Monday, March 26, 2012

Hope's Journey is a Must Read

As part of Stephanie Connelley Worlton's book blog tour for Hope's Journey, Stephanie stopped by for a casual Q&A with me. Below, you can read about the book, as well as my review of her amazing new novel.


Cindy C Bennett: Hi, Stephanie. Thanks for stopping by today. Let's begin by getting a little background about you: where you live, who you live with, what you like to do in your spare time, things of that nature.

Stephanie Connelley Worlton: Thanks for having me Cindy, I'm honored to be here. A little about me... Wow, where to start?

I guess I'll start with the basics: I live with my prince charming, our four children, and our two dogs - yes they are technically my children too - in the shadow of a mountain. Literally. We are nestled in the cove of a canyon and because of our position between mountains, our sunrises are delayed and our sunsets come early. Our quiet little neighborhood suits me perfectly because I get to enjoy nature and animals and fresh air daily. And, because I'm a "people person" and could talk my days away,the solitude actually keeps me balanced and helps me stayed focused on my projects.

I love to design and build stuff - like furniture and structures - but I'm not very crafty, as in, I don't do "cutesy" very well. Don't ask me to scrapbook or come up with a Super-Saturday craft, but if its a shed you need, I'm your girl. I don't really have "spare time" because I tend to overfill every minute of my day. If I'm not writing, building, painting, designing, or working in my yard, you'll most likely find me curled up with a book.

The highlight of my days is the time I get to be with my family. Laughter is my sanity and I've been blessed with a household of people that share my love for the silly, the sarcastic, and the outright funny. We laugh often!

CCB: That sounds like a great life. You're really blessed. You haven't always had it easy, though. Hope's Journey isn't autobiographical, but it is based on some events from your life. Did that make it easier, or harder, to fictionalize some of the things you actually lived?

SCW: I really have been blessed. My life is in such a great place now, but you're right, it hasn't always been easy. In fact, there was I time that everything was so difficult it was hard to believe that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope's Journey is based on that time in my life, and though it's not autobiographical, it brought a lot of those long buried feelings to the surface. Fictionalizing those events and feelings was easy in some aspects and hard in others. Because I've lived those tender feelings, connecting with them didn't take too much imagination, but enveloping them into fiction was at times a bit of a challenge. Honestly, it got a little emotional at times. It was tempting just to recount my personal experience, but to be true to the real message of the story I couldn't do that. I think writing Alex's character was almost cathartic in a sense. After years of thinking I understood the other side of the story, it was eye opening to realize just how much I didn't get.

CCB: I find Alex's side of the story very interesting as well. When he compares his love for her to the love he has for his dream Porsche, it was like a lightbulb went off for me. It completely makes sense that he would think that way, and that it wasn't as if he didn't love her - he just loved her differently than she might have perceived. Was it difficult to try to get inside the head of a teenage boy to understand his motives, or did it come naturally after you had time to reflect and think about just why he might do the things he does?

SCW: Haha, I don't think it's ever natural for a girl to try to get inside a guy's head. Seriously, our brains are wired so differently. But, it was fascinating and well worth the effort. I had to do a lot of question asking and a lot of digging. Every time I thought I had Alex pegged, I'd learn something new about him. To my benefit, I've had ample opportunity to observe teenage boys and a husband who was more than happy to let me dig into his mind.
CCB: Speaking of your husband, I know he was instrumental in getting you to finally take the plunge and send Hope's Journey out for publication. Tell us a little about that, and if you want to do a bit of hubby bragging here, feel free.
SCW: Cindy, you have no idea how much I love to brag about my husband. I am so proud of him and everything he is. We've known each other since we were teenagers, yet I still find myself falling for him every single day. He is the biggest cheerleader I could ever hope for! When I told him I was going to start writing I fully expected him to fall to the floor in laughter, but he didn't. Instead, he told me what a great idea it was. From the time I put the first word on the page to the time I typed the last, he was cheering me on. Honestly, I think there were days he believed in the story more than I did. Hope's Journey is in a sense his story too, so his opinion and support... and applause, mean more than anything to me. I don't know how many times I edited the manuscript, but it took well over a year, and if it wasn't for his push, I may still be editing it today. He knows my fear of rejection and my need to push for perfection better than anybody, so when he finally told me that it was time to let it go, I trusted him.

CCB: Well then we are all grateful to him for encouraging you to let it go because otherwise we'd be missing out on an amazing story! Hope's Journey is one of the most honest stories I've read in a long time. I found both Syd and Alex's reactions very natural and realistic. I also think many of the external reactions from their families, friends, and other adults were exactly spot on - even if some of them made me (as the reader) angry at them for being so narrow minded. What is your hope as far as how this story might help other teen girls who either find themselves in the same situation, or in danger of being in the same situation? And along with that, what is your hope for all readers who discover Hope's Journey?

SCW: I want girls to know that their value is not based on whether or not they have a boyfriend. My biggest hope is that they will understand their value enough not to make the little mistakes that lead to the bigger ones, because that's how it happens. Little shades of gray slowly fade to blacks and before you know it, you've gone too far.

And for the girls who've already found themselves crossing the line - or close to it - I want them to know that there is hope. They are not trash. Their past mistakes don't have to define their future. They are not destined to a life of failure and disappointment. Because we have a Savior, they can make their lives whole again. And, if they choose to change, though it won't always be easy, they will discover that the effort is well worth the reward!

My overall hope for any reader who picks up Hope's Journey is that they will see things from a different perspective. Whether they are a young woman (or even a young man), a parent, a teacher, a neighbor, or a friend, I hope that readers will take a deeper look at themselves and they way they interact with others. Everybody makes mistakes, some are just more visually apparent than others.

CCB: I second all of your comments, Stephanie. I wish there were some magic potion to help girls understand their true worth. Until then, we'll rely on amazing people like you to hopefully get the message across in good books. Thank you for stopping by on your blog tour, and for sharing all of your insights with me and my followers. I really appreciate it. Anything further you'd like to say or tell us about, this is your chance.

SCW: Thanks again for having me, Cindy. I just want to end by reiterating how amazing our youth today are. I've had the opportunity to rub shoulders with many of them and I am consistently blown away by their abilities and strengths. If we can just help our young people understand the fullness of their worth and potential, our futures will be in great hands!
 Hope's Journey
 A life-changing mistake. A soul-changing journey.

Sydney is a straight-A student heading to college on a scholarship, and Alex is a quiet jock preparing to serve an LDS mission. But their dreams are shattered on the eve of their high school graduation when they find out that Sydney is pregnant. Separated, they must both trust in God as they search for the worth they once found in each other.

My Review

Wow, this has to be one of the most honest books I've read in a long time!

Sydney and Alex are typical high school kids, preparing for graduation with big dreams of college and, for Alex, a mission. Then they discover that Syd is pregnant.

Hope's Journeyis an unflinching look at the very real consequences of such a situation. Told from alternating POV's of both Alex and Syd, you can't help but be completely drawn into their drama. Even if you want to throttle both of them at times for stupid decisions they're making, the book deals very, very realistically with them and their reasons for making said decisions.

I started reading this for an upcoming book tour for Stephanie Worlton, with plans to just read the first part and finish the rest later when I had more time. I couldn't put it down. I read the whole thing in two days, putting aside all the things I should have been doing instead. I was so drawn into the story and caught up in these characters that I couldn't let them go. That, to me, is the mark of an excellently well-written book. From Syd and Alex's feelings, to the judgements they are dealing with from friends, family, and ward members who claim to be "Christ-like", every word rings (sometimes unfortunately) true.

This is a must read for every person who has ever judged someone without knowing the whole story, or who have been in a situation where they were the one being judged, whether you are LDS or not. (FYI, there is no gospel preaching, so whether or not you're not LDS, please, please read this.)

Where you can find out more about Stephanie:

Kreating Krazy Blog ($20 Amazon gift card giveaway if Stephanie reaches 100 followers during the tour)

Hope's Journey Blog

Where you can get your own copy of Hope's Journey

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