Welcome, readers. Davalynn Spencer here, warming by the wood stove as I wait for spring to arrive in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Please join me in welcoming author Tiffany Amber Stockton who will tell us about her featured book for today, A Grand Design.
Tiffany – thank you for joining us. Please give us the 50-word thumbnail for your book.
When Alyssa Denham and her best friend embark on a getaway to Mackinac Island, they also agree to help Alyssa’s grandmother piece together an heirloom quilt. Their quest unlocks amazing insight into her grandmother’s life … and attracts the attention of Scott Whitman, an island resident in charge of hotel transportation. Will memories of her past keep Alyssa from letting go, or will that past bring healing to her entire family?
Did you have specific reasons for writing this story?
My agent actually asked me to write it. She had been shopping a collection of proposals and book ideas from me when she heard about the Quilts of Love series from Abingdon Press. Although I had only written historical up to that point, she thought one of my stories would fit perfectly with this line . . . as long as I could weave in the story of a quilt and make that the focal point of the book. I’m often up for a challenge, so I agreed. After reworking the synopsis and sending it back to her, I waited to hear the publisher’s response. When it was accepted the next day, I considered that a pretty strong confirmation that this particular story needed to be told.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Even when we can’t see it ourselves, God has a grand design for our lives, and the hurts we experience eventually strengthen us in the long run. Sometimes, though, we get derailed by those hurts, and it can easily postpone the amazing things God has in store for us. When we’re willing to trust and let go of those hurts, we can fully heal and be ready to live life abundantly, the way God designed.
This sounds like a concept that would bless many people. Has God used this message in your own life?
The main theme in this story stems from pain and hurt from the main character’s past which has shaped the way she lives her life in the present. That same hurt also keeps her from trusting and mostly going through the motions each day, but not truly living free. I too am guilty of this, although my hurt isn’t the same as Alyssa’s. As I wrote her story, several parallels to my own struggles came to light. Although the resolution to my hurt hasn’t been fully fixed and tied up with a neat little bow like the ending of a story, I *was* able to move forward a bit and realize a few truths that have begun the healing process for me.
I hear hope in there, Tiffany. Are there other ways you share Christ in your writing?
I have always been turned off by books where the gospel message comes across as preachy or superficial, so I strive to have the faith in my characters woven into every facet of their lives, guiding their decisions and shining through their actions more than their words. For times when my characters are struggling or having a crisis of faith, I either showcase the drawing back to Christ in a gentle manner, or it’s more blunt and direct. All depends on the characters and their personal journeys. Regardless, my stories are written from a gospel-based worldview, highlighting characters who experience real life situations inspired by faith.
Has your work as an author impacted your relationship with Christ?
I consider it a high honor to be called to write and given the gift of painting with words. Since I didn’t set out to be published or even have it on my high list of goals, looking back and seeing how God orchestrated the symphony of my life to bring me to this point is both humbling and inspiring. With each book I write, my own faith is challenged or increased, and I almost always come to a greater understanding of yet another facet of God’s infinite wisdom or awe-inspiring character. When I try to take the reins in my writing instead of allowing God to guide me, the resulting story doesn’t have as strong of an impact with readers. So, I try hard to set my pride aside and switch to the passenger seat, allowing Him to drive instead.
Such an important observation – letting God lead us when we want to lead.
You mentioned that you didn’t set out to be published but sensed a call to write. Can you elaborate on why you write?
History has always fascinated me, but when I was in school, it was also the subject almost everyone hated. Why? Because far too often, it’s nothing more than impersonal facts and details you’re required to memorize for the sake of a test or a passing grade. You don’t often get the chance to see inside the lives of those who have gone before us, share in their joys and sorrows, or know their thoughts and feelings. History comes alive when you can relate to the people who lived it. Historical fiction is a great way to share a slice of history, showcase lesser-known details of various locations, delve into those personal lives, and share or teach lessons through the experiences of those from the past. After all, Jesus taught a lot of His lessons through parables. Why not emulate the Master?
Are there other ministries in which you are involved?
I have been involved in a lot of different ministries over the years, most of them inside the churches I’ve attended. We are called as believers to serve, utilizing our time, talents, and money to glorify God and further His kingdom here on earth. I began in children’s ministry when I was thirteen years old and have spent a lot of time working with children over the past thirty years. I also served on the women’s ministry leadership team and was in charge of my own segment drawing women together through social events and engagements for the purpose of fellowship, mentoring, and furthering relationships. Currently, I serve at the information/check-in desk in children’s ministry and do a few other odds jobs as the need arises. I love helping others with the questions they have and pointing them in the right direction or meeting needs wherever I find them. Other areas where I’ve served are writing conferences at the registration desk or on-site bookstore, VBS, food pantry distributions and packing, crisis pregnancy centers, and various community events. I look for opportunities to help wherever I’m able, believing I can pay it forward and return the blessings of those who have given to us in our times of need.
With these fruitful endeavors in your busy life, do you also have a “day job” or a previous career that perhaps influence what or how you write?
For ten years, I worked in local school districts as a classroom teacher, secretary, and executive assistant, but I also worked in retail at a Christian bookstore for eleven years, eventually becoming a manager. I have also owned a home business of some sort for the past twenty years. When I became pregnant with my first child, my husband and I agreed I would stay home with [the children] until they entered school. During that time, I worked from home as an author, speaker, and direct-sales consultant to help provide for those fun “extras” in our budget. Now, my two children are in 5th and 3rd grades, and I currently work as a guest teacher or substitute at their school while still running a home business as an educational consultant with Usborne Books. Many experiences I’ve had do flavor the stories I write, but I suppose the biggest influence would be the teaching aspects and making sure there is something to be learned in every book I write. Of course, all the people I’ve met and still meet today eventually end up in one of my books, usually through an aspect or quirk of their personality that shapes the characters who populate my stories. I love the saying, “Be careful what you say. I might put you in a book.” It’s so true!
Do you have a favorite bookstore?
I don’t know that I can give a name of a specific store, but I adore the “mom-and-pop” bookstores anywhere I go. Their flavor and personal touches often make the experience shopping there a memorable one. More than those “big box” stores which streamline everything, the privately owned stores have more freedom to make their stories their own and cater to their patrons in specific ways. For example, the bookstore where I worked had a nice café in the front which welcomed Bible study groups any day of the week, featured children’s programs and story reading each week, plus provided little reading nooks with comfy chairs throughout the store and soothing, relaxing music playing all day. No matter how hectic things were or how crazy your life was, you could come there and get recharged, plus be remembered by the store owners or employees, who had a way to make you feel special. That’s the kind of store I love!
Oh, how I’d love to find a store like that today!
I suspect you have something on the back burner as an author. Tell us about your next project.
I am currently working on two different book series. The first is a trilogy about a female artist in the late 1800s who moves from Philadelphia to Wyoming to take a teaching position and pursue her art using her first initial and last name to avoid being rejected as a woman. She’s soon enmeshed in the lives of ranchers and townsfolk and embarks on some amazing journeys which test her faith and fortitude.
The second series is set on the famous Chincoteague Island along the eastern shore of Virginia, known for their ponies and the beloved Misty of Chincoteague, who achieved fame through Marguerite Henry’s books. My grandfather was born on that island and eventually owned a barbershop there, plus many of the streets are named after my family. I am currently working on a set of stories that feature various members of my family and the legacies they’ve left there.
We’re looking forward to them, Tiffany.
For more about Tiffany and her books, check out Tiffany Amber Stockton’s website.
Thank you for stopping by the CAN blog today. May all that you read be uplifting.