Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Word Fitly Spoken with Denise Hunter

We are busy making preparations for tonight's book club meeting, an Apple Picking Festival in celebration of our fall read, Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter. We will be chatting with Denise by phone during our meeting tonight and look forward to getting to know her. In the meantime, Denise was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work.

What was your inspiration for Sweetwater Gap?

I conceived of the idea for Sweetwater Gap when my editor sent me a newspaper clipping. The article was about a man who was dealing with survivor guilt after his fellow soldier had fallen on a grenade to save his life. He was left with questions: Why had his friend done the unthinkable, and how could he live up to this incredible sacrifice?

I did further research and found one particular soldier whose life had turned chaotic following a similar incident. Unable to deal with the guilt and pressure to be worthy of his friend’s sacrifice, he changed, becoming reckless and distant from his family.

I began thinking about how Christ died for mankind and wondering how mere mortals can be worthy of that act. Seeing the parallels lit my creative fire. What kind of love story could I write that illustrated the value of this gift?

The creative journey led me to a wounded photographer named Josephine Mitchell, an apple orchard in Shelbyville, N.C., and Sweetwater Gap was born.

Tell us about the setting of the book.

I live in a very flat part of Indiana, and I love to escape to the mountains. I confess, that played into my decision to set the story in the Blue Ridge mountains. I also love the South. I chose an apple orchard because, one, I find them romantic; and two, there are all kinds of rich metaphors to be drawn from growing fruit.

Did you draw inspiration for any characters in the book from your own life or family?

I'm sure there are bits of people I know in my characters, but mainly, all of them came from my imagination.

What lessons do you want readers to learn from Josie’s story?

Mainly I'd like readers to realize that Christ's love is a gift -- all you have to do is accept it.

Do you have any new projects you would like to share?

I'm currently working on a cowboy series called "Big Sky." The first book, A Cowboy's Touch, is already on the bookshelves. The next in the series, The Accidental Bride, releases in January 2012.

I'm also excited about a romantic collection I'm writing with my best buds, Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, and Diann Hunt. It's called Smitten and releases in December. Here's a little blurb:

With Smitten Lumber closing, residents wonder if their town can stay afloat. Then four friends and local business owners decide the town is worth saving: they'll turn it into a honeymoon destination. Little do they know that love is already on the way. As each woman finds her own true love, a little child reminds the whole town what it means to have real faith in the God who is the always and forever Love.

Thank you, Denise, for giving us some insight into Sweetwater Gap. I look forward to reading more of your work.

If you have a thought to share about the book or an encouraging word for the author, let's discuss in the comments below. Still to come this week, creative ideas, recipes and more!

(Photo from Bigstock Photo)

"She closed her eyes and was, in an instant, back at Blue Ridge Orchard. She could almost smell the apples ripening on the trees. Hear the snap of the branch as an apple twisted free. See the ripples of Sweetwater Creek running alongside the property. And with that thought, the other memories came. The ones that had chased her from Shelbyville six years ago. The ones that still chased her every day. The ones that, at the mention of going home, caused a dread, deep and thick in her belly." -- Sweetwater Gap

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