Tell us a bit about yourself. Include a couple of facts that not a lot of people know about you. Although I’ve lived in Mississippi for more than a quarter of my life, I still haven’t acquired a drawl, an automatic “yes ma’am” or a love of sweet tea. Natives who ask where I’m from learn that the tapestry of my life is a patchwork of midwestern dairy farms, northwestern rain forests, California surf swells, and the people who have left their footprints on my heart along the way. Among them are my husband and three children, who put the light in my eyes every day.
Tell us a bit about the book that will be published by Anaiah Press. My debut middle-grade fiction novel, Carabelle, will be published by Anaiah Press under their Adventures Imprint. When tragic loss throws twelve-year-old Carabelle’s life into a tailspin, her dreams of leaving impoverished rural Mississippi to become a big-city fashion designer are shattered. Torn from everyone she loves, including her best friend, Gracie Edmund, she is placed into foster care with the town bully, Drake Duff. There, she uncovers dark secrets, conquers unspeakable fears, and discovers the power of forgiveness.
When and why did you start writing? The inspiration for my earliest childhood stories sprung from the pages of mail order catalogs. With my little round-tipped scissors and school glue, I’d cut people from ads, stick them onto paper, and spend hours scribbling down their fictional lives. Eventually, my scribblings earned me a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and developed into work as a copy writer, a poet, and, now, a novelist.
Is this your first book? How many have you written? How many have you published? Carabelle is my debut novel. It is intended to be the first in a Christian fiction series for middle grade girls. Think American Girl, but rather than promoting cultural awareness, each of my book’s lively, engaging main characters will spotlight a virtue. After I finished my first manuscript, my daughter fell seriously ill, requiring my total attention as a care-giver. Carabelle got stuffed into a filing cabinet where it sat for four years. Meanwhile, my daughter’s long road to recovery inspired an adult Christian fiction novel, which is a work in progress. However, most of my creative energy is currently being spent on the writing of Violet, the second book in my middle grade series.
Tell us a bit about your journey to publication. When my children were little, the writer in me found an outlet only in Christmas letters and journal entries. After a decade of home schooling, I enrolled my kids in high school and set my starry-eyed writer loose. I pitched my first manuscript to Anaiah Press after reading their online mission and sensing an alignment between their values and my own.
What are some of your favorite books / authors? Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series was by far my childhood favorite. Today, my favorite fiction writer is Lynn Austin. I’ve devoured all of her books, many of them more than once. Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club is also among my favorites.
What are some of your favorite movies / TV shows? I love musicals like The Sound of Music, Grease, Mama Mia, and The Greatest Showman. I’m not intentional about following TV shows, but if I happen to be flipping through the four channels picked up by my TV antennae and come across This is Us, I get very happy.
Where do you find inspiration for your books? The inspiration for this middle grade series grew out of years of mentoring middle grade girls in Christian ministry. I love their open minds, hearts, and souls. I wanted to write engaging books that might encourage faith and virtue to take shape within that openness.
Describe your perfect day of relaxation. Water relaxes me. Everything about it soothes me — the way it sounds, looks, and feels. I love bobbling around in our little boat, walking the white-sand beaches of the near-by Gulf of Mexico, and strolling beside lakes and rivers.
Where can readers learn more about you? https://www.facebook.com/Renée-Lichtenhan-Writer