Friday, June 22, 2007

In the Aftermath of Fire. . .The Waiting Game

Today's guest blogger is author Marlo Schalesky. Without further ado, I'll turn it over to Marlo:

Robin, thank you so much for allowing me to share with your blog readers a little about waiting and living after life’s storms. You see, my latest novel, VEIL OF FIRE, deals with the one of the greatest firestorms of American history – the great fire of 1894 Minnesota. The story chronicles not only one town’s journey through fire and its aftermath, but also reflects much of my personal journey through pain, perseverance, and dying to my dreams to live God’s. Below are some questions and answers that talk about what I’ve learned in the waiting, and through the firestorms of life.

Q: In what ways has waiting affected you in your personal life, and how does the theme of Veil of Fire connect with your own life?

A: Once, when I was a child, I believed in miracles. The impossible was only a prayer away. Fairy tales were real, and dreams were free. But somewhere, in the journey, in the waiting and hoping for my dreams, I lost the ability to trust. I stopped daring to believe. And I wondered what happened to me.

Life happened. Failure, discouragement, pain, loss. For me, that failure and pain came in the form of years of infertility, mixed with miscarriages. The failure, the endless waiting with monthly reminders that I wasn’t pregnant, yet again, became for me a fire that burned and scarred me. It was so hard to wait through that, to keep on, to believe and submit to God’s love and will in my life.

And as I’ve been thinking about fires, about living through them, about waiting in the aftermath, I’ve discovered that I’m not alone. Somewhere, somehow, life burns us all. And we realize that this life we live is not the one we once dreamed. The realities of life scar us. Doubts rise. Fear whispers that hope is gone. And what was once a simple faith can fail in the face of that fear.
Then, in the midst of life’s disillusionment, choices appear. Do we retreat? Hide our hurts far from probing eyes? Do we embrace bitterness and cynicism? Do we use deceit to try to obtain our goals? Do we give up, give in, forget that we ever dared to dream? Or is it possible to reach the high places of faith in the low valleys of life’s reality? Can we still live a life of bold faith, of fierce hope, when fairy tales don’t come true? How do we live this life that God has given us when it’s not the life we dreamed?

These are the questions I wanted to explore in Veil of Fire. These are the questions which underlie each character’s journey in the aftermath of the great fire of 1894. They’re the questions that have shaped my life through my own journey through infertility, miscarriage, failure, and loss.

So, for those burned by life, for those who carry scars that cannot be seen, for those who have retreated for fear of more pain, this story is for them, this journey from the hidden places of pain to a new hope in the unhidden truth of Christ’s love.

And I hope, I pray, that God will use Veil of Fire to not only give people a great read, but to also heal hearts and make some lives better in the living of them.

Q: How have you grown personally through your own fires and through writing this book on fire?

A: Through the firestorms of my life, through infertility and miscarriage, and through writing Veil of Fire, God is showing me that I cannot measure his love by my successes and failures, or even by my happiness. Who I am on the inside, how I am being shaped into the likeness of Christ, the character of my life – the color and beauty of it – are what are important to God. And to create that color and beauty, sorrow is necessary. Hurtful things happen. Fires rage. All my dreams don’t come true. But His do.

And in that, I’m starting to understand that my life, too, is a story that God is writing. And since the best stories have conflict, disappointments, and plenty of action, I shouldn’t be surprised when my life takes a turn and my faith is challenged once again.

And yet, my sorrow matters to God, my tears are counted by him as precious. He does not leave me alone in my hurt. He does not abandon me in the fire. He touches me, he heals me, he creates beauty from the ashes of my pain, even when there are more disappointments than victories.

So I’m learning to walk through the fires in my own life. And to dig deeper – not to answer the question of why but the question of who – who is God really, who am I, and who is he making me to be? Those are the questions that matter. Those are the things that help me to face my own fires, accept my own scars.

Q: Tell us about your journey to publication. Have you experienced waiting there too? What have you learned through that?

A: When I was thirteen years old, I wrote a poem on the bus on the way to school. It was about an old tree, forlorn and desolate, standing alone in a field. I read that poem at every recess, tweaked it, polished it, and for the first time, felt the thrill of how the written word can convey profound beauty. That day, I fell in love with writing.

Shortly after that, I told my mother (with all the angst of a newly-turned teenager), “I will just die if I don’t write!” So naturally when I grew up I decided to get my degree in Chemistry. And, oddly enough, I didn’t die. I enjoyed chemistry. But always that desire to write was with me, in the back of my mind, saying “Someday, someday.”

Someday finally came. I started writing articles for various magazines and putting out proposals for book projects. I thought it would be easy to get my first book published, but alas, it took years of writing and honing my craft (7 years, in fact, before my first book was published).

But more than that, it took giving up my dream entirely. For me, I had to come to a place in my heart where I didn’t have to write to be content. I had to let go of that strong desire born at thirteen years old and embrace God’s will for me whether that will included writing or not. Only then, only when my dream had given way to God’s, was I offered a contract by Crossway Books for my first published book released in 2000 .

Q: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made while seeking publication?

A: Wanting it too badly. Our culture tells us to pursue our dreams, reach for the sky, dream big, nothing’s impossible if only you try hard enough. Sounds good. But for me, that philosophy was deadly. I needed to completely surrender my dreams in order to live God’s. It was like ripping out part of my soul. But it was worth it. Now, when I write, it can be an act of worship and obedience, instead of something that’s all about me and my dreams.

Q: Finally, will you tell us a little more about this powerful new book, Veil of Fire?

Sure, here’s a blurb:
A Raging Firestorm . . .
A Light in the Hills . . .
And a Mystery Rises from the Ash.

In 1894, the worst firestorm in Minnesota history descends on the town of Hinckley. Heat, flame, and darkness sweep through the town, devouring lives, destroying hope. In the aftermath, the town rises from the ashes, its people determined to rebuild their lives.
But in the shadows, someone is watching. Someone is waiting. Someone who knows the secrets that can free them all. A rumor begins of a hermit in the hills - a person severely burned, disfigured beyond recognition. Doubts rise. Fear whispers. Is the hermit a monster or a memory? An enemy or a love once-lost?

Based on historical events, Veil of Fire beckons to a time when hope rose from the smoke of sacrifice, when trust hid behind a veil of fear, when dreams were robed in a mantle of fire . . .

So for me in writing this book was very much an experience of discovering fire as a character with a life, a beauty, and a terror of its own. I discovered how fire can change you, can scar and maim, but in the end, may just make you new. And so, writing with fire is much like writing with God, unpredictable, powerful, but wondrous as well.

For more information about VEIL OF FIRE, a preview of the entire first chapter, and discussion questions for groups, please visit Special incentives for book groups also available at Or to order on amazon, visit