Q: Is the Stevenson family a representation of your own family?
A: When I was creating the characters that made up the Stevenson family, I didn’t intentionally create them to represent my own family; however I also wasn’t able to completely separate the Stevenson family from my family. For example, the character Benjamin could easily be thought of as my younger brother, Blake, with his orneriness and spunk. Richard Stevenson responds in many ways the same way that my oldest brother, Nick, responds, and his big-brother mannerisms are often identical to what I’ve experienced in an older brother. Although I don’t have a twin sister, LaVina Stevenson was easy for me to create because she has much of the same personality as my older sister, Lacey. However, the Stevenson family was meant to be comprised of fictional characters, so the members aren’t meant to be a representation of my family.
Q: Which is your favorite character in all of your books?
A: I find it hard to choose one character and call them my favorite because I actually really appreciate all of my characters. I like Daniel in the Stevenson series because he’s confident and to-the-point, and Celeste was so much fun to write about because of her shyness and innocence. James Castano is like a gentle hero, and Daisy is rambunctious and careless, but also full of pain. Wes Tanner in A Penny Parcel adds a lot of color to the pages of my writing, and his always-optimistic outlook sometimes makes me laugh. Jack Berk is also one of my favorite characters because he’s so complex and deep and hidden. It takes a lot of writing and discovery for me to find out who Jack really is. However, out of all of my characters, I’d have to choose Ashley Kant as my favorite. She’s extremely confused and yet so sure of what she thinks and believes. She’s deceived and abused, but so tender that she cries when she’s lonely or sad. I loved writing about Ashley because when I first began writing A Penny Parcel, I had no idea who Ashley was, but the more pages I wrote, it seemed like God was peeling off layers of her hardness and letting me see who she really was and why she was the way she was. Ashley’s someone I wish I could meet in person…the kind of girl I want to have in my life someday so I can give her true unconditional love and unmerited grace.
Q: Why did you choose to write A Penny Parcel in Vermont?
A: I have a vivid memory of doing a report on Vermont when I was in first grade. We watched the movie Justin Morgan Had a Horse and wrote our report during the movie, and I fell in love with the beauty of Vermont. It was my goal to visit Vermont before completing the manuscript of A Penny Parcel, and I had the opportunity to do that in the fall of 2005. My family and I actually sang in Caledonia County, where the fictional town of Galesburg was located, and I did all the research I could in the few days we were there. I loved Vermont as much in person as I did in the pictures and movies, and decided that it was a beautiful place for the Tanners to make their home.
Q: How did you create Luke Tanner?
A: Luke Tanner was created with much sweat, endurance and even a few tears. In many ways, I was able to understand him because his fear of rejection and striving to “make the cut” reminds me of myself. I was able to write about his walk to freedom only after traveling that road myself, and I understand his agony over pleasing people.

Luke is one of my most complex characters…it seems like nothing is consistent in his life. His opinions shift regularly because of the influence of the upper crust, and he’s constantly torn between his home life and his public life. Even in his Christian walk, Luke is a hypocrite, subjecting himself to Mr. Bowtie’s teaching on Sundays and yet keeping the preacher from progressing in his ministry outside the church walls. Underneath everything that keeps Luke striving to please everyone, there’s a hint of memory of an abusive father who never accepted him other than on the basis of works. It seems that performance is ingrained into every fiber of his being and the only way he can ever be successful is if he tries harder and does everything he can to live up to the standards of other people. Luke is a survivor. He’s a professional performer who’s thoroughly convinced that if he ever lets anyone see who he really is, he’ll be rejected. He’s the kind of man who puts a standard on family, church and society that no one can attain to. He’s a ringleader in living out a works-based gospel, and the kind of person who will negate the truth of God’s grace in a world that can’t survive without it.

It was a tremendous challenge and an incredible delight for me that God put Luke’s story in my head and helped me write it. He’s one of the characters I’ve been to a deeper level with, and the feat of creating him was an exceptionally revealing and rewarding experience.

Q: Do you expect to write another book in the Stevenson series?
A: Thus far, I haven’t had the inspiration to continue the Stevenson family’s story, but it’s possible that I’ll be able to write another book in the series later on. I think it’s a story that would be fun to follow through several generations.
Q: Why did you choose for Grace Tanner to be blind?
A: I wanted a character in A Penny Parcel who was crippled beyond human power to heal. Giving Grace a severe physical handicap gave Wes and Ashley the opportunity to learn mercy and integrity, and it gave Luke a badge of honor for sticking by her. Grace is sometimes almost consumed with desire to see, especially when Ashley arrives at the Tanner home, and yet, one of the reasons Ashley so easily attaches to Grace is because she can’t see Ashley’s scars. I think there’s something in every person’s life that they’ll never be able to change—something that’s a handicap and has the possibility of severely crippling them, and only through dependence on God can anyone obtain true victory.
Q: Is there any character in your books whom you dislike?
A: Mr. Bowtie in A Penny Parcel is someone I don’t think I could get along with in person. His strange tastes and almost arrogant confidence made me annoyed during the times I was writing about him, and yet his heart for people and love for God gave me a strange attraction toward him. While I was frustrated with Luke when he joined with the upper crusts to ridicule the preacher, I think I’d be tempted to do the same thing if he were a regular figure in my life.

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