Happy Monday! Starting today and continuing until September 19th (culminating with a list of winners), I have the privilege of sharing mini interviews with nearly all of the 2020 ACFW Carol Award Finalists! Today I’m beginning with Lauren H Brandenburg and her Carol Award finalist book The Death of Mungo Blackwell! You can check out a list of all the finalists HERE.
FYI – There will be 2-3 posts per day, and a series-long giveaway, so make sure you catch them all!
Lauren H Brandenburg is a wife, mother, storyteller, author, and purveyor lovely things. The Death of Mungo Blackwell is her first novel with Lion Fiction and her first novel for grown-ups. As a former English teacher and homeschooling mom, Lauren combines her love of ‘the what if’ with her spirit of adventure and faith to delight and encourage readers young and old. Her fourth book in The Books of the Gardener series, Orlo: The Created, was a 2017 finalist for the Selah Middle-Grade Novel of the Year. Lauren is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is on staff with the Realm Makers conference. She was a 2020 finalist for The People’s Book Prize (UK), American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Award in Contemporary Fiction, and the Selah Award in Women’s Fiction. She lives with her husband, Jamie, and two children in a lovely little town just south of Nashville, Tennessee, however… she will always consider Kentucky her home. Visit her at laurenhbrandenburg.com
THE DEATH OF MUNGO BLACKWELL
GENRE: Inspirational Contemporary Fiction
PUBLISHER: Lion Fiction
RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2019
A charming story of hope that will warm your heart and make your imagination soar!
Charlie Price, whose world has come crumbling down after a lapse in judgement leaves him unemployed, finds himself flung into the chaotic world of the Blackwells when he relocates to Coraloo with his socialite wife, Velveteen, and shy son, Gideon. Here Charlie attempts to make a living as a “picker”, reselling under-priced items he picks up at the market.
The Blackwells are a family with an extraordinary history and astounding traditions, which include attending their own funerals before they die! Their ways are questionable and their stories about deceased relatives are as bold as their red hair, but it is their eclectic wares that keep tourists coming back to their market in the town of Coraloo.
Some of the Blackwells welcome him with open arms, but others resent pickers and want him thrown out of the market. Charlie soon finds this new way of life under threat and his quest for simplicity seems to be crumbling. Perhaps it’s time for Charlie to have a funeral of his own…
Hi Lauren! Welcome back to the blog!
Q: How has Christian fiction impacted you personally?
Lauren: When I first started writing, I really didn’t even know “Christian fiction” was a thing, especially for children. But I knew I wanted to write for children growing up in Christian homes – this was well before I ever had the thought of writing a novel for grown-ups. I wanted parents to be able to pick up one of my books, give it to their kiddo and know they could trust that I would not lead their children astray. I prayed a lot over my middle-grade books as I wrote, constantly asking the Lord what I needed to tell the readers. Along the way, I began to attend conferences, follow more blogs, connect on social media, realizing that “Christian fiction” was more than a category, it was a lifestyle and a community. With The Death of Mungo Blackwell, the Lord kept pressing on me to write a lovely thing as Philippians 4:8 prompts us to think on what is lovely. After hearing Allen Arnold speak at ACFW several years ago, I took his advice and steered from writing about the Lord as I had done with the middle-grades and invited the Lord to sit with me, be a part of the process as I wrote Mungo. At one point I was like, “Lord, where are you in this book? This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever written!” I hadn’t written about him at all! But as I began to rewrite and edit and pray, I saw that the Lord was all over it… his sense of humor, his creativity, his redemption, and his revelation. There was never a question in my mind whether or not this piece would be a work of Christian fiction and that it would have a home in the Christian publishing world despite how different and quirky it turned out to be. I love this community so much as a reader and an author, and it’s an honor to call them my family.
Carrie: I love how God shows up where we least expect Him! ♥
Q: When you’re not writing your next award-nominated book 😉 who are your fave authors to read & why?
Lauren: Yikes! This is a hard one! I genre jump so much… Kristy Cambron, Ronie Kendig, Rachel Hauck – favorite Christian authors! Kristy’s writing is so well researched, and her voice is absolutely lovely in everything she writes. Ronie is a brilliant world builder, she totally taps into the side of me that loves spec but writes characters who have depth and are completely relatable. Rachel… magical! I love anything “real” with a bit of the whimsical. And… I read a lot of Roald Dahl – he was a master storyteller and had such a way with reminding grown-ups what it was like to be a child. I also read a lot of classic literature because it keeps me swoony – Dickens, Austen, Kipling…
Carrie: Love all of these!
Q: Which of your characters has really stretched you as a writer?
Lauren: Definitely Velveteen Price. I really wanted to capture her struggle in transitioning from life as a socialite without having her come across as petty or pretentious and also show her desire to be a fully supportive wife and mother. Early readers didn’t like her (I’m not sure I even liked her – she was a bit whiny) but once I really looked into her heart, I think I was able to reveal the depth of a person who wasn’t afraid to work hard, make necessary changes, and yet hold on to those quirks that made her strong yet different from everyone else in Coraloo. And then there was the scene with the hair dye… lol, moment of truth – that was straight from my own experience.
Carrie: haha – well now i’m even more intrigued to read this book!
Q: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve googled lately while researching a book?
Lauren: Oh my goodness! This question makes me laugh! Because my publisher is in the UK, I have to often be careful with my choice of words because every once in a while, my editor will say, “I don’t think this means what you think it means!” So, I Google a lot of “What would the British call a ________?” just to be safe. And I have spent a lot of time lately researching bank robbers… and tent revivals… and the circus…
Carrie: Well my readerly antennae just went up on that last sentence – sounds like a fascinating combination!
Q: What is one of your favorite quotes from The Death of Mungo Blackwell & why do you love it?
Lauren: “Who’s to say we aren’t dead until we learn what we are living for.” I feel like this just fell out of my fingers, one of those author moments when you realize how creative our God really is. It has a double meaning – in The Death of Mungo Blackwell, the Blackwells are known for having their funerals before they die… to see if there is something they missed, something they should have done and have the chance to go back and do. But underneath, we are dead until we learn to die to the selves we strive so hard to be and in turn live a life of freedom in Christ. It was a “Well, huh” kind of moment for me. While I had the freedom in Christ, I was doing an awful lot of striving. I learned so much about myself with Mungo, and while I’m pretty certain I won’t be having a funeral anytime soon… I like the me I found along the way.
Carrie: I love that so much!
I am offering one reader any TWO books (print copies) that finaled in the 2020 Carol Awards! (open internationally as long as Book Depository ships to your address) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read the contemporary Carol Award finalist The Death of Mungo Blackwell by Lauren H Brandenburg & what did you enjoy about Lauren’s answers?