This interview is posted as part of a tour for TLC Book Tours.
Welcome, reader friends! I’m very pleased to have Elizabeth Byler Younts on my blog today to talk about her recent release The Solace of Water. It’s a wonderful read, and you can check our my review here if you want to know my thoughts.
~ About the Author ~
Elizabeth Byler Younts writes women’s fiction for Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers. She gained a worldwide audience through her first book Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl and is a RITA nominated writer. She is also the author of The Promise of Sunrise series. She has consulted on Amish lifestyle and the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect for two award-winning television shows. Elizabeth lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and a cockapoo named Fable.
~ About the Book ~
After leaving her son’s grave behind in Montgomery, Alabama, Delilah Evans has little faith that moving to her husband’s hometown in Pennsylvania will bring a fresh start. Enveloped by grief and doubt, the last thing Delilah imagines is becoming friends with her reclusive Amish neighbor, Emma Mullet—yet the secrets that keep Emma isolated from her own community bond her to Delilah in delicate and unexpected ways.
Delilah’s eldest daughter, Sparrow, bears the brunt of her mother’s pain, never allowed for a moment to forget she is responsible for her brother’s death. When tensions at home become unbearable for her, she seeks peace at Emma’s house and becomes the daughter Emma has always wanted. Sparrow, however, is hiding secrets of her own—secrets that could devastate them all.
With the white, black, and Amish communities of Sinking Creek at their most divided, there seems to be little hope for reconciliation. But long-buried hurts have their way of surfacing, and Delilah and Emma find themselves facing their own self-deceptions. Together they must learn how to face the future through the healing power of forgiveness.
Eminently relevant to the beauty and struggle in America today, The Solace of Water offers a glimpse into the turbulent 1950s and reminds us that friendship rises above religion, race, and custom—and has the power to transform a broken heart.
~ Interview ~
Thanks for joining me today, Elizabeth. Let’s start off by taking a little ‘flight of fancy’. How would you finish these statements?
If I could assign one household task to the fairies forever, it would be…
This is a tough one between laundry and bathrooms! It would be amazing to put your clothes in the dirty hamper and then it magically appears clean in your closet or dresser drawers, right? But then the idea of never EVER cleaning another toilet or the bathroom floor is quite appealing. BUT, in the end, I choose laundry. It’s more time consuming than bathroom cleaning and I have a husband who is a runner and goes through A LOT of workout clothing and a daughter who is fully convinced that dirt is her favorite accessory…a laundry faerie is my choice!
Someone seriously needs to invent that magic laundry hamper!
If I was an animal, I would be a…
I’m too social to be a cat but I’m not social enough to be a dog…I think I’d want to be a bird. But a small one that no one noticed much unless I sing on the tippy top of a tiny, small branch of a tree. We have so many in our backyard and the little teeny ones that sing big are the ones my family and I will stop what we’re doing to watch. I’ve never bought into the silly idea that smallness in our world is bad. I’ve always been a small person with big ideas and a deep, serious voice. I do appreciate the elegance of a blue heron but what I love more is the song of the simple finch, sparrow, or wren.
I love that answer! In fact, I think that might be the best answer I’ve had to that question. 🙂
If I could say one thing to my younger self, it would be…
Oh, boy…I think something like “your hair will be straighter like you wished for but then you’ll miss your curls, so enjoy them while you can” or “stop wishing you were older” or “eat more candy and pie” or “don’t stop using big words, they’ll serve you well when you are older” or “you don’t have to worry about all the silly boys, you’ll marry the best one out of the bunch when you’re 26!”
Aww, that’s sweet! ❤ And definitely don’t stop using big words. 😉
My ideal place to read would be…
I think on a warm (not hot) beach with nearby cliffs—because I love the beach and the mountains equally. I’d have a stack of books, and my family playing and reading around me, equally as content. We’d have some type of magical table or cooler where we could snap our fingers where our favorite foods would appear—all Paleo, no refined sugars, and perfectly healthy, of course—and we could feast whenever we wanted. That also goes for the perfect cup of coffee that’s not too hot or too cold and stays that temperature for me ALL DAY. We’d need a little bit of honeyed sun tea over ice and the coming and going of friends and family to play and talk about our favorite books. The saltwater spray and the cool mountain breeze would be equally as lovely also. AND…there would magically be NO BUGS ANYWHERE!
Lol! So pretty simple then. 😉
Okay, so let’s talk about The Solace of Water. What were the ideas that sparked this story in your imagination?
It was around 6 years ago that I saw in my mind’s-eye an Amish woman running through the woods to a non-Amish neighbor’s home. The neighbor was a distraught African American woman—I didn’t know much more than that for a long time. Then it just came little by little in layers: the alcoholic Amish husband, the child who died, the daughter with guilt over her lost brother, and the relationship between the Amish boy and the African American girl, and what water had to do with it all. It just came piece by piece.
Could you tell us a little bit about the significance of the title?
I struggle with titles, so it was a team effort with my Harper Collins Christian marketing and editorial staff. We went back and forth and finally landed on THE SOLACE OF WATER. It seemed to bring together all the pieces that the book was about…and was as fluid as water itself—it just worked.
One of the things I loved about this story was how authentic and distinct the characters were. What kind of research did you do in order to create these characters?
This might make me sound a little kooky but from the get-go for any character that I want to write, I just wait and wait and wait until I hear them in my head, telling me the story. I don’t try to contract a book without this going on in my head first because this is my version of plotting and I don’t force it. With Delilah it was instantaneous. She was vivid and full of words and I couldn’t contain her. Emma was much harder as a character—introverted and quiet and carried her secrets very closely. Sparrow came in bursts—just like the story, erratic and impulsive. At some point, at some time, knee-deep into the first draft, I did a Myers-Briggs test on Delilah and Emma to learn a few more things about them and who I might know in my life like them…to help with development. I let random books and movies inform some of the development but not didactically—more abstractly. I observed people and continued to put myself in the shoes of my characters. I had some input from various sources for authenticity, sensitivity, and accuracy also. But generally, for me, overthinking it will cause contrived writing and following my instincts and telling this one story through three eyes is what I made an effort to do. And, I read poetry! There is little more intimate that poetry.
Wow! I love your dedication to authentic characters!
Which of your characters did you find the easiest to write?
Delilah! She was extremely vocal and engaging and didn’t stop to think before she spoke. She had a running commentary in her head at all times and didn’t mind sharing it. What was so hard about her, however, was her grief and how it overtook her. So, while she was easy to write in the pursuit of knowing who Delilah Evans was as a character—it was also difficult to ride the waves of her grief and heartache and bitterness toward Sparrow. But, I knew the hope that was buried within her, and she did too—but it just took her a while to find it.
What did you find most challenging about writing this story?
To make sure every word and every plot choice was about the story and not about anything else. To overly simplify it—I tell stories. I tell stories about people who feel incredibly real to me and I intend to do it honestly and with the weight and beauty of the truth I believe in well folded within the story.
Was there anything that surprised you during the writing of this story?
To be totally honest, I didn’t know that writing could hurt quite so badly or so deeply. This is my 4th novel and 5th publication and I’ve never cried so hard over words. I am glad to have learned this because I believe it’ll make me a better person.
How did this story impact you personally?
I’ve been deeply affected by the stories of Delilah and Emma and Sparrow. They have been traveling with me in my head for years and they became fixtures in my life. I have never written a book with the intention to teach someone or to prove some point, but often realize there’s something important for ME to learn. I learned that I’m not as good as I think I am and that I don’t seem to love well the person God is growing me to be—but instead I fight His chosen growth in me. I learned that bitterness will destroy everything it touches—always. I learned that withholding forgiveness is never worth it—never, ever. I learned that the person on the other side of that inflammatory Facebook post that makes you want to “unfollow” them has a story behind that post—it’s usually worth hearing. I learned so much.
What’s coming up next for Elizabeth Byler Younts?
In the Spring 2019 my next book will be releasing! I’m so excited about this story! There’s no official title so I don’t want to put out a working title for you here either but will announce this and the cover as soon as I have them in my hot little hands. The original plot comes from a true story that my amazing Grandma-in-law told me years ago about a nurse and a girl in an Oklahoma mental asylum. It’s set (mostly) in pre-World War II America and it’s a beautiful story about identity and redemption and having the courage to walk alone when needed. You’ll meet a young woman named Brighton and an older woman named Nell and the journey to understand who they really are will hopefully touch readers deeply.
Thanks for joining me today, Elizabeth. Can’t wait to meet Brighton and Nell next year! 🙂
Do you have any particular memories associated with water?