AUTHOR BIO: Bonnie Leon is the author of nineteen novels, including the recently released Joy Takes Flight, book three in the Alaskan Skies series, the popular Sydney Cover series and the bestselling Journey of Eleven Moons.
She enjoys speaking for women’s groups and teaching at writing seminars and conventions. These days, her time is filled with writing, being a grandmother and relishing precious time with her aged mother.
Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and seven grandchildren.
In your new book Joy Takes Flight, its back drop is the Alaskan country side; your main character Kate has just married Paul Anderson the love of her life. Kate ponders how to juggle a career and marriage – a thing many women struggle with today. When readers finish your novel and close the book what do you hope they take away--- walk away feeling?
I hope they will be filled with hope and an understanding that God is greater and bigger than all our troubles. I want them to know the freedom of letting go and knowing they can trust God with their lives and with the lives of those they love.
What is your favorite scene in Joy Takes Flight? Why?
This is truly a difficult question. I have favorite scenes I can’t share because I don’t want to give away too much. But, there is a scene that takes place between Kate and Sassa, her native neighbor, that raises difficult questions and reveals a tenderness and maturity in Sassa that maybe we didn’t fully understand.
Paul and Kate have had an argument over whether Kate should continue to fly or step into the role of full time homemaker. Furious and confused, Kate escapes to a special place along the creek where she goes to be alone and to think. Sassa joins her and the two women talk through Kate’s dilemma.
Sassa doesn’t have the answer, but she’s transparent with Kate about her own life--her struggles and successes. Sassa has always been a bit brash, but she exposes a gentler side of her nature. She’s a beautiful example of what being a friend is all about. She shares truth as she understands it, but allows Kate her own choices.
Why this scene? Perhaps, because I’ve wrestled with the issue of homemaker versus working woman. And I’ve asked the question, what does it really mean to be submissive to my husband? Finding God’s truth rather than man’s can be like trying to swim through pudding. Having a good friend to help us figure work through issues like this is a gift. Sassa’s willingness to be a true friend to Kate is just what God asks us to be for one another.
|Grandparents homestead inspired |
Bear Creek Alaskan Skies series
Have you had anything surprise you through a book club meeting or book event? If so can you share it? If not, is there something you’ve wanted to experience at a book club meeting but haven’t yet? If so, please share what your hopes are.
The most surprising invitation I’ve received was extended by a readers group that consisted of Mormon women only. There are some dramatic differences in what we believe so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was confident that God had a lot to do with the invitation so I was happy to accept.
The women were warm and friendly and made me feel welcome. We chatted while we ate—they had created a special meal including foods that had been prepared in the book. It was a wonderful evening. Our differences didn’t matter at all. We were simply women and readers talking books. And by the end of the evening I felt that I had a bunch of new friends.
Have you been surprised by readers’ reactions to one of your books, to one of your characters? If so, which book, character and what surprised you?
Many years ago, I received a letter that floored me. It was written by a man who had been in prison for ten years and was serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole. At the age of nineteen he’d killed a man during a robbery. Though, he’d given his heart to Christ as a boy he’d long since walked away from his faith. Someone gave him a copy of my book, The Journey of Eleven Moons.
|Grandparents cabin inspiration for Paul's |
cabin in Alexander Creek
I would never have expected that story to touch the heart of a murderer. But God knew what he needed. The story of a native girl discovering the love of Christ through the kindness of a stranger stirred up the Holy Spirit in this man. After reading the book, he dedicated his life to serving Christ right where he was for the remainder of his sentence, which was the rest of his life. And he has done exactly that. I heard from a family member who told me that he is still serving the Lord.
When I doubt my purpose for writing I always think of this man and thank God for allowing me to serve him through writing.
Can you give us a peek into what you are working on right now and when it will be out?
I’m wading into a true life story and writing it as a memoir. This is all new for me. I have a lot to learn about this genre and it’s been difficult, but the story is so amazing that I have to write it.
A Cherokee woman who grew up in an Athabaskan village in Alaska came to me and asked if I would write her story. At first I didn’t think it was for me . . . that is until she started telling me about her life. Soon I was crying and thinking that maybe it was something I was meant to write.
|Family group shot Christmas 2012|
For now, this woman will remain anonymous. There are a couple of relatives who don’t want the story told, but I can’t wait to tell it. She has lived an incredible life—some of it magical and some so tragic I wonder how even God restored the spirit of a battered girl who grew up to love him and understand how great his love is for her.
Why write Christian Fiction? What’s the draw for you?
I don’t know that I have a choice. When I write that’s what flows out of me. Christ is my life and every part of it is influenced by my relationship with him. How could I write and exclude him?
In your speaking engagement topic list it has this listed, “Embracing Life’s Disappointments; have you ever asked, “Why does God allow the tough stuff? Is there a purpose?” Have you asked those questions? What are the answers you discovered in your own life?
|Wedding day 41 yrs ago|
Yes, I’ve asked God why the tough stuff. After an accident in 1991 left me with permanent disabilities and chronic pain I had to fight hard to regain a constructive perspective. I felt as if I’d lost my life. I was afraid, depressed and angry. I wanted my old life back, but God had a different plan. As I walked through the valley I realized I wasn’t alone and that different didn’t mean bad. God had a plan for me.
Everything that touches us passes through God’s hands first. There is a purpose in all things, especially the tough stuff. It’s in the painful places that God has the power to mold us into the people he longs for us to be. He knows all the whys and because of that I don’t need to know. I just need to be.
It’s not easy. Some days I grumble. I still grieve the old me. I want my life to look different. I don’t want to be part of some greater plan. I just want to glide through life, enjoying its precious moments.
Did you notice there are an awful lot of I’s in the previous paragraph? That’s where the problem lies. We can’t be about self—it’s about Christ and serving him.
In your speaking topic list you mention, “Living without masks – Do we dare? If we’re to have authentic relationships we must dare to reveal the real us. You discuss the danger of living with masks, and the great rewards that come with transparency.” Have you talked about this matter in one of your books? Any of your characters struggle with this or wear masks? If so, which characters and what’s the name of the book?
When I look back over my many books I’d say there are several characters who fell into the trap of mask wearing. After all, they represent real people and people wear masks. We wrongly believe that donning a mask keeps us safe. It doesn’t of course. Instead it places a wall between us and authentic relationships.
To answer your question about a specific character, I’d say the one who comes to mind first is Hannah in the Sydney Cove series. She hid what she felt was a terrible truth in her past from her husband. That omission nearly destroyed their lives.
FUN QUESTIONS I JUST HAD TO ASK
You are shipwrecked on an uninhabited tropical island with a group of Christians – all friends and relatives of yours. You all have to work as a team to survive. Many roles have to be filled. Which role do you think you’d play?
There was a time when I’d have taken the role of leader. It was a natural bent for me. I can still lead when needed, but these days I prefer the role of encourager. It makes me happy to come alongside others to help and to guide when needed. On that tropical island I’d be the one offering a good word, praying with members in the team, crying with them and cheering them on.
You've been given 48 hours to hang out with any two (alive or dead). Who would you pick and what would you do? (Besides Jesus)
Secondly, I’d sit down and have a long conversation with Abraham Lincoln. His journey through life is a great success story and yet he carried great sorrowful burdens. I’d like to know the man who came from modest beginnings to lead our country through one of its darkest times, yet remained vigilant and dedicated to the end.
What three things would you rather not live without? (Besides friends and family)
|Recent photo of my husband Greg and I|
My Bible. How do you face life without it?
My Sleep Number Bed. It’s the only reason I can get a good night’s sleep.
A heating pad. Silly, I know, but it helps soothe my back and I’m so grateful to have one.
A friend of yours has a time machine and they are going to let you use it. Where would you go and what would you do?
I’d like to be on the deck of a ship sailing into New York harbor in 1910. Immigrants cheered, cried and searched for the first sighting of the Statue of Liberty. America! They’d arrived and were only minutes away from taking their first steps toward freedom and prosperity.
When you were young is there a movie that really affected your life? If so what was it? If you didn’t watch movies what book stood out to you when you were young?
The Miracle Worker, starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke has stayed with me since I first saw it as a child. Still, the dedication of Anne Sullivan inspires me. She refused to give up on Helen Keller. If she had, young Helen’s future would have been bleak. It is a powerful lesson in perseverance and believing in the human spirit. We can’t give up.
BONNIE, ANY FINAL COMMENTS YOU WANT TO SHARE WITH READERS?
|My home where I live and work|
Thanks to my faithful followers and readers of my books. Without you I couldn’t write. And to those who are unfamiliar with my work, I hope you’ll give it a try. If you love it tell everyone, otherwise . . . shhh.
Grace and peace to you from God.
Thanks Bonnie for stopping by and giving us a peek into your new book. As always it’s fun to read your reader interaction at The Book Club Network. Thanks to Revell our sponsor for giving away 10 copies of your book starting July 19th – 21st. Ann will be talking to readers at that time @TBCN www.bookfun.org Mark your Calendars and be there for lots of book fun and author interaction.
Blessings on your and your writing!
The Book Club Network