Meet the Author: Amy Levi

My guest this week is Amy Levi, author of the debut novel The Altar Call. This story of redemption is an edgy, well-crafted roller coaster ride. Will you identify with Jeremy whose jealous rages cost him his family, with Melanie who is abused by her father, or others who have lost loved ones and the will to live?

Welcome, Amy. What inspired you to write this book?

Maeve Binchy, author of Circle of Friends, wrote two intriguing novels, The Evening Class and The Lilac Bus. Both deal with real-life situations such as going to class and riding the bus where people spend time together on a consistent basis yet know very little of what is really going on in the precious lives of those who surround them. I wondered how that could be done in the Christian world. Then I remembered how many times I’d seen people go forward to the altar with forlorn looks and wondered, what happened to my friends?

Have you always had the urge to write or is this something new in your life?

It’s something I’ve given thought about periodically and jotted down on my bucket list, but I can’t honestly say I’ve always had the urge. It wasn’t until I conceived the idea of The Altar Call that it became serious. I couldn’t let it go. When I went for walks in the woods, characters developed in my mind. After a year, I sat in front of my laptop and it all poured out of me.

You obviously love books, as you and your husband own a bookstore. Who are some of your favorite authors and how did they influence your writing?

Oh Heidi, I think to give this answer justice, I’d have to ask you to my bookstore and coffee house here in Darrington and spend an afternoon bringing you mochas, but I’ll give it a shot. Aside from Maeve Binchy, I am fascinated by how Francine Rivers has brought biblical characters to life in modern times, creating new love for lasting truths. I thought of her as I wrote Elena’s story. Joan Didion’s way of bringing the stream of consciousness during the grieving process to a relatable place in the reader’s heart in her novel, The Year of Magical Thinking, was a great inspiration for me in writing Mark’s story. There are too many authors to name who have taught me that strong conflict from beginning to end is what keeps readers up all night and thinking about the characters the next day.

Tell us a bit about your writing process.

I did a lot of trouble-shooting in my mind before I sat down to write and had a solid idea as to where I was headed with it. As soon as my fingers touched the keys, I saw the story unfold before my eyes. Then with every sentence I created I asked the question, “Why should anyone read this?” If the answer was, “They shouldn’t,” it was either rephrased or deleted. My mother is a therapist for women of domestic violence. I tapped into her expertise to make sure the psychology was spot on. Then I read through it again and again around a dozen times, on the hunt for areas requiring finesse. Then I had it professionally edited by our friend Heidi Thomas, and the work began again.

The Altar Call is a faith-based story about the depths of despair and the hopes of redemption. Tell us what led to your decision to self-publish.

I pitched my story to a few Christian editors and publishers, and received letters saying that my work was “too edgy for their readers” and one said they were looking for “Grandma Betty” material. Everyone loves a cozy, light novel, but the magic of my book is that it’s about real people with real struggles. I was insulted as a reader that they felt all I wanted to read were stories that would merely touch the surface of issues I face and not go deeper. I give myself more credit than that, and I believe that lovers of Christian fiction everywhere are deserving of it as well.

I think nearly everyone will find a character he or she can identify with. Are they based on people you’ve known or experiences you’ve heard about?

All the stories have elements in my own life and others around me folded in the pages. It’s what makes it real. My husband teased me when he turned his head and saw tears flooding my cheeks while I was writing. I felt like I was there, living their pain right along with my new friends.

Is there a theme you would like your readers to take away from this book?

Definitely. All the characters have one thing in common. Anger and bitterness from the refusal or inability to forgive is destroying them. They put on a mask to show everyone they’re fine, life is perfect, but it’s a lie. They must conquer the treacherous mountain, claiming victory over past wounds through the blood of the Savior, and discover the beauty and freedom only found in forgiveness.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The Altar Call is a roller coaster ride. There are moments of romance, joy, and success followed by deep depression, loss, and trauma. The hardest part for me, was knowing how far past the line I could go. I brought it as far as I could handle it myself, and then had others read it, asking them for their opinion. The feedback was positive.

What has been the most surprising thing you learned from creating your book?

I’d have to say without hesitation, it’s to never underestimate the power of a novel in a person’s life. Of all the encouraging words that have graced my ears since my book was published, what brought me to tears is this message from an elderly woman I received on Facebook, “Tell your friend Amy that her book is special. I am already half through it and God has used it for a healing that is taking place in my life. There were many old wounds of the past that had to be reopened in order for the healing to take place. Your friend’s book has done that. God is going to use this book to bless people. God Bless you and your friend.” As an author, it doesn’t get better than that.

Synopsis: A murderer, a drug dealer, and a prostitute are three in the crowd of worshipers craving redemption and revealing their confessions to Rick Davis, a pastor in a small Midwestern town, as the Holy Spirit makes His presence powerfully known during an altar call. As each chapter unfolds, a new character reveals his story. Trina is a teenage girl whose mother throws her out of the house. Jeremy’s thirst for control leads him to beat his wife and son for years. Elena meets Jesus at the town cafe in a modern-day Woman at the Well story. A total of twelve stories are told, each of them portraying human suffering at its deepest. Suicide, mental illness, molestation, drug abuse, rape, divorce, the loss of a child and a spouse, and anger toward God, are all issues characters either ask forgiveness for, or forgive someone else who has done it to them.

The Altar Call is available at Mountain Loop Books & Coffee in Darrington, WA, and from Amazon or Barnes and Noble

View excerpts of The Altar Call at the Createspace Preview Gallery

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