Warning: book recommendation follows -- if you don't read another book in the spring season that everyone says will get here eventually, do read this one. The following comes courtesy of Tammy Barley, who interviewed my ACFW bookseller-bud Jeanne Leach...
One foreword -- Jeanne has waited quite a while for this book to release. Due to life intrusions and other glitches on the publisher's part, its debut has taxed all of our patience...but now it's out, so buy and READ THIS BOOK!
Western romance author, closet humorist and down-to-earth friend, Jeannie Marie Leach good-naturedly let me pepper her with questions over her newest release THE PLIGHT OF MATTIE GORDON. The interview took an unexpected turn, one which left me feeling closer to God.
TB: Tell us a little about yourself, about your home in Colorado.
JML: I've gone past the age of 50 and was surprised and delighted to find that a good part of life still happens past that age. David and I have been married 32 years. We never had kids of our own, so we borrow other people's kids for a while, spoil them rotten and then give them back. We also have a 130 lb. Alaskan Malamute, whom we spoil too.
We live in the mountains of Colorado at an elevation of 9,097 feet above sea level. Having grown up in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the mountain girl in me couldn't be squelched. Eventually, hubby also decided he was a mountain man, so here we are, surrounded by 13,000 ft. snow covered mountain, beside an icy lake.
TB: Every author has a unique story of how her career began. What led you to write Christian romance? Who or what has most influenced you?
JML: Back in the mid '80s a girlfriend discovered Janette Oke books. We shared them and became hooked. I never told anyone that I'd been "thinking" up stories since I was a teenager. These stories would sometimes take me a year to complete. After reading Ms. Oke's books, my stories took on a Christian romance twist that wasn't there before.
I finally asked my clinical psychologist father-in-law if what I was doing was normal. He asked me a couple questions and soon leaned back in his chair. "The only difference between you and a writer is that a writer writes these stories down."
I started typing at the computer and never looked back.
TB: When did you first envision the storyline for THE PLIGHT OF MATTIE GORDON?
JML: It was over four years ago that I first started working on THE PLIGHT OF MATTIE GORDON. What I like to do is think of a character, then figure out what would be the worst thing that could happen to them.
I'd just seen the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in western Colorado for the first time, and was totally awed by it. The information on the Black Canyon said that outlaws had hidden there back in the early days of the west.
I started to wonder what would happen if ordinary people lived there, and soon I had a picture of Mattie in my mind. Add to that an outlaw son, and the story took on a life of its own.
TB: You wrote many sides to Mattie Gordon's character with which women can identify. What do you like best about Mattie?
JML: My favorite things about Mattie are her tenacity, her single-minded purpose when it came to her son, and the hope she held in her heart that as long as Will had breath, she knew God could save him.
So often, when we don't see the answer to our prayers according to our timetable, we give up and lose hope. We convince ourselves that it will never happen and give up trying. Mattie never gave up!
TB: Other than a bounty hunter, who is Cyrus Braydon?
JML: Cyrus is a tough man on the outside with a tender spot he'd shoved down inside long ago. In order to maintain that rough exterior, he'd nearly forgotten that part of him. Until he met Mattie, he'd been able to keep reigns on his tenderness, fooling most people into thinking he didn't care about anyone or anything. But when faced with the unfailing and unconditional love of a mother for her son, the tenderness came out, and he had quite a time dealing with it.
TB: What inspired you to choose the southern plains states - Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas - as part of the backdrop for this story?
JML: It was a process that took time. First, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is out on the high plains. One could ride right past it within a few hundred feet and not know it was there. I liked that as a hideout for the gang. That would be why they were able to stay hidden for so long.
Then, I also needed a cow town, someplace where cattle shipping was prominent, and when I realized Hayes, Kansas was exactly what I needed, I had to figure out how I can get a hidden canyon close enough to Hayes to be a viable solution to Will's cattle sales, yet far enough away for him to not fall under people's scrutiny. So I set my hidden canyon in the southwestern part of Colorado. While the plains may be flat, they are full of surprises and places to hide.
TB: Different places in your book you hint at the miracles God works in our lives. Has God touched you with a miracle? If so, what meaning did it have for you?
JML: God has touched me with MANY miracles down through the years. In most recent years, they always pointed to hope.
TB: If you could personally share one truth, one bit of Christian wisdom you feel God would have you give, what would it be?
JML: Prov. 13:12 tells us that hope deferred makes the heart sick. I've been heartsick before, and it's not a good feeling. When you lose hope, you feel you don't have anything to live for, and your future abounds in bleakness. To lose hope is to forget that God is still on the throne, and that he is still working on your behalf to bring about great things for you.
But Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." The passages that follow that say that if you seek him with your whole heart, he will be found by you.
This message of hope has become the theme of all my books. In fact, one woman who has read my book sent me an e-mail message saying she now had hope for her 16 year-old son because of Will and Mattie. Wow!
So my message to readers is to NEVER GIVE UP! As long as you have breath, you can hope for a bright future, a future led by God.
TB: Many thanks to Jeanne Marie Leach for sharing! If you'd like to know more about the author or her work, feel free to visit her at www.jeannemarieleach.com or http://www.ShoutLife.com/JeanneMarieLeach.
~Interviewed by Tammy Barley, author and reviewer
See what I mean? Now go forth and buy this one.
Review: "The Plight of Mattie Gordon" by Jeanne Marie Leach
This is one of the rare books that has made me laugh, cry, and lifted me to greater hope in the Lord.
Mattie Gordon, a widow, is mother to Will and his men, a group of cattle drivers who bunk at the Gordon ranch between jobs. Or at least, she believes her son drives cattle…until bounty hunter Cyrus Braydon shows up with a poster that reads "Wanted: Cattle rustling, horse theft, murder. William Gordon. Dead or alive."
Afraid for her son's faithless soul should he be captured and convicted of murder, Mattie quickly rides out, desperate to find Will and convince him of God's salvation before Cyrus tracks him down.
In Boise City, Oklahoma Mattie meets Cyrus again. Her heart is pulled to the good man he is, leaving her conflicted since he is dutybound to stop her son. When Mattie discovers she is being followed, she has no choice but to share information that will enable her and Cyrus to find her son together, no choice but to trust the bounty hunter to protect her and to take Will alive.
"The Plight of Mattie Gordon", a novella, is Jeanne Marie Leach's second Christian Western romance. I laughed over comical one-liners, enjoyed the unique storyline and a few pleasant twists. I personally prefer to see the visuals in more detail, but the plot and Mattie's character - one I strongly identify with as a mom - drew me. The theme of entrusting our children's faith to the Lord is powerful, not one I'll soon forget. If you enjoy Western romances or women's fiction that speaks to your heart, this is for you.
Leach's next book, Shadow of Danger, will debut late this spring. I'll be watching for it.
~Reviewed by Tammy Barley, author and reviewer