Custis Lee, the wife of Robert E. Lee

The entire Little House series – have you read them as an adult?  You should!

Romance

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green – a book I have loved since I was in middle school.

Fantasy

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling – really, did you truly expect me to not have a Harry Potter book on the list?

Memoir

The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma – A father and daughter vow to read together for 1,000 nights, and magic happens.

General Literature

So many to list!

Beaches by Iris R. Dart – A tear-jerking story about lifelong best friends and the ups and downs of their relationship

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – a timeless tale (truly – you have no idea when in time this takes place) of secrets and lies that come out when a young writer is summoned to write the memoirs of a dying woman.

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham – perhaps an odd choice, but I love a good book about football, and this one is a lot of fun!

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks – The “choice” will leave you buried in a pile of tissues!

Classics

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier – A nameless heroine falls in love with Max deWinter, a man haunted by his past.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Jane falls in with Mr. Rochester, also a man haunted by his past.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – love and romance in the Victorian Age

Mystery/Suspense

This is the hardest list to narrow down for me.  I am a sucker for a good suspense story!

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

The Lifeguard by James Patterson

Where are the Children by Mary Higgins Clark

Please add your favorites to the list!

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Sex in Literature

Sarah Publishing
Over the last couple of weeks, I have heard and been a part of many conversations about sex in literature.  These conversations have taken place at conferences, in public, and within chats among friends.  I find it interesting to hear how others view this topic, what they find appropriate or inappropriate, or whether or not they enjoy reading this type of work or are simply made uncomfortable by it.  I still stick to the belief I have held for all of my adult life, and as this is my blog, I’m going to share that with you now.

While many would argue that sex has been a part of literature for as long as there has been the written word, I would disagree to an extent.  Has it been “present” in literature since the beginning? Sure it has.  But has it been the graphic and explicit portrayal we are seeing so often today?  I would argue it has not.  While The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss (1972) was the first work of fiction to portray physical intimacy, romance fiction has “flowered” quite a bit itself.  Ever since Woodiwiss introduced the world to the sexual exploits of Heather and Brandon, romances have tried to capture the fervor caused by this first of its kind publication.  It wasn’t until the recent release of Fifty Shades of Grey that such a book has so completely captivated readers (and now movie goers alike).

But I have to ask this question: outside of a class on Romance Genre Literature (yes, those classes do exist), where else is sexually explicit work considered literature?  Did Jane Eyre have wild, explicitly detailed sex with Mr. Rochester?  Elizabeth with Mr. Darcy?  Rebecca with Maxim?  Even Hermione with Ron, for Pete’s sake?  And how much more satisfied were you as a reader when you finished reading those works of literature?  I firmly believe that there is something to be said for the imagination!  I know, most children and young adults these days don’t even know what it is to “imagine” something.  The world is already painted for them, and most will never pick up the brush needed to add in their own details.  So what do writers do today?  They hold the readers’ hands.  They paint every facet of the picture with their own take on what the hero or heroine would do and how they would do it (every minuscule detail).  They lead the reader through the author’s own personal fantasy without allowing the reader to decide on her own what is happening.  The reader is no longer a reader, she is a voyeur, a virtual peeping Tom.

On the red carpet this past Sunday, Melanie Griffith said she never wants to see daughter, Dakota, as Anastasia, toy and later wife of Christian Grey (I will not call her his “love interest”).  I don’t blame her.  Would all of the women who read the book feel differently about it if they had to picture their own daughter being graphically defiled by Mr. Grey?  My bet is, they most certainly would. Do we really want to create a whole genre that we wouldn’t want our own daughters to read?  I can firmly say, I would not.

Is there romance in my books?  Yes, there is.  However, I will continue to rely more on my ability to tell a story than on the need to use sex as a plot device.  If I ever get to the point where my characters find time to have a wild and explicit romp in the hay while hiding from a mad man and trying to stop a killer from taking other innocent lives by running from one clue or murder scene to another without the chance to shower or even brush their teeth (I’m already gasping for breath), will someone please put me out of my misery?  I once had a publisher tell me that my writing and plot were wonderful, but they weren’t interested unless I added in some steamy sex.  No, thank you.  The storyline just doesn’t work that way, and neither do I.  Oh did I mention that I was later signed by a publisher and that the same book that was once turned down is now selling very well nationwide?  I guess some people are still okay with using their imaginations.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com