Ada Brownell has written for Christian publications since age 15 and spent much of her life as a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain in Colo. After moving to Springfield, MO in her retirement, she continues to write articles and books with stick-to-your-soul encouragement: Imagine the Future You; Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult; Swallowed by Life: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal; and Confessions of a Pentecostal, out of print but released in 2012 for Kindle.
Ada, it’s great to have you at Novel PASTimes today. Could you share with us some of the surprises you’ve encountered along the road to publishing?
Pleasant surprises came frequently in my long career. It started in my teens when my first articles were accepted. One of the big events occurred when I was 21. I'd been paid $3 or a little more for article and stories, and for reprints, nothing. But my husband only made about $14 a day then on the railroad (he was a telegrapher) so that wasn't too bad. Then I wrote an article for David C. Cook's Leader Magazine about my mother's Sunday school teaching methods. I glanced at the check, thinking it was for $3.50. Then I took another look. It was for $35. My eyes bugged out and I ran all the way home from the Post Office.
Yet, when we serve the Lord and pray for Him to direct our steps, we aren't that surprised when He leads us into something new. That's the way it was with newspaper work. I started as a correspondent for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. We moved, and I got a job as a reporter for The Herald Democrat in Leadville, Colo. When we relocated again, in less than a week I went to work for The Pueblo Chieftain, and worked most of my career there, taking out nearly 20 years to freelance and stay at home with our children.
I'm still receiving pleasant surprises. Last year, The Pentecostal Evangel featured an excerpt from my book, Swallowed by Life, in its June "Reading for Spiritual Health" edition. I was pleasantly surprised when Christian Publishers Outlet in Springfield, MO, and Scripture Supply in Pueblo, invited me to do book signings. A few weeks ago an editor at The Chieftain did a feature story on my new book, Imagine the Future You. I've been surprised at adults who enjoyed my novel, Joe the Dreamer.
Please tell us something about your young adult novel, Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult.
Enter an area where people are missing and radicals want to obliterate Christianity from the earth. After Joe Baker’s parents mysteriously disappear, he finds himself with a vicious man after him. Joe and an unusual gang team up to find his mom and dad. The gang is dedicated to preventing and solving crimes with ordinary harmless things such as noise, water, and a pet skunk instead of blades and bullets. Joe reads the Bible hoping to discover whether God will answer prayer and bring his parents home. In his dreams, Joe slips into the skin of Bible characters and what happened to them, happens to him—the peril and the victories. Yet, crying out in his sleep causes him to end up in a mental hospital’s juvenile unit. Will he escape or will he be harmed? Will he find his parents? Does God answer prayer?
Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult sounds like it has an unusual setting (futuristic?) and premise. What drew you to write this story?
I started the book in an upper-elementary and middle-school class when I taught an after-school and summers program at our church after I retired from the newspaper. The kids were so interested, I decided to work with it and complete it. My purpose was to help youth see how exciting the Bible is.
With his parents missing, Joe has plenty of trouble so he reads the Bible every night to increase his faith. In his dreams he becomes Joseph down in the well and trudges behind camels into slavery, yet finds God with him. He's Daniel in the lion's den, feeling the lions' breath on his neck, but with the Lord breathing faith into his heart.
But shouting victory, half asleep, causes the uncle he's living with to think Joe is mentally ill, and he ends up in a mental hospital in a juvenile ward similar to what I saw and wrote about while I was on the medical beat. Early on, the reader knows the pain, sorrow, but also the faith of Joe's parents, held against their will with other influential Christians in a nearby castle. Meanwhile, Joe and his friends work to try to find and release them.
Have you found similar themes throughout your writing? Why? Or why not?
My brand is, "Stick-to-Your-Soul Encouragement," so everything I write hopefully is an encouragement to readers. With Joe the Dreamer the theme is "God answers prayer." In Swallowed by Life: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal I want readers to know if we accept Jesus as Savior we’ll live forever—and physical evidence from science and medicine testify we’re more than a body. The theme for Imagine the Future You: God loves you and has a plan for you that will give you abundant life and joy you can't describe.
What intrigues you to write about biblical stories?
While Joe from Joe the Dreamer is not the biblical Joseph, I use Joseph of the Bible frequently in my books. Joe Baker slips into the biblical Joseph's skin in a dream related in one chapter. In Imagine the Future You I also devote a chapter to Joseph, titled "Where do you want your name to appear?" Here we are, maybe 3,000 or more years after Joseph still writing his name, talking about him, and how the Lord did great things for and through him.
Another reason I'm intrigued by the Bible, is because it is not just stories. Those people lived and their biographies related in the Word are true. Every textbook ever written is soon outdated, but the truths in the Bible are valid forever.
If you’re anything like I am, one favorite book is hard to pick! Do you have two or three top picks among the historical genre that you would care to recommend?
Prairie Rose by Catherine Palmer is my favorite. It's the only novel I'm read at least a half dozen times or more, although I devour novels and have reviewed more than 40 on Amazon, nearly all 5-star books. Prairie Rose has been out a long time and it comes with a trilogy. Catherine created unforgettable characters and a wonderful story sprinkled with humor.
What do you consider the best resources for historical research?
More tomorrow from Ada Brownell. For U.S. readers only this week, answer Ada's question
for a chance to win Joe the Dreamer. Leave your answer and email addy in the form
name[at]domain[dot]com to qualify for the drawing by this Friday morning before 9 a.m. ET.
Here we go with Ada's excellent question:
Why do you still believe the gospel despite the growing unbelief in America and the secularist ideas promoted in our learning institutions and the media?