Book Giveaway & Author Interview: Hearts That Survive by Yvonne Lehman

Welcome to Author Yvonne Lehman 

Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the Titanic is Yvonne Lehman’s 50th novel. She is a best-selling, award winning author who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years and now directs the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat held annually in October (www.lifeway.com/novelretreat). She lives in Black Mountain, amid the panoramic views of the Blue Ridge. She mentors students for the Christian Writers Guild. She earned her Master’s Degree in English at Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. 

You can visit Yvonne Lehman’s website at www.yvonnelehman.com

INTERVIEW:

What does the book’s title, Hearts That Survive: A Novel of the Titanic, mean to you?
Existence and survival are two different things. We exist because we’re alive human beings. Survival to me is having gone through trials, disaster, hard times, difficulties, but find the reasons and means to have a joyful, fulfilling, and meaningful existence. Survival is a joyful thing that goes beyond existing. It is living life to the fullest. There is a saying, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” To me, existence is taking the breaths. Survival is attempting to live and enjoy life to the point of it taking our breath away.
Part of my dedication relates to the idea of survival in which I write: To my readers who may want to compare my story with the book and award-winning movie, as I did when beginning this project. There is no comparison however. That is their story. This is mine and my desire, hope, and prayer is that my readers enjoy this book, find it entertaining and filled with events and characters that come alive in their hearts and minds, and know what it means for a heart to survive.
It really took an entire book, several stories to present what Hearts that Survive really means. Ultimately, the reader will be the one to decide.
Have you always been interested in the Titanic, and did you interest grow in writing this book?

Both. Such a tragedy and disaster are events that touch the heart and mind and remind us that we are not in control in this life, no matter how much expertise goes into a project and the Titanic was a wonder of the world in 1912. I’m always interested in what are called “man-made, natural, or act of God” tragedies and disasters. My interest grew as I learned more about how people react in time of tragedy, the fear and the nobility of the human spirit, the natural instinct to call upon God, acknowledge him at least when all else fails.
 
Why do you think there is such a fascination among the public with the Titanic?   

People are naturally fascinated with tragedy, perhaps because we all are so closely akin to it, personally or with those close to us. We tend to want the answer to why. Being a writer, I know there must always be conflict in a story. That’s what readers expect and must have in novels. It’s what we have in life. We identify with difficulties whether they’re labeled big or small. We seek answers. I think we want to know why such a thing as the sinking occurred. We care about lives lost needlessly had more precaution been taken. Lessons are learned from that tragedy. We see history and society changing. We can see the horror, feel a bit of the terror dying passengers experienced, wonder about the survivors, see how history and society is changed for the better by a horrible event. We see the best and most exquisite (the Titanic) has imperfections, and from the most tragic (the sinking) good can come.
Were you drawn to one of your character in particular?

Each and every one. Every person has his own story. We are all main characters in our lives. I was drawn to each one as they came aboard, tried to deal with their inner problems, tried to deal with the problem over which they had no control but was at the mercy of the ship and the sea. But I was drawn to one character in particular because I gave him no point-of-view. He is revealed through his actions, dialogue, reactions and impressions from others. He is an enigma, more like real persons because we can’t really know everything about anyone. I felt all my characters revealed themselves to me completely except that one. Characters had their impressions of him, but his actions don’t always coincide with those impressions. He would not reveal himself to me as other characters did and taught me that I can’t really judge…not even a character that I create. However, my characters sort of emerge, rather than my creating them.
How did the plot unfold as you wrote?

Like a miracle. The acceptance of the proposal came almost too late for me to be able to write it. From the moment I asked Ramona Richards (editor with Abingdon), “Would you like a book about the Titanic” and she said, “Yes,” the only thing on my mind was this book. I’ve never written so much in so short a time. I’ve never had characters come alive so quickly and so completely. I’ve never felt the flow of creativity, nor the presence of God in writing, as much as I did while writing this book. The characters let me know how they felt from the moment Ramona said, “Yes,” and my fingers stayed on the keyboard every possible waking moment for weeks. This is my 50thnovel, but in so many ways it feels like a first.
Do you feel that Hearts has a strong spiritual message?

The same as in life. We can look about us, whether in our families, neighborhoods, churches, or politics and wonder if those professing to know the Lord really know. My characters exhibit those same attributes. Each has his own unique understanding, or misunderstanding, of the spiritual life. Some don’t reveal to the reader what is in their hearts. Others are open and sure about their faith. Some are learning and questioning. How characters respond is as varied as people around us. Many speak openly about faith, some do not speak of it at all. It is God who knows the heart. There is one path to salvation, but not just one spiritual message. I suppose I could use the analogy of there being one plan of salvation, but there are many denominations. My characters are like that. There are many ways of expressing faith in one’s life. One reader of the ARC said to me, “I love the way you presented faith without being overt about it, or pushing it, but just showing what it was like in certain characters’ lives.”
Who do you think would most enjoy this novel?

This is not a category novel, nor can it be put in a so-called box. It is a mainstream work that would appeal to the general audience, male and female, sixteen to one-hundred sixteen, and anyone who likes to read about adventure, mystery, tragedy, class distinction, romance, secrets, grief, loss, and survival. My endorsers range from a widely known, professional Dr/Professor/writer/teacher to a beginning novelist. Each acclaimed this work as being “master storytelling.” Anyone to whom I’ve mentioned Hearts and the Titanic show excitement and interest, therefore I can only conclude it is not restricted to age, gender, or literary preference.
 If you had to describe Hearts That Survive in two or three words, what would you say?

I would say, “My best writing.” Or, “A self portrait.” (that would probably need explanation.)
I prefer to choose the description from what my endorsers say which includes:
“Wonderful. Chilling. Compelling.”

Hearts that Survive

In April 1912, Lydia Beaumont is on her way to a new life with a boundless hope, against all that Craven Dowd desires for her and himself. Her friendship with Caroline Chadwick deepens as they plan Lydia’s wedding on board the “grandest ship ever built.” Then both women suffer tragic losses when the “unsinkable” Titanic collides with an iceberg and there are only 20 lifeboats for 2207 passengers. They struggle to keep their families and dreams together.
Decades later, Caroline’s granddaughter, working at the museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, plans for the 50th memorial for the sinking and contacts survivors and descendants of survivors. Alan Morris feels like a failure until he discovers he is the descendant of an acclaimed novelist who lost his life when the Titanic sank. He becomes caught up in finding his identity in the past and must come to terms with his present and the meaning of true success.
Characters struggle to answer whether love is more powerful than the pain of loss and learn what it means for a heart to survive.

Giveaway Details
1 copy of Hearts That Survive
Shipping to US only
Ends 4/26/12

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