I stumbled into Varina Denman’s launch team for Jaded after seeing a blurb about it in her email newsletter. I had never been on a launch team before, but her description of what it involved captured my interest. Frankly, she had me at “Or simply open your front door and yell really loudly.” I didn’t have this blog at the time but I figured I could do at least that much. 🙂 One thing worried me a little though … What if, when I read the book, I hated it? I mean, I read a LOT but I’m actually pretty picky about what I like and bad writing will have me closing a book faster than you can say “library card”. There are simply too many books to read and not enough of a lifetime in which to read them; I have no time to waste on books that I don’t like. Well, my anxiety was completely without merit. I was hooked on Jaded from word one and could barely put it down until I closed the last page. It seems I am in good company as Jaded won the ACFW Genesis Contest for Inspirational Romance. You can read my review here – Jaded.
Since Jaded has the honor of being the first book I reviewed on my blog, I felt it would be fitting if Varina was the first author I interviewed on the blog as well. (Okay, so she’s also the first author I’ve interviewed ever but let’s keep that our little secret.) Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Me: Apples or Oranges? Why?
Varina: Apples. Because they go nicely with peanut butter, and peanut butter is the bomb.
Me: It is indeed the bomb! And apples and peanut butter are my favorite snack.
Me: Skittles or M&Ms? Why?
Varina: I don’t eat sugar, but if I did? Chocolate. Every. Time.
Me: I’m getting hungry. I need a new type of question! Dogs or Cats? Why?
Varina: Dogs. I’m allergic to cats. ☹
Me: Zuzu (my dog) says, “Good answer!” You may now move on to the next round!
Me: Coke or Pepsi? Why?
Varina: Dr Pepper! Because I was raised on it. Like milk.
Me: Hmmm… I see where Dodd got his love of that particular soda now. 🙂 Ok. This may be THE most important question in this entire interview and may determine whether or not we can continue to be friends. Are you ready?
Varina: (was not given that lead-in with the document sent to her and therefore has no answer prepared as to her readiness for such an important, life-changing question)
Me: Does UT mean University of Texas or University of Tennessee? (Please bear in mind that my daddy was born and raised in Tennessee… 🙂 )
Varina: There’s a University of Tennessee? (Go Longhorns!)
Me: I had such high hopes for you, Varina. GO VOLS!!!!
Me: Given your last answer (*friendly scowl*), it is tempting for me to stop the interview right here BUT since Jaded is all about forgiveness and loving people as they are I shall continue 😉 Speaking of Jaded, it is your debut novel and you have set the bar high! What did you learn from the process? What surprised you?
Varina: The road to publication has certainly been bumpy, but I’ve had so much fun! Besides learning the craft of writing, I’ve learned tons about the publishing industry. It’s been interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at how a book is made, from conception to final product. And I’m surprised that all those scary agents and editors turned out to be real people after all.
Me: Jaded has so many interesting and vivid characters. Who is your favorite character overall (the one who claims the fondest spot in your heart)?
Varina: Ruthie Turner is definitely my favorite character because I feel compassion for her. Even though I’ve never been hurt by the church to the degree that Ruthie was hurt, I can almost feel her pain. I wanted so badly for her to come close to God again, but the people kept getting in the way.
Me: I loved Ruthie! Fragile, yet feisty at the same time. And so ready to be loved – by her Savior and others. My favorite character was Dodd, and not just because of the obvious. *Dreamy sigh* He was quietly persistent, courageous even when he was confused, and he just loved others as best he could like Jesus loves. Plus, he has a soda pop addiction so we connected.
Me: Who was your favorite character to write?
Varina: Ruthie’s Uncle Ansel tugged at my heart strings because I modeled him after my own grandfather. Ansel is a hard-working, slow-moving, soft-talking rancher who loves Ruthie like a daughter. As I was writing him, I felt as though I was spending the afternoon with my grandfather.
Me: I love that so much! Was there a character who kept getting away from you and maybe took on a life of his/her own during the writing process?
Varina: Goodness, that Neil Blaylock! For a while I didn’t know what to do with him. I knew he was the bad guy, but I couldn’t decide how bad he was going to be. He had to be re-written and tweaked many times before he ended up just right.
Me: Yes, Neil and I had a few words while I was reading Jaded. They didn’t seem to faze him. Speaking of Neil, Jaded deals with church hurt. You’ve also written some very powerful blog posts on your website on how you were affected by this, how you learned to let it go, and what we all can do to stop it. What would you say to someone else who has been wounded by church hurt? (Check out her blog for those posts: http://varinadenman.com/)
Varina: After answering blog comments for the past month, I’ve determined there aren’t enough words to convey everything that ought to be said. Not in a paragraph anyway. Maybe someone smarter than me will write a nonfiction book on the subject.
But in a nutshell, I think the key to both sides of the church hurt issue (the hurt person and the one causing the hurt) is forgiveness. God calls us to love each other in all situations, even when it’s sticky. After all, Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. I know that sounds easy, but it’s SO not easy. When we’ve been hurt, we want someone to fix it for us, and someone will … God. We just have to be patient and let our hearts heal. Hang in there.
Me: Amen. Such a difficult situation. Like I said in my review, when the Church gets it wrong, we tend to get it REALLY wrong. But I am so thankful for His mercies that are new every morning and that He extends grace to us while we’re learning to be His people. Now if we could only master extending that grace to others!
Me: Finally tell us about your next book, Justified!! What is it about and when will it be released?
Varina: Justified, which releases June 1, is the story of Ruthie’s childhood nemesis, Fawn Blaylock. Where Jaded tells the story of church hurt from the perspective of an outcast, Justified deals with church hurt from the inside out. Fawn has always appeared to be the “perfect Christian,” but when her life falls apart, she judges her own sins with the same harshness with which she judged Ruthie’s. Because of her piety, Fawn has a difficult time forgiving herself and believing that God loves her.
Me: I cannot wait! We got to meet Fawn in Jaded and while I really wanted to dislike her because of her family, I just couldn’t. I’m excited to read her story and see how she also encounters Jesus’ grace and love in a way she can’t ignore. You can preorder Justified here: Justified at Amazon.
Varina: Carrie, thank you for inviting me to your blog. I’ve enjoyed being here!
Me: Thank YOU, Varina, for taking time from your busy schedule to answer my crazy questions and being my blog’s very first author interview! Even if you did fail to answer that 5th question correctly… GO VOLS!
About the Author:
Varina Denman writes stories about the unique struggles women face. She has five children, teaches creative writing and literature, volunteers in her local homeschool cooperative, and boasts sixteen years as a home educator. She resides with her family in North Texas. Her first novel, Jaded, won the 2013 ACFW Genesis Award.
Connect with Varina here:
GIVEAWAY!!!: Varina Denman has graciously offered to give a copy of Jaded to one lucky reader! To enter, simply leave a comment on this post about the interview or about Jaded. For extra entries, follow my blog and/or share about this giveaway via social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.). Make sure you leave another comment to let me know which extra entries you did! Winner will be chosen by Random.org on Saturday April 25th after 10:00pm EST and notified by email. If I don’t hear from you within a week, a new winner will be chosen. Good luck and thanks for reading! 🙂