|Valerie Anne Faulkner
interviews Lisa Samson
Christian Fiction On-line Magazine, June, 2009
|It’s been a long hot summer, and I’ve been waiting impatiently for the temperatures to finally drop. Leaving air
conditioned house and returning to my back porch is delightful. Ah, this breath of fresh air gives me a the new
perspective on life. It’s a beautiful day and I’m happy to be a part of this great big world!
This month’s virtual extravaganza is to Lexington, Kentucky.
I’ve never been to , and I always thought of Kentucky as primarily rural America: country, wide open
spaces, horses, and bluegrass. I was so wrong! The heartland of our country has a pulse that’s strong and
healthy. What a magnificent city, with a mixture of vintage charm and classic modern. It’s the second
largest city in Kentucky and the sixty-fifth largest in the U.S.
Engrossed with my writing; I’m startled when my husband, Bill, asks, “Are you ready to hit the road?”
“Yes, I can’t wait to meet Lisa. Listen to this. Ms. Samson mentioned this in our first correspondence. ‘We
can do the “meet the author” portion in my yard, if you’d like, where we have gardens and chickens on a
small city lot!’ I thought she lived out in the country! Bill, we’re always dreaming about moving to the farm
. . . maybe we should be thinking outside the box?”
“Okay, let’s check this out!” He grabs my arm and in a blink we’re on our way. With address in hand, Bill
and I check the street numbers.
“This is it.” We stare at an old green Victorian house with a crumbling front porch. Growing in the front
yard are tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and beans. Hubby and I agree. “It’s like Eden.” Lisa is
watering her plants and doesn’t see us. She’s wearing drawstring khakis and a black T-shirt, red-and-black
Chaco sandals, and totally funky earrings . . . what a character. I love her artsy look and how laid back she
appears. As we walk up the path I try not to startle her. “Hello.”
“Oh, hi, glad you made it. Let’s go this way, to the back porch, and sit down.”
“I’m comfortable with that!” Following her around to the side of her home, we go through a gate made of
cedar fencing, alongside a deck and, voila, there’s a chicken coop! We take a left and peek in on the
chickens. “Ah . . .” Some are in the chicken tractor and will be heading for processing. “Ooh. Um, what’s
over there?” We walk over to another garden where garlic, beets, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes are
ready to harvest. “Wow. This is amazing,” I can’t help but chuckle. “You really do have a city lot–farm!”
“Sure do. Our cat, Miles, is probably asleep on the deck, but let’s get in the shade.”
“Okay, that sounds terrific! Then we can get started.”
Valerie: You’ve been gracing us with stories since the early 1990s. I counted over twenty-five books
(correct me if I’m off in my numbers). That averages one or more per year. Thinking back to your
beginnings, did you ever not visualize your overwhelming success?
Lisa: Here’s the thing. I don’t view myself as an overwhelming success. I’m not one of the major sellers in
the industry, and most people have never heard of me. I’ve never once seen somebody reading one of my
books in the airport or had somebody say to me when seeing my check at the grocery store, “Are you Lisa
Samson the writer?” What I have been is steady, faithfully producing novels for seventeen years now. I self-
describe as “a workhorse writer.” Critical acclaim/awards have come only in the last third of my career, so I
still think of myself as “the Rodney Dangerfield of Christian Fiction!”
Valerie: What has kept you going? Pursuing the dream?
Lisa: Obedience. I know this is what God has called me to do at this time. Personally, I’d rather pursue my
interests in the visual arts, but God has enabled me to grow and learn in this thing called fiction, and I don’t
feel a release to let it go. (I think Thomas Nelson might be a little miffed if I left them high and dry with
books to go!) Honestly, if it was just about writing and getting published, I’d have given up a long time ago.
But God gave me a gift to use, and as a grace-filled bonus, I really, really love my readers. They’re so
encouraging and, well, just delightful people who, like me, really want to “love God and their neighbors as
themselves,” and they find in me a friend to journey through and process all that with. I write so people
know they’re not alone. I think of us as the nerdy, smart girls who weren’t that popular in high school and
really, really didn’t care! I also think my readers are as depressed, searching, anxious, and broken as I am.
My transparency about the fragility of humanity gives them a safe place to be imperfect. “The love of Christ
compels me.” That’s what’s kept me going. I really hope, when a reader gets to the end of one of my
books, they understand a little more deeply how much God loves them.
Valerie: Can you recall your exact words when you found out you were to be published for the first time?
Lisa: I can’t! But I imagine it was something like, “No way!”
Valerie: You’re such a rip! I’m a member of the Florida Writers Association and their motto is “Writers
Helping Writers.” I would think this a fairly common tradition among authors, regardless of where they
reside. How do you think you have helped other authors in the craft of writing?
Lisa: I teach at writer’s conferences, have been involved in writer’s circles at times, and have done some
critiques. I used to blog a bit about writing as well. Mostly, I like to talk one-on-one with people, especially
those who actually understand “craft talk” and already have a working lexicon of write-speak. There are
those who can take a beginning writer and talk about the basics, but I think I’m more the kind of writer who
enjoys talking about the deeper issues of not only craft but also creativity and vision. If you don’t know why
you’re writing or what it is you want to say, who cares how great the words look on the page?
Valerie: You and your husband cowrote Justice in the Burbs, a book about social justice. With three children,
do you have any additional cowriters coming up?
Lisa: I do! My daughter Ty and I have collaborated on a book called Love Mercy: A Mother and Daughter’s
Journey from the American Dream to the Kingdom of God. It’s a book about our move from big-house
suburbia to missional living downtown, as well as our trip to HIV/AIDS-stricken Swaziland. It was, by far,
the hardest book I’ve ever written. My hats off to nonfiction writers after that one! Whew!
Valerie: You and your husband, Will, are avid believers in social justice. Would you explain what this means
to you, and the plans you have set in motion to generate enthusiasm about this topic?
Lisa: Social justice can take on many forms. You can speak about it in larger societal systems where entire
people groups have no voice, little opportunity, and are oppressed. Israel had little social justice in Egypt.
Slavery in the U.S. is an example. The kids down the street from me have far less opportunity than my own
kids have. God talks about his love for the oppressed, the poor, the
stranger, the widow, the orphan—all those who don’t have the resources a lot of us do—so much in
Scripture (it’s startling when you begin to see how much it’s mentioned) that Will and I finally took stock of
our lives and said, “We need to change some things.” So we moved and have been living down here in
downtown Lexington ever since.
As far as generating enthusiasm, I don’t need to! It’s amazing to me how Christians are beginning to feel the
heartbeat of God in their own chests! Women write to me all the time, telling me how they’ve been feeling
God’s call to reach out to others for a long time, and now they’re finally responding, finally figuring out
what “doing justice and loving mercy” (Micah 6:8) will look like in their own path of following Jesus.
However, I try to generate enthusiasm by peopling my novels with characters who are on a journey
toward living compassionately and for others who are suffering either from large systems of oppression or
cancer or loneliness and lack of love. Will and I speak at churches as well, and what a joy that is to see
Christians who are taking Jesus at his word and giving up their ambitions for wealth and personal power and
laying them at the foot of the cross to serve “the least of these.” God is moving and it is exciting to see!
Valerie: What’s next? Any sneak previews for 2010 you’d like to share?
Lisa: Love Mercy will be releasing and we’re so excited. I’ve never had a book release party, but I think I’ll
throw one for Ty! Next up, fiction-wise, will be The Resurrection in May, a book about a missionary who
survives the Rwandan genocide only to end up on a farm she cannot leave because of her fear. Along comes
an old friend, now on death row, a prisoner who reaches out to show May what true freedom looks like.
Valerie: Okay, I’d like to get off the business side of publishing and writing for a while and find out some
things about you. Have you always lived in “not so rural” Kentucky?
Lisa: Actually, we live in downtown Lexington. It seems like what we do, raising chickens, gardening, our
interest in local food, would be best-suited for rural living, but we’re trying to figure out what it looks like in
a city setting, done by regular people who didn’t grow up on a farm. Lots of hit and miss, it turns out, but
we learn a little more each year. It’s really been a lovely, gentle adventure.
Valerie: My husband and I are still dreaming about living on the acreage we own. We, or I should say, I
want to have Cochin chickens? They’re the cute ones that look like they’re wearing bloomers. What kind of
chickens do you have? Are they pets or food? (If they are pets, what are their names?)
Lisa: I love my chickens!! I had no idea I was going to like them so much. We affectionately call them “the
ladies.” Because of noise laws, we can’t have a rooster, so it’s all the girls. We have eleven layers (Barred
Rocks and Golden Comets) right now in our coop and eight more young’uns (two more Barred Rocks and
Auricanas [Easter Eggers]) getting bigger in the chicken tractor. Also in the chicken tractor are twenty-three
Cornish Cross chickens we’ve raised from chicks. In mid-September, they will be processed and we’ll have
organic, free-range chickens in our freezer. I have not named those! The three layers we’ve really grown
attached to are Mikey, CeeCee, and Parma-Jean.
Valerie: You have all these gardens, what do you usually grow?
Lisa: We do. Will, my husband, is really the one who makes this happen. This year we’re growing tomatoes,
onions, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, beans, cucumbers, beets (I love beets!), herbs,
broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and two pumpkins. A volunteer vine sprang up and we weren’t sure what it
was. Lo and behold, a big pumpkin and a little pumpkin, that will make for fabulous jack-o’-lanterns. We
always have a big chili-on-the-front-porch party on Halloween. This year, I’m even thinking about become
“the full-sized candy bar house.”
Valerie: You’re so fun! Have you ever canned or jarred produce?
Lisa: We usually freeze, but just this morning, actually, Will put up some of his red sauce, canning for the
first time. We’re pretty excited. Canning is one of those things that’s easy, but seems insurmountable before
you try it for the first time. We grow more tomatoes than anything else, so there’ll be more sauce to come
as the tomatoes come in. We use a lot of red sauce in our cooking. Will’s from New Jersey and had a lot of
Italian friends while growing up, so that’s one of the first ways we think to prepare a dish. (He cooks other
delicious foods as well. That man can throw down in the kitchen! Yes, I know how blessed I am!)
Valerie: If I were on our farm, I visualize myself during October picking pumpkins and making pies. Have
you ever done that? And when they’ve baked, cool on the back porch? (You’re a writer, indulge me!)
Lisa: I’ve made pumpkin pie from pumpkin before, but unfortunately, it wasn’t from a pie pumpkin so it
wasn’t all that great. I love pie, though. Does that count? I mean, really, anything in a flaky crust has got to
be one of the best things to eat. And it doesn’t have to be a sweet pie. Is there anything better than chicken
pot pie? You stab your fork into the top and then that salty, buttery white sauce oozes out? Yum!
Valerie: I’m getting hungry. . . . How about your travels away from Kentucky; where have you gone
recently, or where will you be going?
Lisa: I was just in Oregon for the Oregon Christian Writers Conference and it was wonderful, although I
managed to hit the worst heat wave in twenty years. It’s been a mild summer here and I had to go to
Oregon of all places to get the dog days! No other plans for big travel in the near future; I’m homeschooling
my younger two this year, so we’ll be sticking close to home. We are, however, taking a weekend trip to
Niagara Falls because, I’m just sorry, but you have to see Niagara Falls to understand your place in the
world. All that power and force that could just rip your head off! Kinda helps in the ego department, and
spiritually, too. It helps me to see God’s world doesn’t revolve around mine, rather it’s clearly the other way
Valerie: Has any one visit left a major impression in your mind—a place in another country or here in the U.S.
—that you’d consider moving to at some time of your life? Or are you always singing, “There’s no place
like home” ?
Lisa: I’d love to live in England temporarily. London would be great. I just love it over there, love the people,
love the sights, and the flowers! Oh my goodness! U.S. will always be home, though.
Valerie: Last one. I know you have been asked many questions during your career, but is there any one thing
you would like to share with your fans? Something, you haven’t been asked but think they would enjoy
Lisa: I don’t know why this answer just popped into my head, but enjoy your family. Make big meals and
gather your friends and relatives around the table as much as you can, especially the older generation. Be
hospitable to those around you and in your writing as well. Invite people into your home and into your
stories. Live with intent and great love.
Valerie: Lisa, thank you so much for an entertaining afternoon. And speaking of hospitality, yours is “Grade
A.” God bless, until we meet again.