Thursday, January 15, 2009

Interview with Denise Hunter and Review of Sweetwater Gap

Sweetwater Gap, Women of Faith Series #18

By Denise Hunter / Thomas Nelson

When Josephine's family insists she come home to help with the harvest, the timing works. But her return isn't simple benevolence-she plans to persuade the family to sell the failing orchard.

The new manager's presence is making it difficult. Grady MacKenzie takes an immediate disliking to Josephine and becomes outright cantankerous when she tries talking her family into selling. As she and Grady work side by side in the orchard, she begins to appreciate his devotion and quiet faith. She senses a vulnerability in him that makes her want to delve deeper, but there's no point letting her heart have its way-he's tied to the orchard, and she could never stay there.

Sweetwater Gap is Denise Hunter's latest book, one that I throughly enjoyed. It started slowly, pulling me in page by page until I reached a point that I couldn't put it down. (Even though I say it started slowly, I reached the last page within two days of the start!) Josie is marred by an event where someone gives his life for her. She's lived with the guilt and intense sense of unworthiness ever since. Now she's been called home...the last place she wants to be and the place she has successfully avoided for years. As the pages turn I wondered if she'd find healing -- it was far from a given, even though romance fills the second half of the book. Denise's writing will pull you into the story and its struggles and have you rooting for the hero and heroine. This is a great read for a spring break escape.

Denise kindly agreed to an interview. I hope you enjoy this chance to get to know her better and be sure to stop by her website to learn more about Denise and her books.

In Sweetwater Gap Josie returns to her family orchard reluctantly. How did you decide on an apple orchard for the family farm?

First of all, I find apple orchards very romantic and that's my first prerequisite for a setting. An orchard appeals also to all my senses: the smell of the apples and grass, the view of orchard, the sounds of apples being plucked from the trees. I also loved the deeper themes that could be
drawn out with regards to growth, fruit, and harvest.

I have to admit I hadn't thought of an orchard as romantic until this book! Josie deals with Survivor's Guilt. What about that drew you in as a great issue?

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, North Carolina, and Sweetwater Gap was born.

You're a wonderful writer and pull me in to each book. Romance has become your "genre". What is it about love stories that makes them your genre of choice? What draws you back to them over and over?

I not only write love stories, I read them. Unfortunately there are a lot of unwholesome ones out there and it pleases me to offer God-honoring stories for women who love to read about love. :-)

What book (not written by you LOL) pulls you back to its pages over and over?

I rarely read a book more than once, but I've read Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers 4 times. To me, that's the ultimate love story and every time I read it, I get totally caught up in it and can't put it down. I have to admit though, that it's hard on my author's psyche to read it. I always
close the book thinking "I'll NEVER be able to write a book this good! WAAH!"

As a new year begins, where is God directing you and how can your readers best pray for you?

God has so richly blessed my writing career. I know happily I'm contracted with Thomas Nelson through 2011. Beyond that, every day's a journey of discovery, and I look forward to see where he leads me.

What are you working on next?

I'm working edits for the third book in my Nantucket series entitled Seaside Letters which is due out in September and getting ready to start the fourth book in the same series.

Thanks for stopping by, Denise. If you haven't read any of her books, pick one up or have your library order it. You won't be disappointed.

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