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Author Interview,  Giveaway,  Hope-filled Fiction

Laura DeNooyer: Appalachia, Second Chances, a Giveaway, and More

Help me welcome Historical Fiction author Laura DeNooyer to the blog this week. I hope you enjoy learning about her and her novel, All That is Hidden. Be sure to comment on this post by May 24 for a chance to win a digital copy of her book.

Welcome, Laura! Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

My husband and I live in Wisconsin, approaching our 40th anniversary. Our 4 kids launched into multiple settings: Philadelphia, Michigan, Colorado, and Sweden. Makes for fun travel opportunities. Road trips are a favorite pastime. As my nest emptied, years of teaching art and writing morphed into a second career as a novelist. I finally have time to fine-tune manuscripts and seek publication.

I completely understand about having time later in life to seek publication. How and when did you start writing? 

I became an author in 2nd grade. Mrs. Haan wasn’t the basic finish-your-workbook type of teacher, unusual for the mid-1960s. She had students turn original stories into illustrated books. After that prolific year, I was unstoppable.

We could all benefit from such insightful teachers. What genre do you write and what inspired you to write that particular genre? 

I fell into historical fiction by procrastination. Decades ago, I completed 3 novels, set in 1968, 1983, and Biblical times, respectively. By the time I found a publisher for the first one, 1968 qualified as historical fiction! 

I’m fond of small town settings in long-ago eras, while gravitating to complex family dynamics and second chances.

What is the setting of your current novel? If it’s a real location, have you visited? Tell us about it.

Professor Besselsen of Calvin College (Michigan) adopted the role of muse by introducing me to Appalachian culture. He took education students to western North Carolina to aid in the mountain schools. As we fumbled through the culture clash, I fell in love with the area and its people. That three-week visit changed the way I thought about work, play, goals, and success. It became the impetus for my award-winning short story that later grew into the novel All That Is Hidden.

What a wonderful experience. What is one of your favorite quotes from All That Is Hidden?

“See, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Who needs silk anyway? Sometimes all a body needs in order to get by in this life is a little mercy.” This gets to the heart of my favorite themes—second chances and “redeeming the years the locusts ate.”

I love stories of redemption. What do you hope your readers take away from All That Is Hidden?

After this novel was published, a friend told me how much she appreciated it. The story made her realize that, after holding a long-time grudge, she needed to forgive her husband. I was touched and humbled that my novel impacted her this way. I felt blessed that the Lord used my characters and their situations to reach her heart. It’s definitely His doing, not mine, but I was privileged to be an instrument. 

I hope this story touches those places in the heart where we desire connection. Whether it’s forgiveness or seeing a culture through new eyes, I hope readers gain new understanding into what lurks beneath the surface. I hope they dig deeper on their way to empathizing with someone else’s journey, fears, and motives—and above all, see grace. 

Important lessons for everyone! Are any of your stories inspired by true events or personal history? 

Some plots grow from settings. In high school, I spent time in Minnesota’s North Woods. Though I didn’t yet know characters or conflict details, I wanted to write about it. Years later, my award-winning novel Summer People sprang from that setting.

Situations and what-ifs inspire me, too. I’ve always wondered about the mothers who lost babies in the Bethlehem massacre ordered by King Herod. What if one of them gravitated to Jesus thirty years later only to discover he was the only babe who survived? That and other quandaries fueled my Biblical fiction, Rain in the Wilderness, which won third place in a novel contest.

Ooh, I love your pondering about the Bethlehem massacre. How many unpublished and unfinished manuscripts do you have? Any plans to pursue publication for any of them?

Oh, my word! Regarding novels alone, there are 15 completed, decades of accumulation. One is published. Three are complete and edited; one is mostly edited.  I’ll definitely seek publication for those. The others are fantasy of the fairy tale variety, akin to Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted and others, or Shannon Hale’s Books of Bayern. They need tweaking, but I hope to share them with the world someday.

Lots of possibilities! Do you have critique partners or a critique group? What are the pros and cons of participating in such a group? 

Absolutely. Critique groups are vital for being both stretched and encouraged. Improvement is in the revising, accountability, and teachability. The most growth occurs in the stretching, however painful it can be. You need to learn how to receive constructive criticism without defending every word choice or going home to cry. The challenge is finding writers of similar caliber who are insightful, knowledgeable, honest, and tactful.

I add an amen to your insights. What advice would you give an aspiring author?

—Join a writers group (see above). 

—Get in a daily (or almost daily) writing habit, no excuses. 

—Attend writers conferences to learn and meet other writers. Make connections. 

—Read! Especially in your genre. Read like a writer, not just a reader. Dissect each novel. What makes it tick?

—Persevere. Find joy is in the journey, not just the end product. If God has given you the desire and some raw talent, cultivate the gift, for it pleases Him. He’s the ultimate Creator and Storyteller, and He made us in His image. He delights in our creativity.

Great suggestions! Whats next from you?

Two things, mainly. I host authors on my new Standout Stories blog and I’ll be seeking a home for two unpublished novels, both historical fiction. One is Biblical fiction and the other is a split-time story (1980 and early 1900s) featuring The Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum. Not southern fiction this time, but set in a small town in Michigan where Baum’s family spent summers.

Sounds great! I wish you the best as you continue writing for the Lord. Thanks for sharing on the blog!

Join the conversation. Do you enjoy stories set in Appalachian culture? What about themes of second chances and redemption? What aspect of historical fiction do you appreciate most?

Be sure to comment by May 24 for a chance to win Laura’s book! Keep scrolling to find the comments section.

Cover photo of All That is Hidden

All That is Hidden by Laura DeNooyer-Moore

Click the book cover for purchase link

Are secrets worth the price they cost to keep? 

Ten-year-old Tina Hamilton finds out the hard way. 

She always knew her father had a secret. But all of God’s earth to Tina are the streams for fishing, the fields for romping, a world snugly enclosed by the blue-misted Smokies. Nothing ever changed.

Until the summer of 1968. Trouble erupts when northern exploitation threatens her tiny southern Appalachian town. Some folks blame the trouble on progress, some blame the space race and men meddling with the moon’s cycles, and some blame Tina’s father. 

A past he has hidden catches up to him as his secret settles in like an unwelcome guest. The clash of progressive ideas and small town values escalates the collision of a father’s past and present.

Check out this book trailer!

Laura DeNooyer thrives on creativity and encouraging it in others. A Calvin College graduate, she has decades of experience teaching art and writing to middle school and high school students. She and her husband raised four kids. An award-winning author of heart-warming historical and contemporary fiction, she is president of her American Christian Fiction Writers chapter. When not writing, you’ll find her reading, walking, drinking tea with friends, or taking a road trip. 

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If you missed last week’s interview with Becky Wade, find it here.

As a Jesus girl for more than thirty years, Deena Adams understands how important hope is to daily life, which fuels her passion to inspire others through hope-filled fiction based on true to life stories. She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency and is a multi-award-winning writer, an active ACFW member, and ACFW Virginia president. Connect with Deena through her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.