Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tower of Strength

I feel honored to have to opportunity to tell you about this amazing author, and her wonderful book.
I have gotten to know Annette through her blog, and have grown to love, admire and respect her.

Here is her bio from the back of her book:

Annette Lyon, Utah’s 2007 Best of State medalist for fiction, has been
writing for most of her life. While she’s found success in freelance
magazine work and editing, her true passion is fiction. In 1995, she
graduated cum laude from BYU with a BA in English. Her university
focus on 19th-century literature proved beneficial years later while
writing historical temple novels. Her fifth novel, Spires of Stone, was a
2007Whitney Award finalist.
When she’s not writing, Annette enjoys spending time with her
husband and their four children. She also loves reading, knitting, and
chocolate—not necessarily in that order.
Readers may contact her via her website,

I was amazed, and honored, and grateful when she approached me about making a video trailer for her new book, Tower of Strength, and asked if she could use one of my songs for the audio. Of course, I said yes, without hesitation.
You can watch the video here:

I was equally grateful when she asked me to read her book in advance and participate in her blog tour. I was so happy to be able to participate. I truly enjoyed reading the book, loved the history of Manti, and the temple, and empathized with the characters. Annette is a brilliant writer, and wonderful person, and I'm proud to call her my friend.

Here is a brief synopsis of the book:

"It was 1877 when Tabitha Hall Chadwick left Manti as a young bride. Now, nearly seven years later, she returns as a widow with her young son to make a new beginning. Tabitha's strained relationship with her mother–in–law adds more difficulty to her life as a single working mother. Yet with a stroke of courage, Tabitha makes two purchases that become her passions: the local newspaper and a traumatized horse.
As she struggles to meet the challenges of her new roles, Tabitha welcomes the friendship of Samuel, a recently widowed British immigrant. Working together to train the abused horse, the two discover a second chance at love. But when Samuel is critically injured during the construction of the Manti Temple, Tabitha faces the pain of old wounds and the risk of new ones.
Weaving themes of loss and renewal, this poignant tale explores a vital
choice each of us must make: to seek safety in isolation or to embrace the
painful yet beautiful complexities of life and love."

I had a few questions for Annette, after reading the book:

1. Did you know/love horses before you wrote this book? Or did you have to research all of the horse information to write about it?

Even though I took riding lessons for a couple of months when I was eleven or twelve, I knew almost nothing about horses going in to this book. I about had a heart attack when I realized that a main plot thread (and practically a main character) would be about a horse. Lots of head banging frustration and research ensued.

2. Did you identify with the characters? Namely, Tabitha? Is there a part of her that you developed from yourself? Are any of the other characters patterned after people in your life, or is it strictly from your imagination?

Tabitha became very easy to identify with, not so much because of her situation, but because of the way she handles problems. She always thinks she can take care everything herself and never relies on anyone else (after all, she's the strong one and can't really trust that someone else will be there and do it, right)? I think a lot of women can relate to that.

One of my critique group members commented on how often Tabitha is hugging and kissing her son and suggested it was overkill, so I cut a few of those references. I'm a very affectionate mother. I guess that part of Tabitha is very me.

Other than that one quirk, no, none of the characters are based on anyone from real life.

3. How much extensive research did you have to do about the history of Manti, and the building of the temple did you have to do before you could write the story?

I was lucky enough to find several sources, particularly two theses written about the settling of Manti and the construction of the temple. Another book published by the Manti Temple centennial committee was helpful as well. I'm not a real historian by any means. I rely on what the real historians have found and compiled to learn just enough to write a believable story.

4. Do you outline your story before you start writing it, or does it just flow and develop as you write? Did you know what would basically happen, and how it would end before you began?

I always have a basic idea of where the story will begin and where it'll end up. I also know several landmarks along the way. But I don't know all the details, and I discover a lot as I go.

For example, before I start, I might know plot points A, D, F, L, R, and Z, but I won't necessarily know how I'll get from A to D. As I write, I figure out more of the scenes that will come and I jot down notes about what they'll be as I go. A lot of subplot things show up and surprise me.

I'm in the middle as far as outlining goes--I have to have a basic skeleton before I begin, but I also can't have every single detail mapped out ahead of time or it falls flat.

5. What's next on your agenda for writing? Will you take a break now, or do you have more projects in the works?

I always have projects in the works. :) I submitted a contemporary novel last fall about five women whose husbands are deployed to Afghanistan. It's very different from anything I've done before, but researching the topic and writing the book was a powerful experience. Tenatively titled Band of Sisters, it will be on shelves in about a year.

I'm working on several other projects right now, including a young adult fantasy, a grammar book (for all those people who ask for my help with their grammar, usage, and punctuation issues), and then next up is a chocolate cookbook. I have a sneaking suspicion that last one will be fun to work on.

Thank you, Annette, for giving me the chance to have a sneak peak at Tower of Strength, and the opportunity to share my music on your trailer, and review the book here.

Lost without You
At theWater’s Edge
House on the Hill
At the Journey’s End
Spires of Stone


Cynthia said...

I love the trailer- your music is a perfect fit!

I just started reading the book. I LOVE that she has taken some 'non-traditional' characters. There are several amazing stories in my own family history that parallel the characters in the book (at least what I've read so far) so in a weird way, it's sort of like getting a view of who they might have been within their own time and context.

Mina said...

It's really a great book, isn't it? Good review, Sherrie!

Heidi Ashworth said...

It's my turn to review this in a couple of weeks. You did a great job!

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

SHHHH I got to read it to and am in LOVE with it...such a great story!

Lara said...

Great review, Sher. After two stops on her blog tour, I'm realizing I'm going to have to get really creative for my review!

NorahS said...

Good interview!

Kristina P. said...

I LOVE your music! And I have my copy sitting next to me. I'm going a giveaway of the book on Monday.

Jen K said...

Oh my, look at you! You are already hitting fame! That is amazing and the song fits the "trailer" perfectly. I'm so happy for you :)

Jen K said...

p.s. can't wait to read the book too, it sounds great and I love to read!

veronica said...

Great review!

Also, I love how the music fits so well with the trailer.

Your music is perfect for a Sunday morning or a quiet peaceful afternoon. I really love it!

Melissa said...

Great post Sher! I am totally intrigued by the book now. And I'm sure she knows my SIL. I'll have to ask......

Erin said...

Ooh, I liked your review! And the music on the video is beautiful too.

Jami said...

Wow! What a great trailer.

I keep thinking I know you from about ten years ago but you would have been to young to be the Sheri S. I knew then.

Melissa said...

PS - tagged you on a little meme on my blog. Check 'er out!

LisAway said...

I really need to get on a decent computer and take a look at that trailer!

Thanks for the review!

Motherboard said...

Great review. I'm working on mine!

Mikki said...

Wow!! THis is so exciting Sherrie!! The trailer is great, and I love your music. I can't wait to get my cd!!!!!!
Thanks for the review too, I'm going to have to go look for her books, they sound terrific.