Welcome book lovers! I’m so glad you’ve joined me today, because I have a guest to introduce you to, and you should see all the yummy treats she has to share with us! Venessa Knizley has recently released the second book in her four book series Walk With Me, set in the middle of the 1300s, but she’s sharing a decidedly more modern assortment of snacks with us today: oreos, popcorn (with lots of butter and salt), and twizzlers, and a nice glass of milk to wash it all down!
Image sources: San Diego Reader, Simply Recipes, Wikimedia Commons, Hospibuz
Lucky this is a calorie- and allergy-free zone!
~ About the Author ~
Venessa Knizley was born in Santa Ana, CA, and was educated at Multnomah University in Portland, OR, where she received her degree in Bible and Theology with a Greek minor. She is now a wife and homeschooling mother of five, residing in the desert southwest of Yuma, AZ.
~ About the Books ~
Book 1 ~ Beneath Outstretched Arms
The year is 1348—and the Black Plague has reached England. Forced to leave her betrothed behind, Lady Velena Ambrose arrives at her father’s countryside castle, grief stricken—and burdened with fears. She embraces her seclusion, but she is not to remain alone.
Though suffering great loss, Esquire Tristan Challener arrives at the castle, able to find comfort in the Bible that a friar has secretly placed in his satchel.
Velena desperately needs the book that Tristan keeps safely hidden in his room, but is it wise for her to find companionship with a man who is not her betrothed? Will darkness make its abode in her forever, or will she finally be set free to see that God is good, and that there is rest to be had, beneath His mighty outstretched arms?
Certainly not Lady Velena Abrose, who not only bears the scar of her mother’s death, but also lives with the uncertainty of her brother’s life.
Having remained sheltered for the last three years, Velena now finds herself thrust into a harsh season of change as her self-seeking uncle arrives at the castle with news that his eldest son has died—and with him, her arranged marriage.
Tristan wants to believe that the death of Velena’s betrothed means new-found freedom for their ever-deepening friendship, but in his heart, he knows differently. Plans are already being laid for Velena’s future, and chances are, they won’t include him.
A little while longer, and their friendship may be lost.
~ Interview ~
KATIE: Welcome to the blog, Venessa. Let’s get started by taking a flight of fancy. Finish these sentences for me:
If I could visit any place in the world, I would visit…
VENESSA: Israel, so that I could walk where Jesus walked.
Wouldn’t that be amazing?!
If I could assign one household task to the fairies forever, it would be… to do all the cooking. All of it! I can cook, and I do cook…but I’d rather not 😊
Lol! I can definitely identify some days!
If I was a musical instrument, I would be a… On a whim, I texted my husband to see what he thought, and he said a clarinet—because I have dark hair and I’m not as high pitched as a flute. I thought that was funny.
I’m not sure I’d be game to ask my husband that question. I’d just be asking for trouble!
When I was a child, I wanted to be a… As a child I wanted to be a missionary. As a young adult, I wanted to be a journalist and took a news writing class. So, I suppose, now I’m now doing a little of both. I’m writing Christian fiction…and I don’t underestimate the impact of this kind of ministry. As a matter of fact, I was saved during the course of reading through a Christian fiction novel. The Lord used the message in that book to convict me (so much so that I chucked the book across the room), and then He perfectly timed my father coming to me later that evening to share a Christian tract with me that he’d come across and liked. God is so good!
What an amazing story! Never underestimate the power of fiction! God is VERY good! ❤
My ideal place to read would be… in a comfy chair by a very large screened window of an enclosed deck on a rainy day with hot chocolate.
That’s very specific! But it sounds cozy, too.
Now, let’s get down to business. You’ve just released the second book in what will be a four-book series. Can you give us a little bit of an overview of what this series is about?
Yes, I’d love to. Overwhelmingly, it’s a tribute to the male/female friendship. The one that everyone says can’t exist without it inevitably getting emotionally messy. Before, I told you it was the medieval version of When Harry Met Sally…only cleaner, and with the ending it ought to have had. Perhaps that’s vague, but it’s the best elevator pitch I could think of, haha.
(I loved that elevator pitch!)
This series explores a friendship, forged from grief, but bonded in love. Tristan is Christ to Velena when she needs it the most, and in turn, she becomes the family he’s lost. Eventually, their friendship is threatened by various bumps in the road, and then tested in ways they had never anticipated.
But this series isn’t only about them. There are several other supporting characters that you’ll fall in love with. They have their own set of trials and tribulations, and will probably demand books of their own, eventually.
I’ve heard secondary characters can be demanding like that! What gave you the idea for this series?
It could have only been the Lord. I was working at Kohls Department Store in 2006 when I heard a song come over the loudspeakers. Then boom! It reminded me of my own God-sent friendship in college, and there it was…the story, the setting…the ending—everything. I immediately began to jot down the plot on the backs of the old yellow sales slips it was my job to trade out in the sales racks. I didn’t get serious about the story, though, until 2015. The plot has morphed a good deal from what it was the day it was first conceived, but by in large, it’s the same idea. The song I heard was Out of Sight by Hooverphonic. You can watch the music video on YouTube…where you’ll notice there’s nothing medieval about it, and yet, it was the first setting that popped into my head, haha.
Hey, when the inspiration strikes, don’t question it! So, how about introducing us to your main characters:
The main characters are Lady Velena Ambrose and Esquire Tristan Challener (which is a fancy way of saying he is the son of a knight but not knighted, himself).
Velena is the daughter of a Baron and Tristan the son of a very wealthy and well-known knight who has passed on, leaving him with a very substantial inheritance. The Plague has killed Velena’s mother, so for the next three years while she grows up in relative seclusion, she is mostly without the influence of someone to really guide her in the ways of proper decorum/etiquette. Daisy, her lady’s maid, often tries to guide her, but is usually unsuccessful. Velena is very likable, but tends to struggle in areas of discernment and self-control. Tristan knows better, but he rarely says no to anything she wants. Being generally of a timid and shy nature, he’s happy to have someone who accepts him so freely, and so is completely wrapped up in their friendship. So much so, that the idea of separation becomes almost too great a hurdle for them to leap.
I’m looking forward to meeting them! You’ve set this novel at a particular time in medieval history. What appeals to you about this period of history?
Yes, this series begins in 1348 England, during the Black Plague. It appealed to me, first of all, because it’s so interesting. The mind set of people during that time was such that a great number of them thought that the world was coming to an end. And if a person thinks that, how then do they function in everyday circumstances in light of it? So this allowed me to present the Plague as another character of sorts, bringing out the best and worst in the people it affected.
Secondly, this setting appealed to me because it was very forgiving. If someone acted outside the norm, I had something to blame it on. And it gave me a very legitimate reason to delay Velena’s marriage. Book I begins with Velena betrothed to a man named Peter at the age of fifteen. I had no desire at all to write the romance of a fifteen year old (which was an average age to marry, if not younger), so I was able to use the Plague as a means to delay any romantic dealings until she turned eighteen…and I liked that much better.
It’s definitely confronting for us nowadays to think of girls marrying at such young ages. Even more so when their husbands were often significantly older! But I love the idea of exploring people’s perceptions and their responses to the Plague at the time. We, of course, benefit from hindsight and greater understanding of diseases in general, but it would have been very different then.
There’s a fair amount of research that goes into writing a novel set at such a different time and place. What has been most fascinating to you about researching this period of history?
I probably brought home an entire shelf from the library, so I could go on and on about that, but here’s two. I can’t tell you which book I read it in, but it said that the average age of a person during that time was fifteen. Fifteen! A world run by hormonally charged teenagers, oh my goodness. And on a more serious note, I learned that there were hundreds of massacres against the Jewish people. Some said the Jewish communities fared better than others, and so rumours went around that the Jews were poisoning the wells, etc…and thus blamed for the Plague. Many, many, Jews were massacred for that reason alone. I had never heard of this before. Awful!
Fifteen?! Wow! But sadly, I did know that Jewish communities were often targeted. I’m not sure where I read it, but I think some historians have attributed the better health among Jewish communities to the fact that they continued to follow the Old Testament laws relating to cleanliness and so on.
What do you think would be the most difficult thing to adjust to if you went back in time to this period?
The bathroom situation… and the food situation—which may lead to more bathroom situations. The bathrooms were called garderobes and you had to use straw for toilet paper. And a lot of the food was pickled and heavily salted in order to preserve it…and things like “fish tarts” just don’t sound appetizing to me.
Oh dear, yes! And being women adds a whole extra level of difficulty with the bathroom situation, doesn’t it?!
What do you hope readers take away from reading this series?
That God gives good gifts, and sometimes those gifts come in the form of relationships where He gives us the opportunity to be Christ to one another. All of us are in relationships in one form or another, but this series pays special tribute to those that lead us to say, “I am a better person because of you,” …or even better, “God has used you to bring about His glory in my life.”
I love that! What a responsibility, but what an honour, too, to know that we have the opportunity to be Christ to those around us.
Thank you for joining me today, Venessa.
Praise God for friendship! Has God sent you the gift of a friend at a time of need in your life, or have you had the opportunity to be Christ to someone at a time when they’ve been in need?