Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Prelude to Christmas: Vicki's story about forgiveness and hope


Welcome Vicki Talley McCollum to the blog today! She's here to talk about her book, Love Letter from Vietnam (A Christmas Love Letter novella). This is the cover photo: 



Blurb for Vicki's book: When Chrissy Robinson learns she’s pregnant, after her boyfriend ships off to Vietnam (without proposing to her), she quickly writes to tell him. But weeks go by, and still there’s no response from him. After she learns he’s been listed as MIA, she struggles with how she’ll get through nursing school, pregnant, and working long hours as a waitress. Can she raise her baby, all alone? Then John’s parents insist she allow them to raise her baby. Will John come home? And even if he does, will he marry her?

A story of love, forgiveness, and redemption, just in time for Christmas.

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Enter the book giveaway contest by filling out the form on the Rafflecopter widget for your chance to WIN a copy of Vicki's novella:
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Enjoy Vicki's interview! :)
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Interview with Vicki Talley McCollum, author of Love Letter from Vietnam:

Alexis: The title to your story is quite intriguing! Tell us about the story behind it.


Vicki: It actually came about by being at the right place at the right time. I edit romance novels for private clients and freelance edit for Barbour Books and others, but this is my first published book of my own! I’m thrilled!

I attended American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Nashville, TN, in August of this year, and roomed with my dear friend, Carrie Fancett Pagels (a wonderful historical author). She introduced me to Cynthia Hickey, a multi-published author and publisher (Winged Publications, Forget Me Not Romances).

A group of us had dinner together at the hotel one night, and somehow the conversation turned to Christmas letters, and how they’re always filled with all the wonderful things that we like to share with everyone, but not any of the mundane, or especially, the not-so-successful endeavors our families had tried during the year. I told them about a hoax letter we’d sent to a couple of people in our family, just as a joke (with lots of really bad but, thankfully, made-up failures for the year!). My father-in-law didn’t realize it was a joke! And he was really upset about it! Anyway, we all had a good laugh about it.


Then someone suggested that we should do a Christmas collection of novellas to send out this Christmas (due within a couple of months! Yikes!) about Christmas letters. So, seven of us signed up: Janice Thompson, Cynthia Hickey, Rhonda Gibson, Christina Rich, Mary Alford, Vicki Talley McCollum (me), and Linda Kozar. Our novellas are now in a collection on Amazon, thanks to Cynthia Hickey.

That’s how the collection came together, but now I had to come up with my own idea for a novella.

Our waitress that evening was a sweet young woman, about five months pregnant, with long, auburn hair. I thought she’d be a great character! I asked her if I could take her picture and she agreed (she’s not the one on the book cover) and I came up with a story based on someone similar to her as my character, Chrissy Robinson. I decided it needed to be set during one of the military conflicts so the letter could be of great importance to the heroine. I set it in St. Louis, where I live, and chose the Vietnam Conflict, since we still wrote letters in those days. No tweets, e-mails, or texts! (not romantic).

I brainstormed with my roommate, Carrie, for the basics of the story, and my daughter Lindsey, a nurse, read it, and gave me ideas as she read. My long-time writer friend, Sandra Orchard, was great with critiques, even though she had her house full of family the weekend I sent it to her, and was enjoying babysitting her young grandchildren. Yet she still came through with some excellent ideas for me. So it was a group effort, as most novels are.

Alexis: Tell us about your story’s heroine Chrissy Robinson. Describe her heart, looks and personality. What are her biggest strengths and strongest character flaws? 


Vicki: Chrissy is in her early twenties, has long auburn hair and green eyes. She’s attending nurses training at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. In the 1960s, nurses training was done in actual hospital settings, and Barnes was one of the biggest training hospitals here. Since she doesn’t get paid for her training, she works part time as a waitress at the old Fred Harvey diner at Union Station, the train depot. Fred Harvey restaurants were a fixture at depots, and many trains used their food service on the lines.

Chrissy is an orphan. Her parents died when she was a child, and she was raised in foster care. So she doesn’t have a lot of confidence that she’s wanted or loved, and that carries over in her relationship with John Pelletier, the attractive lieutenant she meets and falls in love with.

Her biggest strength is that she doesn’t give up, and she learns to trust the Lord.

Alexis: Tell us about your hero John. What is it about Chrissy that he loves? Why didn’t he propose to her before going to serve overseas?


Vicki: John loves Chrissy’s openness. He comes from wealthier circumstances, so he admires Chrissy’s independence and how she’s making a life for herself. John has been hurt by love before, and he’s not completely secure in trusting anyone now, so he’s not ready to commit. And he thinks there’s all the time in the world to get married, if they decide to. But he learns that time, and his life, don’t belong to him.

Alexis: Let’s talk more about John. What’s his background? How was he raised? Is he a man of faith? What is it about Chrissy that first drew him to her?


Vicki: John comes from an established and wealthy, but not overly rich, St. Louis family. His mother sent her children to Sunday school and youth group when they were young, because she’d been raised in a Christian family. But her husband, John’s father, isn’t religious. John is drawn to Chrissy for her sweet, open manner, her bright green eyes and auburn hair, and her ability to trust people, even though her background wasn’t particularly secure in foster care.

Alexis: Describe Chrissy’s feelings when she finds out that she’s pregnant. Does it matter to her that this is happening out of wedlock? Is she a woman of faith? If so, give us insight to her conversations with God on this situation.


Vicki: Chrissy attended church and Sunday school as a child, and youth group with her best friend, Deanna, as a teen. So she knew sex outside of marriage was wrong. But like so many young people, she wanted to believe that love trumped everything. Also, John was shipping out for Vietnam the next morning. She loved him and wanted him to come home to her, so she gave herself to him. The setting, the summer of 1967, was the Summer of Love, right in the middle of the free love, hippie movement. So, that was going on around her, though she wasn’t a part of it.

Naturally, when she finds out she’s pregnant, and learns John is missing in action, presumed captured, she turns to the Lord. She doesn’t feel worthy of His love and forgiveness, but soon, He is her rock.

Alexis: What are Chrissy’s thoughts when she goes weeks after sending the letter to John about her predicament, without hearing a response?


Vicki: She doesn’t know he’s MIA at first. She thinks he didn’t really love her and has jilted her. So she has to come to terms with being a single mother.

Alexis: What are her feelings when she learns that he’s been listed as MIA?


Vicki: She’s worried sick about him, wonders if he’s wounded and being cared for. She prays a lot for him, and God comforts her.

Alexis: Chrissy is a nursing student, pregnant out of wedlock, and she works long hours as a waitress. She’s concerned about raising her baby alone. How did you dream up this multilayered conflict for her? Can you give us a clue into how she plans to overcome these mountains?

Vicki: So many young women find themselves in this situation, even Christians, so it wasn’t difficult to see the layers of conflict. And just like in real life, everything depends on how Chrissy reacts to her situation, and if she will allow God into her life. She turns to the Lord, and He becomes her main strength. And also, as in real life, He uses other people around her to love and care for her, showing His love. So she has her friends and co-workers to encourage her.

Alexis: Love Letter from Vietnam is said to be a story about “love, forgiveness and redemption.” Describe how this all ties into the Christmas theme of your book. What lesson are you trying to teach your readers?


Vicki: Chrissy first needs to learn to accept God’s love and forgiveness for herself. She doesn’t feel worthy of Him. When we are in sin, we don’t feel worthy enough to even pray. Satan keeps us bound in our sin that way. But the Lord reaches out to her through one of her sweet, elderly patients. He loves her, and He wants a relationship with her, even if she feels unworthy to seek that relationship. And he uses this lady to touch her heart and draw her to Him.

Something somewhat similar happened to my sister, years ago. She felt she was too far away from the Lord to be forgiven and she even thought about suicide. But, one night, when she entered the house and headed to her bedroom without speaking to anyone, my brother felt an overwhelming urge to tell her that God loved her. He didn’t know why, and even felt foolish to tell her this, but he was compelled to say the words to her. This, how God reached out to her when she couldn’t reach out to Him, became part of her testimony.

God’s lesson for us is always that He love us and wants to forgive us and be in relationship with us. This is the Christmas story.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Vicki! Would you like to share closing thoughts? 


Vicki: I want to thank Alexis Goring for hosting me on her blog. I’ve so enjoyed being here. We’re giving away three free copies of my novella. I hope you enjoy reading it and will pass it on to your friends. Watch for my next novella (no specifics on it yet), a historical romance set in one of the National Parks, also with Forget Me Not Romances, releasing June 2017.

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Author bio: 

Vicki Talley McCollum grew up in Atlanta, reading romance magazines her sister and aunts left around the house. She discovered Christian romances, fell in love with them, and later, started editing them as a freelance editor. 

She’s written several novellas, but this is her first one to publish. She’s very excited about it.

Vicki lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband, Jeff, her daughter, Lindsey (who’s a nurse and engaged to a fine young man), and two cats, Ninja and Penny. Her oldest son, Scott, lives and works in Colorado, and her youngest, Tim, is a senior at Wheaton College. 

Feel free to write Vicki at vickimccollum@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter.
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2 comments:

  1. Love the part about God's love and forgiveness and he wants to become a part of our life

    ReplyDelete