Back in March, Innovative Editing began its “Author of the Month” program to highlight engaging writers who deserve to stand out for their skills and/or messages as presented in fiction or non-fiction, whether self- or traditionally published.
If you'd like to be considered for an upcoming Author of the Month spot – or if you have a story idea burning a hole in your brain – I’d love to hear from you! Just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with details about you and your book.
Until then, this month’s spotlight is on Bonnie Mae Evans, author of The Trees Will Clap. This young adult Christian fiction novel tackles the idea of love and loss, and how life doesn’t always work out the way we think it should.
September’s Author of the Month: Bonnie Mae Evans
Featured Title: The Trees Will Clap
Genre: Christian Fiction, Coming of Age, Nostalgia, or Historical Fiction
Age Appropriate: All
Bio: Bonnie Mae Evans is a registered nurse and writer. She and her husband of 42 years, Bill, reside in Baldwin, Maryland, surrounded by trees, which were the inspiration for her book. She is a member of Eastern Shore Writers Association, Lancaster Christian Writers and Mountain Christian Writers Group – where she’s a regular contributor to its devotional blog, PortionsofGrace.blogspot.com.
Her devotionals have been published in God Stories 7, God Stories 8 and Blessed Are You, as well as A Daily Walk With God, which was published in Kenya for WGM missionaries to share with new converts. Her short story, Iris Blessing, was included in It’s a God Thing. And most recently, three of her devotions were included in Additional Christmas Moments Book #3.
Serving the Lord and sharing His great love through stories is the true joy of her heart.
Jeannette: Hi, Bonnie! Thanks so much for being September’s Author of the Month. I have some definite questions I want to ask you about your book, The Trees Will Clap. But first off, I want to hear your description of what this novel is about.
Bonnie: Honestly, its purpose is twofold. It’s about many different kinds of loss, as well as healing and learning to trust God when life just doesn’t make sense. It addresses a question I’ve often heard asked in the face of tragedy: “Why would a good God allow something like that to happen?”
In the moment, that often seems unanswerable. But, truly, the answer is found in Scripture. God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts, which is why we can’t possibly understand some of the things we witness or experience on this earthly journey.
The bigger question is: Do we believe He loves us? If the answer is yes, then do we trust Him with what we can’t understand?
The young Lacey, the main character in The Trees Will Clap, suffers an unimaginable loss and feels abandoned by God. Through these circumstances, she learns the depth of God’s love and that He can be trusted with her heart.
The second issue is that of the multitude of broken and blended families today that leave scores of children suffering the loss of identity, familiar surroundings and stability. Lacey very happily lives with her grandparents until she’s 5 ½. But when her mother remarries, she has to go live in a new home with a new name. The theme of finding one’s place and claiming one’s identity is very relevant today.
Jeannette: These were all pretty deep topics to delve into for your first novel. What inspired you to write about loss from a child’s perspective?
Bonnie: Loss of all types is inevitable in life, of course. But I think that children process loss in many different ways. It oftentimes leaves them with the feeling of helplessness and the idea that life is scary and random. It’s so important that they know and understand that God loves them and is in control. Even as adults, we often have to remember and learn to trust Him all over again when we’re going through a “valley” experience.
Jeannette: Well, Lacey definitely does go through some “valley” experiences in The Trees Will Clap. Did you find yourself taking an emotional journey with her during her ups and downs?
Bonnie: I got very attached to Lacey and all the characters in my book. There were definitely times when my heart ached for her, and I just wanted to write something warm and fuzzy to soothe her. Other times, I laughed out loud at her sense of humor and unique view of the world.
Of course, it was extremely hard when she suffered the biggest loss of all. I wept with her even as I wrote it.
Jeannette: I know exactly what you’re talking about. But moving past those weeping moments to the laugh-out-loud ones, there were certain details I made a note to ask you about all those months ago when I read your novel. So here’s my chance, and I’m going for it…
Licking ashtrays. How in the world did that you come up with that detail?
Bonnie: That’s just a little quirk I threw in. Back in the ‘60s, our food wasn’t always fortified with vitamins and minerals as it is today. So a finicky appetite or poor diet sometimes resulted in nutritional deficiencies that caused a medical condition known as pica, which involves eating or craving odd non-nutritive substances.
It wasn’t uncommon back then and was often addressed as a behavioral issue.
Jeannette: Interesting! I’ve heard of pica before, but I don’t think I ever knew what it actually was. Curiosity satisfied, so thank you!
Here’s another question I have though: Are there any future writing projects in the works? Are you working on anything now?
Bonnie: I’ve been frequently asked about a sequel, and I did have it in my head for quite a while. I only have a few pages actually written though and will probably start over completely when I do begin. But that’s typically the way I write.
I also have a Christmas story in progress, and I’m a regular contributor to my writers group’s devotional blog too.
Jeannette: I have to go back for a second to what you said about rewriting your whole beginning. I genuinely think most writers do that. We have these brilliant ideas for how to start out books that then never look so brilliant on a second read-through.
I suppose it’s all part of the writing process.
And then there’s the publishing process, which is just as much of an adventure. In your case, I see that you’re published through Fruitbearer Publishing. What was your experience like with that organization?
Bonnie: Fruitbearer is a partnership publisher – neither a self-publisher nor a traditional one. It’s rather a hybrid of the two, where the author retains the rights but skips the hassles. And it was the perfect choice for me, providing me with resources for excellent editing, copyediting and proofreading.
Candy Abbott, the head publisher there, is as passionate as I am about producing quality books as free of error as possible. Because of her and her company, I have a book I can honestly say I’m proud of.
Plus, I didn’t have to be worried about all the technical aspects. Candy was open to my ideas for the cover, which was super important to me. Working with Fruitbearer was just a wonderful experience. It’s a Christian company built on Christian principles. And Candy was so responsive to my every concern and question. We prayed over the project from beginning to end.
She really took all the stress out of having a book published. Even now, almost a year later, she’s still a readily accessible resource. We’re in frequent contact. Just last week, she sent me another great marketing idea. I feel I have a new sister-in-Christ.
I highly recommend her.
Jeannette: Wow! It sounds like you really enjoyed your experience over there. And you’ve had some definite post-publishing success as well, with 13 reviews on Amazon. How did you go about getting them, and what is your marketing approach in general?
Bonnie: Of course, there are those faithful friends who’ve been along for the journey and were delighted to write a review. I really appreciate that. There were others I met during book signings or conferences. But what was especially nice to see are those who wrote a review who I haven’t met.
I’m so thankful to my readers. There are so many books they could choose from. It’s such an honor to have them read my story.
As for my marketing strategies, they consist of social media, book signings, and the most powerful advertising tool of all: word of mouth.
Jeannette: Well, thank you so much for all of that! One last question and I’ll let you go. Where can readers and potential readers find you online?
Jeannette: There we go then. Thanks again for joining Innovative Editing today, Bonnie. And here’s wishing you the absolute best in your writing journey going forward!
Bonnie: Thank you for the opportunity to chat with you. It’s been a pleasure.