Fab Four Book Picks

Book reviews by the Fab Four and our Fab Friends

Friday, December 15, 2006

Review of A BIGGER LIFE by Annette Smith adn Author Interview

ISBN: 1-57683-995-8



Annette Smith, author of a dozen books, is a writer by day and a hospice nurse by night. Her first book of short stories, The Whispers of angles, sold more than 100,000 copies. A lifelong Texan, Annette lives in Quitman, Texas with her husband Randy. The intimiate scenes and emotions she witnesses in her hospice work brings a richness and poignancy to her writing.


How has A Bigger Life been different from other novels that you've written?

My other novels have been what I call gentle fiction, as in Mayberry meets Mitford. In those books, I wrote about the struggles and challenges of flawed but faithful Christians. The characters were much like people I know, similar to the folks I cross paths with every day. The setting was one in which I felt comfortable. The endings were tidy and happy.

A Bigger Life is a much grittier novel, one that deals with difficult, contemporary issues and problems. The main character is someone very different from me. The ending is hopeful, rather than happy. When writing the book, I had a bit of anxiety about how readers of my earlier works would respond to this novel. So far the response from early readers has been overwhelmingly positive.

Tell us how this story came to you.

Nearly two years ago, at my young adult daughter's insistence that I do something about my hair, I visited a new salon. It was there that I met Paul C. He was a twenty-seven-year-old, straight, male hairstylist who was the single parent of a three-year-old little boy, whose mother had died only weeks before. During the two hours I sat in his chair, Paul shared bits and pieces of his life. His story was incredibly poignant, rich, and true. I was so moved by his words, so captivated by his voice and his spirit, that I could not get home fast enough to get him down on paper.

A Bigger Life is fiction. The plot of the book is completely different from Paul's life story. However the voice, passion, and sensitivities are his.

Since that first meeting, Paul and I have become friends. We communicate regularly. It's an odd relationship, me, a forty-something, mainstream wife and mom who's been a Christian all my life, him a post-modern, single dad who only recently came to know God. We could not come from two more divergent worlds, yet somehow it works. The love and respect we have for each other has enriched my life. I am not the same person I was two years ago. I believe Paul would tell you the same is true of him.

Has your hairdresser Paul read the book? What does he think?

Paul has read the first chapter of the book. It is posted on my website. However, he has chosen to wait until the book is released to read the rest. I think it must be an weird feeling to know someone is writing about you and your life. However, from the very beginning, Paul has been enthusiastic and supportive. He gave me free rein to write about anything and everything he's shared.

It will be an exciting day for both of us when I place a finished copy in his hands. My hope is that he will feel that I have honored him and his life.

What difficulties did you encounter writing this novel?

Writing from the male point of view was a challenge but great fun. I had two male readers who let me know when I veered off course. They were a tremendous help. It thrills me to hear readers' disbelief that the book was written by a woman.

Another challenge was the book's touchy subject matter. This is a story that deals with temptation, sin, and its consequences. Certain scenes were difficult to write realistically and emotionally without offending or titillating. I worked very hard to get them right. From the responses I'm getting, I believe I succeeded in reaching a good balance between realism and propriety.

What do you see as the central theme of this novel?

Everyone suffers. Everyone is in need of God's unconditional love and mercy. We, His children, are called upon to see each other with His eyes, to love as He loved, to serve as he served.


A BIGGER LIFE is a book I won't soon forget. Had I not previously known the author was female, I would have guessed the book written by a man. Written from the POV of Joel in first person about his life with his wife and son, the emotion in this story riveted my eyes and heart to every page. I laughed SO hard at the "accident" in the dentist's parking lot because I've SO been there. This book seemed so real, it could have been about real people instead of fiction. A young, struggling marriage and the characters' journey tugged my heart strings. I don't want to give any spoilers, but the way Annette penned the snappy, realistic dialogue, and the internal monologue makes the characters easy to identify with. Certain parts (GET THE BOOK!!!) made me ball my eyes out, and the message deep in this story really, really touched me. I cried about that, too! I loved how the non-traditional Christians in this story were portrayed. It's how I picture what a church body is supposed to be. Really moving moments between the characters. I love howAbe called Joel out on his junk. LOVED THIS!!!

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this deeply touching work of fiction to anyone loving family-oriented stories with emotive poignancy that will keep you thinking about the book long after you finish it.



Friday, December 08, 2006


An Interview with

Janice Thompson


A $25,000 night deposit mysteriously disappears from the Clark County Savings and Loan, and Annie Peterson has reason to be concerned. Her husband’s job at the bank makes him a potential suspect, but knowing him to be a Godly man, she can’t imagine he'd steal it. But then again, where did the money to pay for his twin daughters' weddings come from? Sure, Warren occasionally jokes about robbing the bank to pay for the ceremonies, but Annie knows him better than that, doesn’t she?

This is one story not to be missed!

Congratulations on leading the Heartsong Cozy Mystery Line. Tell us about how that came about.

In 2004, I proposed an idea for a wedding-themed romance to Barbour Publishing titled THE WEDDING CAPER. Sadly, it was rejected for their romance line. I laid the idea aside for a period of time. Then, in January of 2006, I heard that Barbour was putting together a new line of cozy mysteries. My story idea involving a mother of the bride solving a crime just seemed to fit. I quickly put together a new proposal and sent it off to Susan Downs, mystery editor.

I heard back from Susan pretty quickly that she was interested in the books, but was stunned to learn THE WEDDING CAPER would head the new line of mysteries. More stunned still, to find out the book would be released as a trade book! Most mysteries in the line are sold through the book club only.

I can't tell you how blessed I feel to have this very distinct privilege, and how honored. I'm so grateful to Susan (and Becky Germany, my fiction editor), and to all of the fine people at Barbour, who've done so much for me!

What did you like most about writing this genre?

For the first time ever, I got to try my hand at first-person writing, and I LOVED it! Couldn't get enough of it. The twists and turns in the mystery are a lot of fun, though a bit of a challenge. But I'm up for the challenge! I especially love writing something fun and quirky!

Perhaps the greatest thing of all has been the spiritual thread that runs through all of the stories. I prayed fervently as I wrote THE WEDDING CAPER - that the Lord would use my words to not only bring a smile to people's faces (and make them wonder "who-dunnit") but would also present a real and lasting impression of our heavenly Father, and His love for us.

Tell us a bit about the book.

THE WEDDING CAPER is a cozy mystery set in Clarksborough, Pennsylvania. The fun begins when a $25,000 night deposit mysteriously disappears from the Clark County Savings and Loan, Annie Peterson has reason to be concerned and to assume the role of amateur sleuth. Her husband's job at the bank makes him a potential suspect, but knowing him to be a Godly man, she can't imagine it. Then again, there is that matter of the weddings to factor in. Twin daughters Brandi and Candy have just received proposals and two weddings are pending. Sure, Warren occasionally jokes about robbing the bank to pay for the ceremonies, but Annie knows him better than that. . .doesn't she? Just about the time Annie thinks she can wriggle Warren off the suspect hook, he mysteriously shows up with enough cash to cover the cost of both weddings. Annie dives into the investigation and the suspects pile up. One by one they fall, leaving her with only one logical choice. Who will it be – a somber-faced loan officer, a security guard with a shady past, a drifter with local ties – or the man she loves?

What sparked the idea of combining the stress of a wedding with a cozy?

I know what it's like to be the mother of the bride. I've played that role multiple times now! In 2004, two of my daughters got married within four months of each other. Daughter #3 is now engaged, and set to be married in the spring. Daughter #4 has just announced that she's met the man of her dreams and already has 'that look' in her eye.

Talk about blissful chaos! I know about the ups and downs of wedding planning, and also understand the financial woes connected with putting together beautiful wedding ceremonies on a budget. So, what's a mother of the bride to do, when faced with such challenges? Easy! I just turned them into books, so that readers could join in the fun! I decided to capitalize on my wacky wedding-related experiences by putting them into this series of mysteries, which Barbour has titled "The Bridal Mayhem Mystery Series." As I mentioned before, THE WEDDING CAPER is the first book in the collection. And the 'sleuth,' Annie Peterson—Mother of the Brides is so much like me, it hurts!

Tell us about your pet who makes it in all your novels. What role do they play in The Wedding Caper?

My real-life canine cohorts, (red miniature dachshunds Sasha and Copper), make appearances in my mysteries, and help solve the crimes. Sasha is even featured on the cover of THE WEDDING CAPER. I actually wrote Susan Downs a letter early on about this - told her that Sasha insisted upon a clause in my contract stating that she would be on the cover of every book. Barbour didn't actually put it in the contract, but so far my little darling has made it onto the first two covers! Ironically, Sasha and Copper are a bit on the spoiled side. They've really let this publishing fame go to their heads, and are particularly difficult to deal with, now that THE WEDDING CAPER has released. There's just no living with some people... er... dogs. I hope my readers enjoy getting to know them, and fall in love with them, as I have.

To hear a podcast of Janice speaking about The Wedding Caper [Click Here.]

JANICE THOMPSON is a Christian novelist, who lives in the Houston area. She has authored eleven books, including a line of contemporary humorous wedding mysteries for Barbour Publishing. Janice considers herself somewhat overqualified when it comes to writing about weddings. Janice has coordinated weddings for friends and has incorporated many of her adventures into her stories. She's also tickled to be able to include her canine companion, Sasha, in each of her "tails."
The Wedding Caper -- Janice Thompson-- Barbour Publishing -- ISBN: 1597895245 -- $9.97