Interview & Giveaway - Guest Author Susan Meissner ~ White Picket Fences

We have a wonderful guest today! I hope you'll grab a cuppa and make yourself comfortable as we're joined by a wonderful award-winning author and sweet lady, Susan Meissner. Let's get to know Susan a little better and hear more about her latest release White Picket Fences.

Susan, you have quite a cast of characters here in White Picket Fences, and I don't mean that they are outrageous, but that they are so layered and well developed from the very beginning of the story. It's as though they are very real people in very real lives. What birthed the idea of White Picket Fences, how did this story come about in your heart and mind?

It came from two places, really. A few years ago I was a court-appointed liaison for children, a county guardian ad litem, and my role was to be an advocate in the courtroom for the child’s best interests. Sometimes human services had to remove a child from a dangerous home situation and though it was the goal to get the child back home as soon as possible, the child’s interests always came first – over the county’s budget, the parents’ wishes, the attorneys’ arguments. 

Sometimes I would visit with a child in a foster setting whose home seemed as chaotic as Kansas twister or as primitive as a hut in a third world country. No running water. Mattresses on the floor. No heat. Flies everywhere. But most of the time, these kids wanted to go home. They somehow felt loved there. It got me to thinking that we often assume that just because a home looks dysfunctional that doesn’t mean a child can’t feel loved there. Safe and comfortable there. And then I realized the opposite must also be true. Just because a home looks perfect, doesn’t mean it is. That’s where the seed of this story came from.

Tally is a young lady in her teens and has a lot of life coming her way in short order. Tell us about her biggest character/personality struggle. 

Tally is used to being shuffled about. She’s led what some might call a vagabond life with her unconventional father but he’s always managed to land on his feet. This is the first time she ponders that maybe the white picket fence life her cousins have is preferable to the unsettled life she’s always known. She’s always had her dad around when she’s pondered something, but he’s missing. This is all unfamiliar territory to her. Her gut reaction is not to worry. It’s confusing to her when her aunt seems to fear the worst. She’s never contemplated the worst before.

Amanda seems like the everyday ordinary woman, a housewife and mother just like you and me--always trying to be the glue that holds it together for others--what's her biggest struggle within?

Amanda in Chapter One believes she and her husband have achieved the American dream and she wants to share that with her displaced niece Tally. But Amanda in later chapters begins to see cracks in the glass that protects their idyllic life. When she points out these cracks to her husband Neil, she finds out he doesn’t want to deal with them. He wants to look away and pretend they aren’t there. Alone with her worries and fears, she turns to someone who has sympathy for her and the cracks just widen. . .

Let's talk just a little bit about two other books you've written, two of my favorites: The Shape of Mercy and Blue Heart Blessed.

The Shape of Mercy--I loved this book--you had several distinguished nominations and awards for this book. Could you tell us what those are?

The Shape of Mercy was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the top 100 novels published in 2008, a designation I still can’t quite wrap my head around. It was also named the Christian Book of the Year for Fiction by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Assn this past March. Both times I was in a field of very talented fellow nominees. All I can say is God showed up when I was writing this book. It has touched people in ways I didn’t plan or design. And I am humbled to my core.

The Shape of Mercy deserved every one of those and more. What a story of beauty. Thank you for that book, it's a gift to any reader who is blessed to happen upon it. I can't recommend this read highly enough! I think it will be considered a classic.

Blue Heart Blessed--a sweet love story, but also the story of a woman whose heart is taken on an unexpected journey to healing. I loved it, loved Daisy, the main character. All the characters were great, as was the setting. Very vivid. How long had this story been with you before you wrote it? 

This one was sitting in a corner of my brain for about a year when I began to write it.  The idea for this book came to me when I wasn’t looking for it. I was on my way to the hospital to visit someone and with me was a friend whose roommate was planning her wedding. My friend had just finished describing how beautiful her roommate’s wedding dress was and I said aloud that it’s kind of a shame a gorgeous dress like that is only worn once. The minute I said that, the seed of a story sprang to life. What if someone wanted to give beautiful wedding gowns another day to shine? What kind of person would open a used wedding dress shop? Someone who had never married? Someone who was happily married? Someone who wished she was married? Someone who had nearly been married and was suddenly left standing at the altar? It was this last scenario that spoke to me. 

Yes, I could see a woman opening a second-hand wedding dress boutique to try to let go of the custom-made gown of her dreams. I could see her wanting to sell her dress, but always yanking off the price tag the minute someone showed interest.

You speak at women's events and also do writers workshops. What topics can you speak on for each of those groups and how can anyone interested contact you?

I speak on letting go of fear and becoming the person God has gifted you to be. I also speak about breaking your alabaster jar and expressing yourself in worship without hesitation. I also speak to writers’ groups about just about anything having to do with writing. You can find a contact link on my website or drop me an email at susan[at]susanlmeissner[dot]com

What did you do before you wrote fiction novels?

I was in community journalism for ten years before quitting to write my first novel. I loved the newspaper life, but fiction is where I feel most at home!

You have such a lovely way of writing that brings out the frailty of human life, takes us into the gritty moments of another person--one you've made real to us. You stir the heart of a reader for the characters you create. Why do you do this, why do you write?

I really believe the call to write is accompanied by the passion to write. I write because that is how I make sense of the world, how I interpret life, how I communicate back to people what matters to me and what I think should matter to them. I never set out to become a writer; I just realized I already was one.

Coming back to White Picket Fences, how do you think the story will speak to the reader, what do you hope will resonate within for the audience?

I hope people will realize that a life of pretense is a life that will ultimately disappoint you. It’s okay to want the American dream. I mean, who doesn’t want a safe, happy home to raise their kids and to escape the troubles of the world in? But the “white picket fence” life is an illusion. We live in a broken world and no fence, no matter what color it is will protect you from it. You have to deal with ugliness when it comes across your path; you can ignore it only so long. If you sweep everything you don’t like under a rug, eventually you are going to trip over it.

From the author of Publishers’ Weekly’s 2008 Religious Fiction choice comes a story of a family hiding dangerous secrets and their chance for redemption.

Well, dear readers, it's time for the treasure hunt! Please visit Susan's blog and  come back here to The Homestead Heart to leave the answer in the comments. I'll pick a winner on Tuesday for a copy of of Susan Meissner's latest novel White Picket Fences

Please visit Susan's blog

What is my birth order in my family?

 Leave your answer with your email addy 
in this format please:
YouName [at] whatever [dot] com


BarbC said...

Meissner is a new author to me. I will definitely be on the look out for her books. Sounds great!

As for my birth order... I am the baby... late in life child (my brothers are 9, 10 and 19 years older than me!) and the first girl in 3 generations on my dad's side.. translation... very indulged and spoiled! :-)

Barb C.

Linda said...

I agree that the "white picket fences" term is not necessarily true. It all depends on the 'baggage' that hangs in the air, such as rigid rules, angry parents, drinking/drugs, and yes, even incest. This book will be an eye opener!!! Please enter me in your contest. Thank you.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda said...

Got carried away with the interview, that I forgot the question: She is the second of three daughters.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com.

Abi said...

Sounds like a lovely book.

The author is second of three girls.

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

A J Hawke said...

Great Interview, Tina!
Now I want to read White Picket Fences.

Answer to Question:
"I was born and raised in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters."

I'm really enjoying following your blog, you're doing a great job with it.


Tina Dee Books said...

Susan just writes the most wonderful stories and characters. You could pick up any of her books and be engrossed until the end, and even then, the characters and what they experienced--what you experienced through them--resonates with you long after you've put the book down.

Love her writing.

Susan Meissner said...

Thanks for letting me chat with you at the Homestead, Tina! And for your lovely, affirming words. . . I am grateful.

Katey said...

I have never read anything by Susan Meissner. This book looks so intriguing! I will definitely have to try one of her book.

I am the youngest daughter. I have an older sister who is two years older.


Angie said...

Thanks so much for the interview! Susan is one of my very, very favorite authors. Can't wait to read the newest one. Oh, and she's the second of three daughters.
demiangie [at] yahoo [dot] com

Jo said...

White Picket Fence sounds like a great book and would love to read it.

Susan is the 2nd of three sisters in her family.


Pamela J said...

Why would I be surprised that Susan is "the second of three daughters"? That is my birth order too, though I have a younger brother between me and my younger sister.
I LOVED The Shape of Mercy and have no doubts this one will be equally as good with great lessons to learn that the Lord would have for whoever gets to read the book.
Pam Williams
cepjwms at wb4me dot com

Deborah M said...

What a great interview. I haven't read any of Susan's books before, but I really want to. It was a great analogy Susan had about the white picket fence. I am the baby of my family. A baby of 55 years. LOL.
Please enter me in the contest.
Deborah Malone

Carole said...

According to Susan's bio page, she was born and raised in San Diego, California, and is the second of three daughters.

Susan writes the type of books I enjoy most and I appreciate the chance to win a copy of White Picket Fences.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

Kimberlee said...

Susan is just an awesome author and a great person! I loved your interview. And if anyone hasn't read, The Shape of Mercy, they should. Such a great read!

Ann Shorey said...

I'm the first born in my family. Susan's interview made me think of my late husband. He used to say that I wanted life with a white picket fence around it. Well, yeah, I did, but things didn't turn out that way!
Please enter me in the drawing--I loved The Shape of Mercy and can't wait to read White Picket Fences.

annshorey [at] msn [dot] com

April said...

Great post. She is the second of three daughters. I have read some of her books they where great. Please enter me.Blessings


Steve Mathisen said...

From Susan's blog:
"I was born and raised in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters."

scmathisen98037 [at] gmail [dot] com

Deborah said...

We have a fantastic church library, and both Susan's books are in it; I picked up Blue Heart Blessed just yesterday! I will be checking it out and The Shape of Mercy as well! I would love to add White Picket Fences to our collection!
I am the youngest in my family.
my e-mail is

Tina Dee Books said...

Deborah (daloweartist), you will love Blue Heart Blessed, keep a box of tissues nearby, it's a good cleansing joyful kind if you have any tears. I did! Loved it.

The Shape of Mercy--you'll see why it won awards and nominations. It's a work of literary art.

Enjoy them both!

Hey folks, please consider signing up for Susan's e-newsletter or subscribing to her blog if you haven't already. Her posts are written beautifully.

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Susan's the second of 3 daughters.
Great interview. I'd like to be entered to read her book. Thanks, y'all!

Anonymous said...

I am an only child! I have read all of Susan's books.....loved them all...and would love to win this book! Please enter me.