Although she had never written fiction before, about two years ago Montgomery native Lisa Cheek Temple found she had a story inside her that couldn’t be contained. The result is Illuminating Gracie, a story of hope and redemption with a supernatural and spiritual twist. Wendi Lewis wrote the following account of Lisa’s book and tells us about Lisa:
The novel, classified as Young Adult Fiction, tells the story of 17-year-old Grace Bennett, a lonely and bitter young woman on a path of depression and self-destruction. Her life changes when she meets a mysterious old woman, Mrs. B., her dedicated manservant Willem, and two enigmatic young men who together struggle to bring Gracie into the light and give her the strength to fight her demons – as it turns out, both figuratively and literally.
Lisa says she was spurred to begin writing the story shortly after her father, Ted Cheek, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Ted passed away earlier this year. As she struggled to come to terms with his illness, Lisa says she was troubled by regrets about her past, and the trials her parents went through as she tried to find herself.
The story is not autobiographical, although Lisa says there are definitely parts of herself in Gracie. “To say I put my parents through their paces in my younger years is an understatement,” she says with a rueful chuckle. “But through it all, they were always there for me. My dad was very much my hero and stood by my side and helped me get my life together, so it really threw me for a loop when he was diagnosed,” she says. “I had a tough time with the guilt and feeling bad about it and wishing I could go back and change things.”
Without giving too much away, Illuminating Gracie delves into this idea of the ultimate “do-over.” One evening, Lisa says, she simply picked up a pencil and paper, and began to write. She spent the next several months writing the story out by hand. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she says, she started writing the book as a sort of self-help book for young adults. Lisa started thinking about how to write something that might impart a message – “You’re not alone. Look inside yourself.”
“I had this idea of it also being kind of a warning, like be careful about the decisions you make. But what 18-year-old is going to read a self-help book? At that age, you know everything,” she says with a laugh. “But because I’d never put pen to paper on it, it was just an idea. So how could I get this type of information to young people, without it coming across as preaching?”
Influenced by popular Young Adult Fiction that has been embraced by people of all ages, and which she herself enjoys, like the Twilight series and The Hunger Games, the story began to take an otherworldly turn. However, unlike some other fiction that takes its inspiration from those types of stories, Lisa’s characters are much more based in faith. Lisa says she is not really sure how this came to her, except that it grew out of this idea of the literal and figurative “fighting your demons.” It just leant itself to the idea of angels and demons,” she explains. “I wanted to impart a source of light and hope as opposed to a lot of the dark stuff I was seeing out there. This book certainly has dark elements in it, in Gracie’s depression and her negativity, so helping her to overcome that. I really think the Lord put it in my heart and in my head and that’s what came out on the paper. Every day I got up, the only character I knew was Gracie, and I almost didn’t know what was going to happen to her until it came out of my pencil,” Lisa says.
Lisa says she doesn’t define the book as strictly Christian fiction, but does hope it can be inspirational. “There has to be a gulf between clearly Christian fiction and then on the other side, no spiritual value – drugs, sex and rock n’ roll,” she explains with a laugh. “Maybe there’s room to fill that gap between the two. Illuminating Gracie is not written in a way that would alienate someone who isn’t necessarily a Christian from reading it and getting something out of it. But there’s a spiritual message to it, and it’s something that young people are interested in – this otherworldly type subject, and where do I fit in in the world?”
Lisa hopes that young people will like the book, but she also feels that people of all ages would enjoy the story. “First and foremost, I just hope readers have a good time. I meant it to be fun and entertaining, and I hope kids that read books like Twilight read it and enjoy it just on the top level. And then I hope that people both young and old read it and if they need to see something else in it, if they need to see themselves in it, or hope in it, or that it’s never too late to change, they can. Who hasn’t, at some point in their life, wished for a chance to do things differently?” she says. “It’s something sort of universal in us.”
Illuminating Gracie is available in paperback through online booksellers Amazon and on CreateSpace. It will soon be released for the Kindle. Lisa already is working on a sequel, which will follow Gracie into high school and explore issues of popularity, peer pressure, and the challenges young people face trying to be accepted and figure out who they are. You can follow Lisa’s blog through the website www.illuminatinggracie.com. If you would like more information about Lisa’s book, contact Kim Carr Public Relations at 334-320-6752.
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