LISA WINGATE BIO: Lisa is an award-winning journalist,
magazine columnist, popular inspirational speaker and a national bestselling
author. Lisa is one of a select group of authors to find success in both the
Christian and general markets in mainstream fiction. Her works have been
featured by the National Reader’s Club of America, AOL Book Picks, Women’s World
Magazine, Family Circle Magazine, and have been short-listed for various awards,
including the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Award, which
her book Never Say Never won in 2011.
Lisa also spends time on the road as a motivational speaker. Via Internet,
she shares with readers as far away as India, where her book, Tending Roses, has
been used to promote women’s literacy, and as close to home as Tulsa, Oklahoma,
where the county library system has used Tending Roses to help volunteers teach
adults to read.
Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog
organization, selected Lisa for the National Civies Award, which celebrates
public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American
BOOK CLUB TALK BEGINS What have been the benefits to you in having relationships with
I’ve enjoyed building relationships with many reading groups, and each of
those connections has been a special blessing. In the ten years since my first
book, Tending Roses, came out, I’ve even become an “honorary member” of a few
clubs, meeting with them each year, as new books have been released. It’s a joy
to see how those groups have grown and changed over time. Amazing connections
form between people as they talk about stories. Friendships deepen, life
happens, birthdays are celebrated, members join, members move away, members pass
away and join the circles of book angels in heaven. It’s such a special blessing
to spend time within those tight-knit groups, seeing firsthand how story bonds
Nora: I do love that aspect of book club Lisa – building relationships and seeing the jewels others find in books I missed! Grin!
Where would you like to see your relationship with reading groups
grow? How do you think your goals can be met?
I enjoy phone chatting with groups, and I’d love to do even more of that.
It’s not always possible to meet with every group in person because of distance,
and phone-in visits are a great substitute. Some days, I can be in Nevada for
lunch and in Florida for dinner, via phone or Skype, and talk with readers who
come from all sorts of different backgrounds.
Do you have a set size a reading group has to be before you’ll talk
to them on the phone or in person? What do you feel most comfortable
For phone-in visits, I typically talk to groups of any size, as scheduling
allows. In-person visits that require travel vary, depending on the distance and
time commitment involved. In general, this is true for speaking engagements of
any kind. If it’s local, I may drop by a meeting of fifteen to twenty people or
so. When travel is involved for a book group meeting or a speaking event, we
generally ask that the hosting group gather around fifty people or more. Having
an author visit is sometimes a good excuse for the club to invite friends or
potential new members.
Which type of book club meeting do you prefer? Why?
I really do enjoy both kinds of book club meetings. I guess if I had to pick
one or the other, I’d say that in-person meetings are the most fun. Over the
years, I’ve traveled to some wonderful locations for speaking engagements and
book discussions, and been blessed to sit in on discussion nights filled with
laughter, tears, amazing personal stories, and wonderful conversations that went
late into the night.
What have you learned about your book and yourself from book club
Never Say Never won the 2011
American Christian Fiction Writers Carol award
I’ve learned that, as much fun as living in a story really is while you’re
writing it, the story really isn’t complete until someone reads that story.
Stories begin with the writer, but they take flight with the reader. I’ve
learned how much writers really need readers and how much the reader’s
interaction with the story causes that story to grow in new directions. Sitting
in on book club discussions, you can’t help but realize that, as twelve
different readers combine their own experiences with a story, it becomes twelve
different stories. I love the stories that come back to me when one of the books
travels out into the world.
Did you learn more about your characters than what you had originally
intended? If so what?
I’ve learned that characters aren’t really just characters. For any imaginary
life you can create, there’s someone out there who has lived it, at least in
part. By extension, when we’re discussing stories, we’re not just discussing
stories—we’re sharing bits of ourselves and our own lives. We’re rolling out our
own issues, examining them, and gaining the perspectives of others in the group.
Sometimes that’s easier to do, in the context of discussing a character in a
book than it is in discussing our struggles in real life. I think this is one of
God’s most beautiful ways of using characters. They really do walk us through an
experience and show us what life looks like on the other side.
Have you been surprised by readers’ reactions to one of your books?
Characters? If so, which ones?
Many times! I’m always surprised and humbled by readers’ reactions to the
characters and their stories. I’ve been amazed at how invested readers have
become in various characters. After my first book came out, readers emailed me
for years asking what happened to the little girl in the book, Dell. Because of
those letters, Dell became a background character in several more books, growing
up little by little, until she could have a coming-of-age story of her own.
After her coming-of-age story, people wanted to know if she would get married,
and if she would have children, and so on. By the time it was all over, Dell was
fully raised, and she had become the daughter I never had. I’m a boys-only mom,
so for me, that was kind of a thrill.
I’ve also been surprised and blessed by readers’ reactions to the older
characters in many of the books, like the spunky senior ladies in the Daily,
Texas series, and Grandma Rose in Tending Roses. I love when people write to me
and say, “That reminds me of my grandmother.” or “That made me realize that I
need to write down my grandmother’s stories.” It means so much when readers send
emails that say things like, “Thank you for helping me to see the fleeting of
time, missed moments, and opportunities wasted. I pass a picture of my daughter,
many line my hallways, wishing I had not felt the need to clean, when we could
have played more, or squandered her in front of a television so I could rest. I
have all the time in the world to rest now and I don’t want it. So, now I do as
your characters do; I pass my wisdom on to young girls I meet in book chatrooms
who are young, frazzled mothers. I encourage them to rock the baby in their arms
for that extra hour……..dust waits; time does not.”
When you realize that your books are having an impact in the real world, that
God has used one of your stories to change the life of someone you’ve never met,
you can’t help but be awed by the marvelous attention to detail in every little
Nora: That’s why I love Christian Fiction so much. I witness the impact these books have on readers first hand. Some books have rocked the world of my members and brought healing. God uses the stories and touch people when they least expect it. It keeps me doing what I do! I’ve been one of those people whose life has really been affected through reading Christian Fiction. Thanks for writing it! Grin!
Has your book club experience – getting feed back from reading groups
– helped you in writing future books? If so, how has it helped
Very much so! Not only is it valuable to know what readers enjoyed about one
of my books, it’s helpful to know about other books the club has read and
enjoyed. I find some of my favorite reads that way, and I learn more about what
makes a book suitable for group reading and discussion. Ultimately, the stories
that invite and foster discussion are the ones that live long lives in the
These days, many of my story ideas are inspired by readers and reading
groups, as well. Often when I’m talking to readers, someone will ask about a
character and want to know “What happened next?” Those “What if…” questions set
my mind to wondering, especially when someone asks about a minor character in
one of the books. Before I know it, I’m stepping into another story, and the
process starts all over again.
What would you like to see in reading groups that you haven’t
benefit booksigning for the Gospel Cafe in Waco
That’s a tough question! I’m not sure there’s anything I would add to the
reading groups I’ve visited. I’ve been blessed to sit in on all sorts of reading
groups, from clubs that were formed in homeless shelters, to clubs for at-risk
teens, to city-wide reading clubs who had their final meeting at an elaborate
banquet. Each of those meetings was amazing in its own way. I guess if it were
possible to bring dozens of readers’ groups together in one place and have a
read-a-palooza, that would be wonderful!
What was your most memorable reading group experience? What made it
One of my favorite reading group experiences began when I received an email
inviting me to be the speaker at the inaugural meeting of the McGregor Tiara
Literary Society, ten years ago. I replied to the email that I would be
delighted to come, and received a return mail giving me the time and place, and
asking a simple, but slightly odd question—Will you be bringing your own tiara,
or will you need a loaner?
Tiara Society founder’s Day Float at the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend
I opted for my own tiara, because I was a little worried about what the
loaner might be like. Arriving at the meeting of the Tiara Literary Society, I
was greeted by a couple dozen lovely ladies in tiaras, and I was honored to
participate in the founding of the club, including the election of various
princesses required to keep such an organization running smoothly—including the
Princess of Email, and the Princess of the Potluck list, and the election of the
Queen Mum, the eldest member of the group, Miss Frances, who’d taught piano in
town as long as anyone could remember.
My tiara and I actually became repeat attendees at the McGregor Tiara
Literary Society, and I was even given the honor of being their celebrity rider
on a float at Founder’s Day. I wasn’t informed ahead of time that I would be
wearing an antique pink prom dress and singing Zippety-do-dah, but it was all
worth it, because we helped to raise money for a new bulldog statue for the
school AND gave the red-hat society’s float a run for their money!
Nora: I would have LOVED to be at that meeting!! It looks like fun!! Grin!
Why write Christian Fiction? What is the draw for you?
I’ve always written stories about spiritual journey. When I started writing
mainstream fiction, the dividing line between ABA and CBA fiction was more
defined than it is now. In 2001, when my first book was released by Penguin
Putnam, faith-based stories in ABA fiction were a rarity, which made it an
exciting, and sometimes challenging, place to be. Over the years, the markets
have changed, and when I was given the opportunity write for Bethany House as
well as Penguin Putnam, I jumped at the chance. My greatest desire as a writer
is to create books that have the potential to bring Christian and secular
readers together and generate discussion. I strive to create stories that will
appeal to veteran Christian readers, but have the potential to bring in readers
who have never tried Christian fiction, as well.
I believe that the written word, above all other media, has the ability to
let us live into the mind, and body, and soul of another person. Story
transports us—allows us to see through another’s eyes, think another’s thoughts,
experience the world through the glass of another’s experiences. When we know
how it feels to live within the mind, and heart, and body of someone else, we
realize that everyone hurts, everyone struggles, everyone breaks down and gets
up, then tries to put the pieces back together. We’re all products of our own
experiences. When we feel the suffering and the triumphs of others, we’re better
able to look at each other with the sense of grace God intends.
What do you hope readers take away from your new
Booklist called Blue Moon Bay “A warm and expressive modern
twist on the parable of the Prodigal Son, or, in this case, Prodigal Daughter.”
That’s a pretty good nutshell for this story (I just found out that the book got
a starred review from Booklist, by the way. If you heard squealing from Central
Texas last week, that was me).
When Heather Hampton’s family falls into conflict over the sale of the family
land, she is forced to return to the family funeral home in tiny Moses Lake,
Texas to sort things out and deal with the unresolved wounds of her past. There,
she meets a local guy, finds herself embroiled in a family mystery, and
reconnects with the plain faith of her family’s Mennonite neighbors.
The last place Heather ever wanted to find herself turns out to be the place
where she might reconnect with her family and find out where she’s meant to be.
In addressing the ongoing mystery and working toward the sale of the land, she
learns what we all have to learn in life—that we can’t hold back our love until
people fit our pre-defined parameters. We can either love people the way they
are or not love them at all. That is especially true among families. I hope that
Blue Moon Bay will be a healing story for some families, and for others that it
will strengthen the bonds that are already there.
On a larger scale, with every book, I hope to change people, to lift them up,
to leave readers better off than I found them. I never want a reader to leave
one of my stories feeling down, depressed, or hopeless. I want readers to leave
with a sense of God’s grace. For me, if a story doesn’t bolster faith and create
hope, it hasn’t done its job.
Every once in a while, I’ll hear from a reader who says, “Your stories make
me want to be a better person.” That’s my goal in writing a story—to reinforce
the belief that it is possible to reject the bad and cling to the good, that
good is ultimately stronger. It’s not just my goal for the reader, it’s my goal
for myself as a writer. Every story is an opportunity to grow and refocus the
spirit, and show God working in both worlds—the one we imagine within a book,
and the one we live in beyond the pages.
Nora : I’m looking forward to reading your new book. I’ts on my night stand calling my name!! Grin!
Here’s a link to the video, a link to a “How to” blog post I did
about how to do your own book club premier, and I’ll attach a photo of all of us
during the premier night:
Blog post about how to do your own book club premier:
THANKS SO MUCH LISA!! It’s great to get to
know you better and hear your hearts cry. Love your passion for Christian
fiction and book clubs. Also enjoyed video of your book club experience.
Thanks for taking the time to share and thank you for all the fun pictures.
I’m excited about the book events you have coming up in the next few months
listings of Lisa’s schedule and other book events are at The Book Club Network.
If anyone is interested you can go to The Book Club Network http://www.bookfun.org/ and see Lisa and
other book events listed on the front page.
BETHANY HOUSE will be giving away 10 copies of her New
Book BLUE MOON BAY. Contest starts Feb 23rd and will end the 25th at TBCN http://www.bookfun.org/
I’m SO EXCITED about Lisa’s New Book, the 10 book giveaway, and Book Clubs.
I’m doing the Snoopy dance. Good thing you all can’t see me!! Grin!