Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Interview - THE WEIGHT OF SHADOWS by Alison Strobel

Captain’s Log, Stardate 06.22.2010

The Weight of Shadows
by
Alison Strobel


In The Weight of Shadows, after a difficult childhood, Kim has built a successful life for herself ... but she'd leave it all if it meant being rid of the guilt she harbors over a tragic mistake she made years ago. When she meets Rick, she finds everything she needs---including a way to pay for her sins every time he hits her. Kim and Rick's new neighbor, Joshua, knows more than Kim realizes about Rick, but Joshua has battles of his own to fight. Soon to intersect Kim's and Rick's lives is Debbie, who has saved countless women from abuse through the shelter she runs, but Debbie might be as desperate for love as the women she serves. Meanwhile, as Rick's wrath extends to their baby, Kim must decide if her penance is more important than protecting that innocent life---and if she should dare leave Rick when he has the power to bring her hidden crime to light.

“Alison Strobel skillfully intersects the lives of three souls bearing the unfair weight of past wounds. Told with care and sensitivity, Alison capably delves into the often misunderstood cocoon of domestic abuse as well as the changing shape—and density—of personal loss. Well done.”
--Susan Meissner, author of The Shape of Mercy

“Alison Strobel has penned an important book about a battered woman’s psyche and the length God journeys to rescue her. Honest, painful, redemptive, The Weight of Shadows is the kind of gutsy novel book clubs enjoy discussing.”
--Mary DeMuth, author, Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn

Excerpt of chapter one:

One
Is it truly a birthday party when the guests don’t even know it’s
your birthday? Kim pondered the question as she slipped on the
slacks she’d borrowed from her roommate Corrie. Certainly it was
an improvement over eating a store-bought cupcake alone in front
of reruns. She’d done that more times than she cared to remember.
The intercom buzzed the arrival of the first guest. She spread
her hands over her stomach, willing death to the butterflies that
had come to life. She sucked in a deep breath and blew it away as she
put on her only pair of earrings and secured her locket around her
neck. Fingering the pendant brought to mind memories of the day
she’d received it. She replayed them in her mind, conjuring every
detail she could as she pulled a brush through her hair: the blanket
of snow on the bushes outside, Sinatra serenading the restaurant’s
customers, her foster parents ordering four desserts for everyone
to share when no one could decide what they wanted. That was the
last good birthday she’d had.

Corrie’s voice rang out over the stereo, welcoming whoever had
arrived and bringing Kim back to the present. She bit her lip, de-
bating whether or not to go out yet. These weren’t her friends, she
wasn’t good at small talk, and with only one guest there was no
way for her to disappear into the crowd or avoid interacting. Three
strikes. She’d better wait.

A pair of black flats, their toes and heels repaired with a marker,
were the finishing piece to her ensemble. She gave her red blouse a
tug at the bottom and examined herself in the mirror, happy with
what she saw. It was possible she wouldn’t talk to anyone all night,
but at least she looked nice. In fact, part of her hoped no one would
talk to her—she’d met a few of Corrie’s friends before, and they
were all out of her league. The thought of trying to hold a conver-
sation with any of them resurrected the butterflies. She frowned at
her reflection as the familiar self-doubt crept in. The less she said
tonight, the better.

Kim hated battling the voice of inadequacy that resurfaced
whenever she met new people. She reminded herself of the same
things she told her Club girls and gave her head a shake to dislodge
the negative thoughts. Your roots may form you, but they do not define
you. You are not less of a person because you lack the things most people
have. Your worth as a person is not determined by what you have, but
by who you are.
When she talked to the girls, she was referencing
money, social standing, academic success, the perfect body—the
things teen girls usually stressed over. When she gave herself the
pep talk, though, she was thinking of family.

The buzzer sounded again, followed a minute later by multiple
voices calling out cheerful greetings. No more hiding. Kim left her
room and joined the party.

Six people had arrived, an equal mix of men and women who
had the same casual sophistication as Corrie, though two of the
women had a sort of polished hippie look that Kim envied, know-
ing she lacked the fashion sense to be like them. Her coordinating
abilities ended with slacks and blouses.

Three of the guests sat on the couch, paging through one of
Corrie’s photo albums, while the others were filling their plates
with snacks. She flashed a smile to the one person who acknowl-
edged her arrival, then walked to the kitchen to get herself a drink.
She took her time so as not to look as harried and nervous as she
felt, and sighed with a small smile when the intercom buzzed again.
A bigger crowd meant easier hiding.

Corrie propped open the front door and returned to her conver-
sation. Kim walked to the snack table and began to load a plate with
some veggies and dip. She really wanted the chocolate chip cookies
Corrie had baked the night before, but she wanted to make a good
impression, and these folks looked like veggie people.

The next wave of guests entered, and instantly the party felt
more like a party. More talking, louder calls of “Hello!” across the
room, and, to Kim’s great relief, less sophisticated dress. The last
one in shut the door behind himself and handed his scuffed leather
jacket to Corrie as he greeted her. Kim couldn’t peel her eyes away
from him. He doesn’t seem to belong with these people any more than I
do. Who is he?


The guest who had entered with Scuffed Leather Jacket intro-
duced him to Corrie. Kim was too far away and the room too noisy
for her to hear any of what they were saying, but Corrie, ever the
gracious hostess, made the universal mi casa es su casa arm-sweep
with a bright smile before carting the coats to her bedroom.

He stood with his hands half-jammed into his pockets and
looked around the room. When his gaze neared Kim she ducked
her head, though what she really wanted was to look him in the eye,
smile and welcome him, and commiserate. When he appeared at her
side, she almost couldn’t breathe.

“The snack table is my favorite place to hide at a party too,” he
said. She couldn’t tell if he was sympathizing or making fun of her.
But his face, when she glanced over at him, was open and honest-
looking. There was no twinkle of teasing in his green eyes nor the
tug of a smirk at his lips. She laughed faintly and searched in vain
for something clever to say.

“My name is Rick, by the way.”

“I’m Kim. Nice to meet you.”

“You too. How do you know, um ...”

“Corrie?”

“Yeah, Corrie.”

“She’s my roommate.”

“Oh!” His face brightened. “Wow, this is your place?”

She slid her eyes back to her plate. “No. I wish. I just rent a room
from her.”

“Oh, that’s cool.” He leaned in a little closer. “It’s a nice place,
but not my style, you know? A little too ...” He waved the hand that
wasn’t holding a snack plate. “Calculated. Like those model homes
that are so decorated it’s like walking into a design magazine.”

Kim looked around the living room, trying to see it through
the eyes of a stranger. Corrie had added most of the room’s con-
tents since Kim had moved in, so the change had been so gradual
she hadn’t noticed the overall effect. “You know, you’re right.” She
grinned. “I’ve never thought about it, but you’re right.” She swirled
a carrot stick in a puddle of dip. “It’s not really my style, either, but
I’ll take it over just having a room any day.”

“I’m sure you’ll have your own place someday.”

She laughed a little. “I hope so!”

They crunched on their respective vegetables in silence for a few
minutes before Kim got up the courage to speak again. “So who did
you come with?”

Rick pointed to the couch with a celery stick. “Guy I work with.
Adam. I think he knows Corrie from college or something like that.
Life has kinda sucked lately, so he invited me to cheer me up.”

“That’s a shame. I hope it works.”

“It already has.”

Kim felt her cheeks heat. She smothered the smile that stretched
across her face with a long sip from her soda.

“That’s a really cool necklace.”

“Oh, thanks.” She pulled it along the chain a few times before
patting it back into place. “I got it for my seventeenth birthday.”

He grinned. “How long ago was that?”

“Seven years ago—today.” She almost didn’t say it, but his at-
tention was making her bolder. And it would take a lot of attention to
spoil me, so I’m going to get it while I can.


“No way. It’s your birthday?” She giggled in response, instantly
wincing inside at the childish sound. “So this is for you, then? This
party?”

“Oh, no. Corrie doesn’t even know.”

“Your own roommate doesn’t know it’s your birthday?”

She shuffled a little. “Well, we’re not really friends, you know?
I’ve only lived here a few months. I just found the room through an
ad. We share space—that’s about it.”

Rick shook his head. “That’s just a shame. So all these people—
just friends of Corrie’s?”

“Yeah.”

“You’re spending your birthday with a bunch of strangers.
That’s just wrong. I feel like I need to go find you a cake or some-
thing.” She laughed. “No, I’m serious! Did you do anything special
for your birthday? Did anyone acknowledge it?”

“Well—one person did.” She smiled, remembering her con-
versation with Patricia, the case worker who had shepherded her
through the foster system for so many years. “But no, I didn’t do
anything special. Just went to work like I usually do. But this—”
she waved her hand towards the room full of people, “is more than
I usually do. Birthdays weren’t a big deal when I was growing up.”

He didn’t ask why not, to her relief. But he asked plenty of other
things, and eventually she reciprocated. Over time they migrated to
the kitchen, and then to a couple dining room chairs in the corner.
When Adam came to say he was ready to leave, Kim was stunned
to see they’d talked for two hours.

“I’m really glad I came,” Rick said to Kim as he shrugged into
his jacket. “I’m glad I met you.”

“I’m glad you came too.” Her mouth hurt from smiling so much,
but she couldn’t seem to stop. “I had a great time talking with you.”

“Do you think I could take you out for dinner sometime?”

Her heart nearly burst. “Yes, definitely, yes. I’d love that.”

Rick smiled and ran a hand through his blond bedhead. “Great.
I’ll call you this week, I promise.”

***

“He’s totally not going to call.”

Corrie laughed as she spread plastic wrap over the bowl of dip.
“What makes you say that?”

“I don’t know—I just don’t think he will. I don’t have luck like
that.”

“Maybe you will now.”

“Maybe.” Kim cinched the trash bag shut and pulled it free from
the can. “But even if he doesn’t, it’s okay. I’ve never had that much
fun talking to a guy before. No one’s ever even flirted with me be-
fore.” Memories of her unattractive teen years surfaced briefly but
lacked the sting they usually held. Even thoughts of her life until
now—nights alone, undeclared infatuations, awkward introver-
sion—weren’t as painful. “I hardly knew what to do. But ...” She
trailed off, a smile still tugging at her lips, and carried the trash to
the door. “If nothing else, it was a perfect way to spend an evening.”
And a birthday.

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And now, here’s me and Alison!

What inspired you to write The Weight of Shadows?

A few years ago a friend told me about a high school senior she knew who was involved in an accident with an off-duty policeman. He died in the accident, and even though he had been the one at fault, she was obviously devastated, and terrified that his family would blame her--she certainly blamed herself, even though the evidence showed the officer had been the one in the wrong. But when she met the man's wife, she was blown away by the grace the woman showed her. It made me wonder how her future would have been different had they not absolved her of her guilt. How would it affect her choices, her self-image, her faith? Those questions helped me form my original concept for the story.

The title is intriguing. What does it mean?

There are intangible things that have a profound effect on us. Guilt is one of them. It weighs on us, follows us, eats away at us, even when it's unfounded. All of the main characters in the book have the weight of their past actions on them, and those shadows have followed them have had a formative role in the choices they've made.

What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?

I think that people will get a lot of different things out of this book, depending on what's going on in their lives. But I think one of the main things that I came away with from writing the book is that forgiveness of ourselves is just as important to the health of our souls as forgiveness of others is.

If your heroine were a type of cake, what would she be and why?

Vanilla cake with chocolate frosting on the outside and strawberry filling between the layers.

What is your heroine's favorite song and why?

She's not a very musically-inclined person; she doesn't listen to music very often. But by the end of the book it's Amazing Grace. At the beginning, probably Miss Independent by Kelly Clarkson.

You're off the hotseat! Any parting words?

Thanks for checking out the book and having me over to the loft, Camy! Don't forget to check out the other bloggers in the tour and to leave some comments so you'll be entered in the three book giveaway. :)

Camy here: Thanks so much for being here with me, Alison!

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3 comments :

  1. This book sounds so intriguing and the book cover just pulls you in. You ask yourself, what is weight of shadows??

    Pls include me in the giveaway.

    Thanks for the great interview and excerpt.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  2. The answer about the meaning of the title was very interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I enjoyed the interview with Alison and reading the first chapter of the book. I love the title and cover of the book. It really grabs your attention!

    Sheri

    hspruitt {at} juno DOT com

    ReplyDelete

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