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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"The Third Grace" by Deb Elkink~ Interview with Author


WINNER OF 2012 BOOK OF YEAR AWARDThe past casts a long shadow — especially when it points to a woman’s first love.

Her name was Mary Grace until she fell in love with the French exchange student visiting her family’s Nebraskafarm. François renamed her “Aglaia” — after the beautiful Third Grace of Greek mythology — and set the seventeen-year-old girl longing for something more than her parents’ simplistic life and faith.

Now, fifteen years later, Aglaia works as a costume designer in Denver. Her budding success in the city’s posh arts scene convinces her that she’s left the country bumpkin far behind.

But “Mary Grace” has deep roots, as Aglaia learns during a business trip to Paris. Her discovery of sensual notes François jotted into a Bible during that long-ago fling, a silly errand imposed by her mother, and the scheming of her sophisticated mentor conspire to create a thirst in her soul that neither evocative daydreams nor professional success can quench.

The Third Grace is a captivating debut novel that will take you on a dual journey across oceans and time — in the footsteps of a woman torn between her rural upbringing and her search for self.


Hello, Ms Elkink.  Welcome to A Bookish Libraria!

I’m so delighted you’ve agreed to allow us to get to know you and your book better.  I have several questions!


1) First of all, please tell us a special something about what makes you “tick.”  When you aren’t writing, what are you doing? (Aside from being a dad/mom)


I chill out by reading other people’s novels and watching video series with great plots: Downton Abbey is my current addiction. Did you know it’s called a “costume drama”? That suits me; I love sewing as well, more to dream up patterns and touch the fabric—natural linen, cotton, silk, and wool—than even to actually wear the garments!


2) You chose a specific genre, a place and time to write about, what made you choose it?


I discovered a marble statue grouping in the Louvre on my first trip to Paris in 1989—a sculpture by James Pradier of The Three Graces of Greek mythology. These goddesses became iconic for me and I decided to arrange my debut contemporary novel around them, as they symbolized to me the relationships among women as well as the twisted spirituality implicit in mythology—both relationship and theology of great interest to me. I was at this time still living on our isolated cattle ranch on the Canadian prairies, and the contrast between city and country, aesthetics and common sense, sophistication and practical living really hit home. I’d succumbed to the enchantment of French culture (the cuisine! the couture! the romantic language!) and wanted to explore the contrast between it and my own heritage rooted in the Mennonite faith—to say nothing of my intention to relive that teenaged feeling of falling in love.


3) Bronte or Austen?  Hemingway or Hawthorne?  Why?


Must it be an either/or choice? I can’t choose—and would instead throw in Dante and Milton, Chaucer and Cervantes, Dickens and Dostoyevsky, Thomas Hardy and Henry James. My graduate thesis subject was the fiction of G.K. Chesterton; his work—along with other metaphysically rich stories by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the likes of Flannery O’Connor—would have to be my picks of favorite reads.


Who do I want to sound like when I grow up in my writing? Well, maybe a hybrid of Somerset Maugham (The Painted Veil), Joanne Harris (Chocolat), and Saint Augustine (Confessions).    


4) In your opinion, what makes a book a great one?


It must engage the reader at the experiential, visceral level. For some this means feeling the breath ’neath a lover’s whisper, or tasting the cream in a wine-laced soup, or hearing a baby’s wrenching cries. For others, it means white-knuckling a plot that grips the soul, or grappling with an underlying theme of universal magnitude that embodies and recalls the reader’s own life experiences so that she weeps as if it’s her own jilted heart breaking again, or soars with the triumph of a victorious race, or longs for eternal answers to eternal questions of destiny and destination.


5) Which author(s) most influenced your love of books from childhood?


The Bible stories from Sunday school were my earliest influence by far, and I still find in Genesis the richest archetypes, in Psalms the loftiest motifs, in Revelation the most exciting action pictures! However, I have to admit that the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew had their say in my preteen years, before I discovered more grown-up fiction. It could be that homeschooling our three kids really taught me to appreciate literature; for fifteen years we celebrated a genre-based approach to learning and read many books together that I’d missed out on: Heidi, Robinson Crusoe, Oliver Twist, historical fiction and mysteries and romances and adventures. What a rich literary heritage I continue to discover!


6) Read any good books in the past 6 months?


I’ve been on a Jodi Picoult binge and especially love My Sister’s Keeper (for the fascinating plot) and Plain Truth (for the religious discussion). Surprised by Oxford (a memoir by Carolyn Weber) temporarily satisfied my academic urges, and I found Jeanette Walls’s autobiography The Glass Castle absolutely riveting. Too many good books, not enough time. 


7) Choose 4 guests from any era for dinner.  Who would they be and what would you choose for a topic of conversation?


·       Eve (first woman, the Garden of Eden)

·       Frank L. Baum (novelist, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)

·       The Dalai Lama (head Buddhist monk, exiled from Tibet)

·       John Calvin (16th-century theologian, Institutes of the Christian Religion)


Topic: Where is “home” and how do we get there?


8) Which of your characters is most like you?


On one hand, I’d say Mary Grace/Aglaia, the main character, is most like me; she’s running away from what she’s actually looking for, as is my habit. (But I want to be like her boss, whose wisdom is rooted in a love of literature.)


9) If you could cast your book for a movie, who would you choose?


Anne Hathaway and Orlando Bloom would be a tortured leading couple, wouldn’t they?  I’d cast Bebe Neuwrith (Lilith in Cheers) as the antagonist, Reese Witherspoon as the best friend, and Alec Guinness as the sagacious boss.


10) Worst habit you have?


My all-consuming focus concerning whatever task at hand drives others and me crazy. I proposed a chant to myself back in the days I needed to ensure that my kids got proper attention—“People are more important than projects”—but I still often forget it.


11) How much research did you do before and during writing?


How does one quantify amount of research—by hours spent or blood let? I love to research and even now, long after the novel is set in stone (so to speak), I find new details I could add. However, the Greek mythological aspect of The Third Grace needed special and acute attention; much of it was added as a secondary (no, more like a tertiary) layer after my agent initially signed me.


12) Psychologists tell us the thing we think we’d most like to grow up to be when we’re ten years old is our avocation.  What did you want to be?


No surprise here: a novelist! I wrote my first imaginative piece at age nine—“published” if the school yearbook counts. I took every writing class available through high school, completed a B.A. in communications (that is, writing) and an M.A. in theology, and occupied myself with freelancing and editing (fiction, magazine articles, a national in-house legal quarterly) before I finally let myself believe I’d paid my dues and was ready for the larger canvas of a full-length novel.


Thanks for joining us on The Bookish Libraria!



About the Author:

 When author and city-slicker Deb Elkink fell in love and married an introverted cowboy, she moved from her bright lights to his isolated cattle ranch far off in the prairie grasslands. Still—between learning to pilot a light aircraft, sewing for a costume rental store, and cooking for branding crews of a hundred—Deb graduated with a B.A. in Communications from Bethel University in St. Paul, MN; she also holds an M.A. in Theology (both summa cum laude).

Her award-winning debut novel, THE THIRD GRACE, is set in the contrasting locales of Parisian street and Nebraskan farmyard, and incorporates Greek mythology and aesthetics with the personal search for self. Her writing has been described as “layered and sumptuous,” “compelling,” and “satisfying.”

Visit her website at www.DebElkink.com.

Friend her at Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/deb.elkink.

Pick up your paperback copy of Deb Elkink’s THE THIRD GRACE at Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Third-Grace-Deb-Elkink/dp/1937573001/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343080975&sr=8-1&keywords=third+grace+elkink

Download your ebook copy of Deb Elkink’s THE THIRD GRACE at Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Third-Grace-ebook/dp/B006ABYJNC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1343080975&sr=8-2&keywords=third+grace+elkink

Pick up your paperback copy of Deb Elkink’s THE THIRD GRACE at Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-third-grace-deb-elkink/1107067790?ean=9781937573003

Pick up your paperback copy of Deb Elkink’s THE THIRD GRACE at Chapters/Indigo:  http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/home/search/?keywords=third%20grace%20elkink&pageSize=12



I think Anne Hathaway and Orlando Bloom would make the perfect tortured leading couple. : ) Awesome interview! Your books sounds fantastic!

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