Inner 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.
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.
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:
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.
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?