Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Author Behind the Story Series - Mary L. Hamilton

Yes, Virginia. There is a Santy Claus. He came early to FLA. Weather's crisp and cool. The skies are clear blue. There's been frost on the rooftops. Such a wonderful respite from the hot temps that typically plague us here is the south.

So, as our northern friends shovel their driveways, we are sitting here on the front porch, wrapped in a blanket, sipping Donut Shop coffee, and enjoying an evening without mosquitoes.

In the midst of this pleasantness, can you help me welcome fellow author, Mary L. Hamilton!

Welcome Mary! For those readers who do not know you, give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Mary Hamilton?

Introvert with a sense of humor usually revealed only to people I’m comfortable with. Love to laugh, hate to cry even in front of my husband. Terrible leader, but excellent #2 person because I enjoy making it easy for others to do their job. Love dogs. And Jesus.

Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

Upon graduating college with a social work degree, I went into VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America). Those old enough to remember might know it was a domestic version of the Peace Corps. I worked for a hunger organization in Houston for a year, acting as a liaison between the churches that kept pantries and my organization which kept records on the people served and provided a clearinghouse for those churches to avoid abuse of the system. After that, I worked a couple years as a state welfare worker and discovered I wasn’t really cut out to be a social worker. The next four years, I worked in a hospital setting as an assistant to the director of volunteers. That was probably my favorite job. I loved the hospital atmosphere, and my skills complemented my director’s so we worked very well together. I left that job to become a stay-at-home mom and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

You just mentioned a social work degree. What other educational background do you have?

Although I was very close to my family, I thought it was important to learn to be independent. For that reason, I chose to attend a residential junior college that was an eight-hour drive from home. It forced me to make my own decisions and learn to manage things on my own. However, the town and the school were about the same size as my hometown and my high school, making the transition a bit easier. I finished my four-year degree in social work at a larger college in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, the culture shock of living in an urban setting and the anonymity of the larger school made for a very difficult two years there. I couldn’t wait to leave, and didn’t even bother to attend graduation.

Isn't Minneapolis a little far from Houston? Hmm. Maybe you'll fill us in sometime on the distance disparity. Are you married? Single? Have kids?

I’ve been married to Prince Charming for 35 years, and we have three grown kids. No grandkids. Yet.

Have you told Cinderella yet? She's going to be upset, you know... :-) 

Okay, on a more serious note, I’m going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us in one sentence why it is your favorite.

Favorite Food: chocolate--I have a terrible sweet tooth.
Favorite Drink: water—Boring, I know.
Favorite Song: How Great Thou Art—It was my choice for my dad’s funeral and it never fails to choke me up.
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower—She gives such an intimate portrait of our presidential families from the Kennedys all the way up to the Obamas.
Favorite Bible Verse: Just one? That’s like asking which child is my favorite. I guess I’d have to say John 3:16 because it says it all.
Favorite Movie: Star Wars (the original)—The triumph of good over evil had the audience give a standing ovation the first time I saw it in a theater.
Favorite Actor or Actress: Gregory Peck—I’m dating myself, but I don’t watch TV and rarely see movies these days. He was a great actor with personal integrity. Handsome, too!
Favorite Novel (other than your own): Water from My Heart—I didn’t like it until halfway
through and then, wow, it was powerful.
Favorite Novelist (other than you): Charles Martin—I love the way he puts words together and would probably read a grocery list if he wrote it!
Favorite Sport: basketball—It’s fast-paced, not dependent on weather, and I understand it.
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): Chicago Cubs—I’ve been a Cubs fan since 4th grade when Mrs. Babcock let us listen to the games during class.
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: Reading/composition—I was good at it.
Favorite Subject Now: Same because I enjoy reading and writing.
Favorite Teacher in School: James Wehner—Along with teaching English Lit, he gave advice for successful living and actually made vocabulary fun.
Favorite Time of the Year: Autumn—In Texas, fall is a blessed relief from the heat.
Favorite Place to Vacation: Wisconsin/Minnesota—My siblings and extended family live there.

If you had one person you could meet (think outside the Bible here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be?

Abraham Lincoln is the first person that comes to mind. He faced a nation much more divided than we are today, and I’d love to know his thoughts on that. Besides the issue of slavery, what made him so determined to keep the states united and not recognize the South’s secession? He seems to have been a kind and gentle man and I’d love to know him personally.

Interesting choice. It would be an enlightening discussion, I think. If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?

Daniel would be the one person from the Bible I’d want to spend time with. I’d love to know how he felt when he was thrown into the lions’ den. Was he afraid, or had God given him the confidence to know he was safe? And how could he reconcile not only serving a pagan king, but serving him well? What was he faced with in that culture and how did he manage to stay pure?

Besides the usual things authors face, has there been an unusual event that changed your perspective about being an author?

When I first started writing, my infant son took wonderful three-hour long naps during which I’d write. I found myself resenting him when he woke up because I didn’t like being interrupted. I wanted to keep writing. But I knew that wasn’t the right attitude, and I thought of the verse in the Bible that talks about how all our works will be burned in the fire and most will be consumed like wood, hay and stubble. I realized that no matter how many books I write, even if some become best-sellers, they have no eternal value. They’ll be wood, hay and stubble in that fire. But my son has an eternal soul. What I do with him will last forever. That’s when I vowed to put my family first before my writing. Even now when the kids are grown, I try to put people ahead of my writing, because they have eternal value.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

Oh, goodness, I don’t think I’ve done anything crazy since I was a teenager. Of course, teenagers have a lot of drama going on, and one time, three friends and I locked ourselves in a bathroom so we could discuss some bit of drama in private. One of those friends was a boy, so we had three girls and one boy together in a bathroom. When we’d finished our discussion and were ready to leave, the doorknob literally came off in someone’s hand, leaving us locked in there. We couldn’t very well call for help, because we’d have to explain what three girls and a boy were all doing in the same bathroom. In a panic, we tried and tried to fit the doorknob back on, but finally resorted to tearing the window screen and sending the boy out since he was the smallest. Then one last try on the doorknob, and the door swung open as easily as if it were new. 

Why do you live where you live?

When my husband retired from an oil company, we wanted to get out of the big city and away from Houston’s humidity. He’d always wanted to work for a university, and I wanted to live near a lake. Waco offered both, with a small town atmosphere. And it was halfway between our daughter in Dallas and our son in Austin. We found a place that’s a little bit country but ten minutes from shopping, so we are very happy.

So, have you had dinner with Chip & Joanna Gaines yet? Don't they live in Waco? Just wondering...

We know “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.” Is there a book you’ve read in the past five years or so that has helped you become a better you? If so, which one was it, and how did it affect your life?

I read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah about the time of the Charlottesville rioting. At the same time, every Sunday for a month, several churches in our community set aside a few moments to speak against racism in any form among Christians. As I read of Nazi atrocities against Jews and others, I realized this was the end result of harboring any form of hatred or racism in my own heart. It clearly showed me the devastation that hatred wreaks between people, and motivated me to get rid of any ill will in my heart. 

When you look for a new home, what are the things that are important to you?

Well, since I don’t enjoy cooking, I’ve been looking for a house without a kitchen, but so far, no luck. A view would be perfect, especially if it overlooked a lake. I’m not real particular about the house itself, as long as it’s well-built. Victorian style would be nice, but the location is more important to me. I like having some room between my neighbors and me—close enough to talk and get acquainted, but not looking onto each other’s driveway or into someone’s window. 

When you look for a new car, what are the things that are important to you? 

It must have wheels and be dependable enough to get me where I want to go when I want to go there.

When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you? 

The blurb is what usually catches my attention. I want to know what the book is about. I love women’s fiction that delves into relationships, but with little or no romance. I want some meat, like The Nightingale, not just fluff. If a book sounds like light reading, I’ll usually pass it up.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

The story of the Prodigal Son never fails to bring me to tears. I see myself in the young man who insists on doing life the way he wants, only to find out it’s an illusion. When he finally repents and drags himself back to the father, he’s overwhelmed by the father’s forgiveness and grace. But I also identify with the older brother who resents the fuss made over his wayward sibling. It’s such a poignant illustration of God’s love and grace toward us, no matter what state we find ourselves in. That father’s response speaks deep into my heart.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

It’s been a pleasure chatting with you and your readers today. While I started out writing a series for young teens, my dream was always to write for adults. So I’m excited about Pendant, a cozy mystery that is my latest release.

When not writing, I enjoy knitting and a little amateur photography using only my iPhone. And I love hearing from readers, so I’d encourage you to connect with me personally through my social media or email,

Mary, it's been a pleasure having you here today. And folks, if you wish to find out more, you can visit Mary's links below!

Until next time, may God bless you, may you bless God, and God bless us all, everyone!


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