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Interview with Mary L. Hamilton, Author of See No Evil

Mary HamiltonInner Source welcomes a return visit by Mary L. Hamilton, the author of the Rustic Knoll, young adult series. Mary’s latest title, See No Evil, has recently released. Mary grew up at a youth camp in southern Wisconsin, much like the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. While raising her own three children, she was active in her church’s youth ministry, including serving as a camp counselor for a week. She decided once was enough.

When not writing, Mary enjoys knitting, reading and being outdoors. She and her husband make their home in Texas with a rescued Golden Retriever.

Connect with Mary at her website, on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Welcome, Mary. I have to tell you that I have enjoyed this series, and I have been waiting for the story of Steven Miller. I love the way that you weave the issues of one particular camper into a story of a week at summer camp. Steven’s story has a twist that I will not spoil for the reader, but Steven and his friend, Dillon, both have a serious issue to face. My question to you as the author is why you decided to bring this issue to light in this story?

Originally, I’d planned to bring Steven back in this book having had a corneal transplant that would allow him to see. As a teenage boy with the sudden ability to see, he’d face new kinds of temptations he’d never had to deal with before. However, my research into regaining sight after many years of blindness led me to decide I needed to let Steven remain blind. But I realized that just because he’s blind doesn’t mean he’s immune to the hungers and desires of normal boys. Our media today saturates the world with sexuality that’s hard to ignore, even for someone who can’t see the visual images.

In the story, Steven has a goal, a very big goal. After I finished the story, I began to mull over just why his goal was so important to the story. I wondered if Steven’s goal and the lengths he takes to accomplish that goal, and even the reason for the goal, aren’t a picture of how we, as God’s children try to lean upon our own strengths. We don’t look to the Father to help us finish the race or to sooth those things that hurt us rather than leaning upon Him when He is always ready to help us cross the finish line and will always bandage our hearts when we are hurting. Did I dig something out of the story that you mean for the reader to find or do you have a different reason for this plot of the story?

No, I think you hit the nail on the head. Shame and guilt are powerful emotions that we would rather hide than admit to anyone, even to God. We try to fix it on our own, make everything right by our own efforts, so we don’t have to admit what we’ve done wrong. Steven’s pain over his dad’s death was so tied in with his shame that he couldn’t separate the two. He couldn’t admit his guilt to anyone, which made it impossible to deal with the pain of his father’s death. Once Steven realized God’s accepted him as a sinner and provided a remedy way in advance of his need, then he was able to let go of his guilt and shame and deal with the grief of his father’s death.

Steven has a handicap that I have never faced. I’ve really known no one who has faced this particular challenge. Is Steven based on someone you know or did someone explain to you the difficulties that Steven might have?

Steven’s character was inspired by a blind teen who attended the camp where I lived while I was growing up. This was back in the days before there were any handicap accommodations, and it seemed so odd for someone who was blind to come to camp. But we were all amazed at what he was able to do, even going off the diving board! As for understanding the difficulties, I’ve not been close to anyone who is visually challenged, but my research for Steven’s story included a book called Crashing Through by Robert Kurson. It’s a true story of Mike May, a man blinded at the age of three who refused to let it hold him back. It made me think about how someone who is visually impaired would find solutions to the challenges they face. (By the way, the book tells the fascinating story of how Mike May received a corneal transplant at the age of 43 and the challenges that created for him. It formed the basis for my decision to keep Steven blind.)

Nurse Willie is a character we see in each of the three novels in the series. I love the way that Steven is able to return the kindnesses that she has given to him in the past. I’m just going to say it: when we first meet Willie in this story, she is living in defeat. Have you known someone who loves the Lord but suffered defeat in the face of adversity? In actuality, both Steven and Willie are facing adversity. Are there any words of wisdom to aid someone who might be living in total defeat at this moment in time?

A couple of close loved ones occasionally struggle with depression, and that can really be the depths of defeat. Sometimes, medical intervention is necessary to bring people out of that defeated attitude. But I think we all go through times when we’re tempted to just give up, because the fight seems too hard, too insurmountable. In those times, we really need others to gather round and strengthen us with encouragement.

There are some practical things we can do. One is exercise. Just move as much as possible. If you can get out and walk, that naturally tends to lift the spirits. Another suggestion is reading or listening to audiobooks. Find stories about people who overcame great odds, and use them as inspiration. The Bible, of course, contains many who suffered defeat, plenty of people we can identify with, as well as psalms of praise and lament. Use them as prayers, asking God to show you the way out. Lastly, as difficult as it is, try to do something nice for someone else. It’ll take your mind off your own problems.

One last question: with the kids of Rustic Knoll moving on, what is next for Mary Hamilton, the author?

I’m sad to say good-bye to the kids and the camp, but I’m looking forward to trying my hand at more of an adult novel. I’m playing with an idea that’s kind of an odd couple story, where a soldier returns from deployment and is forced to live with his free-spirit younger brother. It’s only in the planning stage now, so I’m not sure it’ll actually make it to print. But I’ll be sure to let you know if it does!

It’s always fun to visit with you, Fay. Thanks for letting me chat with you today!

Likewise, Mary. I hope to talk to you again soon.

SeeNoEvilFrontDropCrop copyMore About See No Evil:

Steven Miller guards a dark secret. Dad drilled into Steven that blindness should never be used as an excuse. So when Steven finds an old triathlon medallion among Dad’s belongings, he’s inspired to follow in his footsteps. Maybe it’ll quiet the guilt he’s carried since Dad’s death three years ago. While Steven continues his triathlon training during his final summer at camp, a serious illness keeps Rustic Knoll’s beloved Nurse Willie from managing her clinic. When Steven teams up with his friend Claire to encourage Willie’s recovery, his feelings for Claire grow beyond friendship. But his buddy, Dillon, has started down a dangerous path that Steven knows all too well. Can he keep his friend from falling into that sin without exposing his own past?

The Rustic Knoll series has two other outstanding novels:

HearNoEvilModifiedFront5-5x8-5Hear No Evil:

Summer camp is no fun for Brady McCaul. The girl with the cute dimples thinks he’s immature and childish. The camp bully targets him with cruel taunts, and flips Brady’s canoe to keep him from winning the race. But worst of all, his mom won’t let him come home. She doesn’t want him living with her anymore. Brady wonders if even God cares about him. Can Brady figure out what he did to earn Mom’s rejection and change her mind by week’s end? Or will he have to live with his workaholic dad, the guy who left when Brady was seven? All seems lost until a surprising secret changes everything.

SNEfinalcoverSpeak No Evil:

Taylor Dixon knew having his younger sister at camp would be a pain, but he never expected the pain to go so deep.

At 15, Taylor dreams of getting his driver’s license and driving race cars when he’s older. His sister, Marissa, is the only one who believes in his dream, but her adventurous spirit keeps landing him in trouble. Consequently, Dad won’t let him get his license and predicts Taylor is heading for the same jail cell as his once-favored older brother.

Taylor returns to Rustic Knoll Bible Camp expecting softball, swimming and sermons. Then he finds a classic Mustang in the camp’s garage and jumps at the owner’s invitation to help restore it. But when Marissa falls for his snobbish cabin mate, the war of words and pranks escalates until it threatens both the car and his dreams for the future.

Will Taylor fulfill Dad’s prediction and end up in jail? Or will he finally learn the Truth found in the old car’s engine?

 

Character Interview: Steven Miller from See No Evil by Mary L. Hamilton

SeeNoEvilFrontDropCrop copyToday’s guest on Inner Source is Steven Miller, Author Mary  L. Hamilton’s young hero from See No Evil, the third novel in her Rustic Knoll series. Steven, I have had the pleasure of following you through three years of camp at Rustic Knoll, and I was so glad to get the chance to learn more about you. Please take a moment to tell our readers a little about yourself.

Well, I’m seventeen, going into my senior year of high school and, for those who haven’t read the Rustic Knoll Bible Camp books, I’m blind. But I don’t let that stop me from participating in most of the activities. My parents first brought me to camp when I was five, and I’ve been coming back every year since then. So I’m pretty familiar with the camp. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. Not that I’ve been to many world places, but—I’ll just leave it at that.

You had a very special relationship with your father and your mother. They both handled your special circumstances very differently. How do you think that has helped or hurt you as you have matured?

Dad never let me get away with anything just because I was blind. In fact, he made me work hard to overcome my limitations. I appreciate what he did now, even though most of the time it wasn’t much fun. He encouraged me to be as independent as possible. Sometimes, his methods were a little scary, but Mom was always there to comfort me and sorta pick up the pieces afterward. And she let Dad know when he crossed a danger line. But she never really tried to undermine Dad, so I knew she supported what he was doing, even if she didn’t always agree with how he did it. Since Dad’s death, I’ve tried really hard to live up to what I think he’d want me to do. Sometimes, Mom tries to hold me back, and that bothers me. But I hear other kids complaining about their parents, and I guess it’s just a teenage thing. Anyway, I’m glad I had both Mom and Dad. Without Mom, I might have grown resentful and angry. Without Dad, I wouldn’t have the confidence I do today.

The title of the novel is a play on words based upon your special circumstances, but your novel has an excellent message with regard to what we allow ourselves to see (and to hear). You deal with an issue that today’s teens face that many in my generation couldn’t fathom. What do you think of the information age and how it can be abused by anyone of any generation, not just yours?

I think the temptation is really nothing new. Dad once told me he sneaked a look or two at a girly magazine when he was my age. But all the electronic gadgets we have make it easy for anyone to find. I think most things have the potential for good or evil. It’s how we choose to use them, and that makes it even more important to guard ourselves against whatever entices and tempts us. Like Joseph of the Bible, we need to run the other way when temptation hits us. But that takes a lot of self-control. Believe me, I know!

What advice would you have for a young man or a young woman who has gotten themselves addicted to those things that are available to them via the Internet or other devices?

The best thing to do is put filters on your phone and your computer. And confide in someone you trust, someone tough enough to cut through your phony excuses and rationalizations, to challenge you to rise above where you are. If you don’t have someone like that, it’s going to be really hard to break the habit. The next time you’re tempted, challenge yourself to go one hour without looking. If you make it that hour, give yourself a high five and try to go another hour. Keep adding the time. The longer you go, the more you’ll want to keep it going and not look, not indulge. If you fail, don’t beat yourself up. Just start over and try again. If you keep trying, you’ll make it, especially if you pray and ask God for strength to overcome.

Now that your time as a camper at Rustic Knoll has come to a close and you look back on the years you spent there, what was your favorite moment as a camper—even if it wasn’t shared in the series?

Wow, that’s a hard one. I don’t know that I can pick just one. The friends I’ve made, the staff, the water carnivals, Zeke’s lessons, cabin pranks… My favorite moment? Okay, this probably sounds weird. Maybe it’s because being blind makes me rely on my other senses, but my favorite moment every year was when I first arrived at camp and caught the scent of the lake on the breeze. I can’t even describe how it smells because it’s so different from other smells, that mix of water and sand and fresh air. I know some kids think it stinks, but to me, it’s heaven. I always waited for that first breeze, that first scent. I’d take a deep breath, pull in as much as I could, and it always made me smile. Because I knew then I was back at Rustic Knoll, and the fun was about to start.

I don’t think that’s weird at all. I’m not blind, and I make associations with smells. I get a hint of a certain scent and a person or place comes to mind, and if your friends think the lake stinks, they need to visit my hometown at certain times of the year when the algae is blooming in the river. Thanks for being with us, Steven, and I look forward to the interview with your author, Mary L. Hamilton on Thursday.

More About See No Evil:

Steven Miller guards a dark secret. Dad drilled into Steven that blindness should never be used as an excuse. So when Steven finds an old triathlon medallion among Dad’s belongings, he’s inspired to follow in his footsteps. Maybe it’ll quiet the guilt he’s carried since Dad’s death three years ago. While Steven continues his triathlon training during his final summer at camp, a serious illness keeps Rustic Knoll’s beloved Nurse Willie from managing her clinic. When Steven teams up with his friend Claire to encourage Willie’s recovery, his feelings for Claire grow beyond friendship. But his buddy, Dillon, has started down a dangerous path that Steven knows all too well. Can he keep his friend from falling into that sin without exposing his own past?

The Rustic Knoll series has two other outstanding novels:

HearNoEvilModifiedFront5-5x8-5Hear No Evil:

Summer camp is no fun for Brady McCaul. The girl with the cute dimples thinks he’s immature and childish. The camp bully targets him with cruel taunts, and flips Brady’s canoe to keep him from winning the race. But worst of all, his mom won’t let him come home. She doesn’t want him living with her anymore. Brady wonders if even God cares about him. Can Brady figure out what he did to earn Mom’s rejection and change her mind by week’s end? Or will he have to live with his workaholic dad, the guy who left when Brady was seven? All seems lost until a surprising secret changes everything.

SNEfinalcoverSpeak No Evil:

Taylor Dixon knew having his younger sister at camp would be a pain, but he never expected the pain to go so deep.

At 15, Taylor dreams of getting his driver’s license and driving race cars when he’s older. His sister, Marissa, is the only one who believes in his dream, but her adventurous spirit keeps landing him in trouble. Consequently, Dad won’t let him get his license and predicts Taylor is heading for the same jail cell as his once-favored older brother.

Taylor returns to Rustic Knoll Bible Camp expecting softball, swimming and sermons. Then he finds a classic Mustang in the camp’s garage and jumps at the owner’s invitation to help restore it. But when Marissa falls for his snobbish cabin mate, the war of words and pranks escalates until it threatens both the car and his dreams for the future.

Will Taylor fulfill Dad’s prediction and end up in jail? Or will he finally learn the Truth found in the old car’s engine?

Mary HamiltonAbout the Author:

Mary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp in southern Wisconsin, much like the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. While raising her own three children, she was active in her church’s youth ministry, including serving as a camp counselor for a week. She decided once was enough.

When not writing, Mary enjoys knitting, reading and being outdoors. She and her husband make their home in Texas with a rescued Golden Retriever.

Connect with Mary at her website, on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Hope and Help for Homosexuals Who Would Like to Find Freedom from the Lifestyle by June Foster

June Foster's PostToday’s special guest is my good friend, June Foster. I met June a few years ago in a critique group. I’d like to say that June became my friend first, but actually, I fell head-over-heels in love with her character creation from her novel, Ryan’s Father. June worked hard to tell Ryan’s story, and she’ll share that with you in her post. What I want to share with you is June’s love for people–all people. She cherishes everyone, and she shows it so easily. She’s a born evangelist, sharing the gospel wherever she goes. Ryan’s Father, I know, is the story of her heart, a heart that cries out for those who suffer from sin–any sin–but she has a special heart for those caught up in her topic of today.

And now, I’ll let June share her heart with you:

Several years ago, the Lord laid on my mind a story in which a Christian young man experiencing same sex attraction desires with all his heart to break free of the lifestyle. Writing the story, Ryan’s Father, was a challenge but also a blessing. Now, two years later, I ask myself. Was the story based in reality? Could others like Ryan actually find freedom, or was my story merely wishful thinking?

As I was praying for homosexual Christian believers recently, several truths from the Bible made impact with my spirit.

A person desiring freedom must first ask himself, “Am I a Christian? Have I trusted Jesus to save me from this world order and have I asked Him into my life as Savior?” Unless a person has the power of God in his life, there is no hope.

The next step is to come to terms with the fact that homosexuality is a sin. Romans 1:26-27 says “God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” Leviticus 18:22 is plain. “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman. That is detestable.” There are many other scriptures in the Bible. Do a Google search to see them all. Though many try to twist the scriptures, the message is plain. God doesn’t excuse homosexuality. It is against His holy will.

But the book of Romans brings good news. Romans 6:6 says “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” When a person becomes born again, they are a new creature in Christ. Our old self is dead and crucified with Christ. We are no longer slaves of sin. That means that a homosexual is free and not compelled to participate in the behavior.

That’s easy to say, but how do we do this, especially when confronted with temptation? If a person is an alcoholic, it would be unwise to hang out in bars. Or if someone suffers from gluttony, he wouldn’t want to frequent bakeries or ice cream shops. Turn away from the places and people that evoke the desire to sin. Remove yourself from homosexual friends, gay bars, and literature that says it’s okay to practice homosexuality. You’ve made up your mind to be set free, so walk away.

In the place of these things, participate in church activities, go on mission’s trip, join a prayer group, serve at a homeless shelter. Ask God to show you how best to serve Him.

The bottom line is not whether you are a homosexual or a heterosexual. The question is how deep is your relationship with God. How much of yourself have you handed over to the Lord? Settle these issues first. Give yourself to Him one hundred percent. Don’t hold anything from Him. Seek Him first and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Maybe you’ve done all these things and the desires are still there, no matter how hard you try. Well, there’s the problem. Stop trying. Those deeply set feelings are not going to let go easily. You can’t change by trying hard. You’ll only become discouraged and exhausted. So instead of striving to change your thinking, throw yourself on God’s mercy and tell Him you can’t do this. If He wants your thinking to change, He’ll have to do it for you. And remind Him that what you seek is in line with His stated will in the Bible.

Isaiah 40: 30-31 brings us an amazing promise. “Even youths grown tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” When you completely give your life over to the Lord and trust Him, He is faithful to His promises.

Remember what His word says in Ephesians 3: 20-21. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.”

Ask the Holy Spirit to control your mind. Don’t become discouraged when you don’t see changes right away. Remember: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake. I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, the I am strong.” 11 Corinthians 12: 9-10.

So, the answers to my questions are, yes, the message found in the fictional story Ryan’s Father is grounded in reality. The principles in my story are valid today. Do you trust the Creator of all the heavens and the earth? God has a glorious future for you. Don’t settle for a lie.

June FosterAbout the Author:

June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in Education and a MA in counseling. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day – February 1, 2012, As We Forgive – September 1, 2012, and Deliver Us – April 1, 2013, and Hometown Fourth of July – July 1, 2012. June’s book, Ryan’s Father, will be available from WhiteFire Publishing January 2014. For All Eternity, Red and the Wolf, and Misty Hollow, God willing, will be published in the near future. June loves to write stories about characters who overcome the issues in their lives by the power of God and His Word. June uses her training in counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find freedom to live godly lives.

Ryan's FatherAbout Ryan’s Father:

The rippling influence of Ryan Reid’s less than moral mother and absent father left a mark on his soul. Yet everything changed when the young teacher gave his life to the Lord…almost everything.

An earthquake hurls the beautiful Sandy Arrington into his life, tossing his world upside down. But when God calls him to build an annex for needy teens at his church, he finds himself battling an attraction toward his male partner in the project. His own struggles and Sandy’s growing feelings for him force Ryan to face the issue he’s long buried.

Can he dig his way out from under his secret to find Sandy’s love?