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Good evening, Sandi and thank you so much for stopping by “Fiction With Faith” to do an interview. First, I’m sure our readers would like to know, who is Sandi Rog and why does she like to write Inspirational Fiction? 

Hi, there! It’s great to be here, Kara. Thank you for having me. I’m originally from Colorado but spent thirteen years in my husband’s homeland of Holland where three of my children were born. We have a fourth child who was born here (we’re back in the States now). We got her a little t-shirt that says BORN IN AMERICA. It was special because she was the only one of all my kids born here.

I didn’t grow up in the church, and after I became a Christian at 16, I decided it was time to clean up my reading. So, I started reading Christian Fiction. Well, I never thoroughly enjoyed reading Inspirational Fiction; it was boring and preachy. But I kept trying. Finally, after a “traumatic experience” with a fiction novel, I vowed to never read it again. While in Holland, I purchased a 500+ page Inspirational novel during a short visit to the States (this was before we could buy books on Internet; wow, makes me feel old, lol). Anyway, I brought it back with me to Holland and devoured it, desperate for something in English that was trustworthy. Well, after wading through sermon after sermon and boring description after boring description, the story finally got moving in the LAST CHAPTER! It was then that I found out it was a SEQUEL (I had no way to get back to the States to buy the next books; not that I really wanted to)! I literally threw the book across the room and vowed to never read Inspirational Fiction again. That’s when I decided to write what I wanted to read. So . . . that’s why I like to write Inspirational Fiction. Sounds negative, I know. But it’s true.

Since then, I’ve come across MANY wonderful authors and stories. The Inspirational market has improved tremendously! It appears I wasn’t the only one who wanted “more.”

Was becoming a writer always in your plans?

I didn’t always want to be a writer. I had other plans. Like becoming an actress or a singer. Once I hit college, I decided acting and singing weren’t for me. But there was always one constant: writing. When I was in fifth grade, I wrote a poem that an adult didn’t believe I wrote. I was shocked by his accusation because I had indeed written the poem all by myself. At the time, I didn’t realize his accusation was a compliment. I also wrote some short stories for a project in Junior High. The teacher thought one of my stories was true and shared with the class how important it is that we “write what we know.” I destroyed her point when I announced that the story was actually fiction. I don’t think she was too happy with me after that. However, by this time I was old enough to see the compliment. In high school, after convincing my mom that the 17 absences I had in English were a computer glitch (I still had an “A”), you’d think I would have realized I had a knack for words and for “telling stories.”

Personally, I don’t think of myself as a writer. After all, anything non-fiction is like work for me. Really, I see myself as a storyteller. As a kid, I used get excited when Mom told me it was time for bed. I’d dive under the covers and dream up stories. I’d imagine I was a princess running from a castle, but during my escape, thieves would attack. I’d take flight into the woods, but a handsome rogue would take me captive. Of course, he was really a prince disguised as a thief meant to rescue me. That one was always my favorite. Maybe I’ll turn it into an actual story someday.

Storytelling, is definitely a word I would use to describe this book. I was so drawn into the story. It was as if I were there on the streets of Rome or on the Vibian Hill roaming the estate with David and Alethea. What inspired you to write “The Master’s Wall”?

I wanted to know what it might have been like to grow up in an era when the church was under persecution. What if you were a kid and your parents were killed because of their faith and you were forced to be a slave? That just intrigued me.

The novel is scheduled for release in November of 2010. What is the book about?

Here’s a book jacket description for THE MASTER’S WALL:

He fights for his freedom. She fights for her life. Together, they fight for each other.                                

After watching Roman soldiers drag his parents away to their death, David, a young Hebrew, is sold and enslaved to serve at a villa outside of Rome. As David trains to become a skilled fighter, he works hard to please his master and hopes to earn his freedom. However, an opportunity to escape tempts him with its whispering call. Freedom beckons, but invisible chains hold him captive to the master’s granddaughter, an innocent girl with a fiery spirit. David vows to protect Alethea from his master, the murderous patriarch, and contrives a daring plan—sacrifice his own life to save hers.

How long did it take you to write it?

That’s hard to say because when I started it, I realized I needed to learn more about the craft. So, about half way into it, I started another novel (I call it my “practice novel”) to learn the craft. I didn’t want to mess this story up because it was so important to me. So, I wrote my practice novel about five times in five different ways. Then I came back to this one. So, if I add up the time I did work on it, I’d say about two years. The first two were when I didn’t know what I was doing. As soon as I mastered the craft, I came back to it, and I wrote it in three months. Mind you, I didn’t answer the phone or play on the Internet. 🙂

Five times in five different ways? That sounds like a lot of work, but the result was well worth the effort and is much appreciated by this reader. What would you like other readers to be able to take away from this novel?

I want them to ask questions. To be so struck by some of the conversations between Alethea and David that they’re enticed to search the scriptures on their own for answers. I want my story to lead them to God’s word.

David was thrown into a situation where his Christian faith was tested many a time. But through it all, he was able to be a great inspiration to those around him. Speaking of inspiration, what inspires you to write? (people, music, nature, Scriptures, art, etc)

EVERYTHING. All that, and more. 🙂

What is a typical day writing like for you?

I’m afraid it’s not “typical.” I’ve got a toddler running around, needing my attention constantly. Sometimes she wants to be on my lap and there’s no room for the laptop. I take it in stride, and simply write when I can, whenever I can, wherever I can. I’ll carry around a notepad with me when I have to leave the house. You never know when the muse will strike!

Do you plot or outline your books before you write?

Not a plotter at all. I just come up with an event, and imagine what would happen to that person because of that event—something tragic, etc. After that, the story unfolds for me. I’m attempting to plot another novel, but I really don’t enjoy that. To me, it’s so much easier to capture the emotion of a character when you’re riding the ride with them, rather than telling them what they’re going to do. Instead, I have them tell me what they’re going to do.

An emotional connection with the reader is essential in writing. What are your tips on how to do that successfully?

Boy, that’s a hard one. I could go through and explain all the emotional mechanics a writer should use, but there’s a fine line between being melodramatic and sincerely capturing an emotion. All I can think to say is what I wrote above. Don’t tell your characters what to do, let them tell you (not that plotting is a bad thing; even plotters listen to their characters). Delve into their hearts, their minds. Find out what makes them tick. What would set them off, move them, hurt them? The answers will be different for each character. Be true to their personality. Be honest, be real. Real in the sense that the reader can relate. One thing I can’t stand are pious characters who act perfectly under every circumstance. I can’t relate to that at all, and I don’t think most the readers can, either. In my next book, the second book to this series, my main character, David, comes in contact with the man who took his parents away. This man practically raped David’s mother right in front of him, and as an adult David is expected to accept this same man as his brother in Christ. The man has repented, and he admits to his past faults, but David can’t forgive him, and even tries to kill him. To me, that’s real. That’s honest. I love delving into that kind of controversy because I believe it’s something we face every day, maybe in most cases on a smaller level, but ultimately still the same. When someone harms us, then asks for forgiveness, how easy is it to forgive?

A book’s characters not only have to be believable, but memorable as well. Fortunately, an author can have fun with this aspect of writing, whether it’s a cute dimply smile, a funny little quirk or an irritating habit. What are some of your favorites you like to implement? 

It depends on the character. For example, take David and Alethea in THE MASTER’S WALL. Both are total opposites. David is very serious and controlled, and Alethea anything but, or her seriousness is so dramatized, one can’t help but either be shocked or laugh. David has a hard time forgiving (hence, the second book), but in this book, Alethea betrays him by telling a lie. It’s so bad that he gets flogged, branded, put in chains and forced to work in the fields. Three years later, he returns because Alethea finally admits the truth. She begs his forgiveness, but he still refuses to forgive her.

Here’s a scene just after he arrives back at the villa because she finally told the truth. This will show those “quirks” you talk about (and the cultural thinking about slaves), but in a more intricate way, such as in Alethea’s thoughts, David’s mannerisms, Alethea’s speech and their personalities.

This is the first time they see each other after three years. Alethea has just fixed a meal for David while the family is away. Normally, Alethea refuses to cook, or reveal that she can, for fear of being married off to her betrothed. So, the fact that she cooked anything at all is a big deal. When David realizes the food is from Alethea, he gives it to the dog. Furious, she storms into the chamber, and here’s the scene:

“How dare you!” Alethea stood with trembling hands on her hips.

David leaped to his feet, his eyes widened. He went to bow, but stopped and met her gaze. “Alethea?”

“How dare you throw my food on the floor and then address me in such a familiar manner.” His calling her by her name had come to an end. It wasn’t until now that she realized just how proud he was. He should be happy he hadn’t been killed for her lie. He should be happy she wanted anything to do with him at all. “How dare you refuse food from the master’s table.” Her eyes burned with tears. All that hard work. Wasted. He didn’t even get to taste the wine rolls. They were perfect.

“Alethea, I . . . .” His gaze swept over her, then met her face.

She marched up to him and slapped him.

He straightened, his broad shoulders towering over her. She swallowed at his massive height. She’d taken on a warrior. But she refused to let that daunt her. He was still her David. His eyes narrowed and the side of his jaw pulsed. Would he strike her back? He wouldn’t dare. He was her slave. She reached up to slap him again, but stopped in mid-air, taking a step back. God wouldn’t want her to behave this way. She shouldn’t abuse a slave, especially when one was her brother in Christ. How dare he tempt her to strike him. She trembled with anger and hurt.

“I told Grandfather the truth! Now it’s your duty to forgive me,” she said, choking on his lack of forgiveness.

Rage built in his eyes.

She stepped back.

Closing the distance between them, he flexed his arm. “Do you see this?”

She stared at the large, tanned arm he bent near her face. “Your muscle?” she asked, not understanding why he’d wish to show off his body at a time like this.

“No,” he said with disgust, dropping his hands at his sides. He bent his arm again and pointed.

Her gaze fell on the V burned into his flesh.

“This is only a part of what they did to me because of your lie.” His eyes flashed.

She shook her head. What could she do? She was sorry. He’d never know how sorry. God had forgiven her, hadn’t He?

She turned to leave, then stopped and faced him again. “Elohim has forgiven me, why can’t you?” To her dismay, a sob escaped her throat. “You put yourself above God. Are you more perfect than Him?”

Her words had a surprising effect, for a stunned reaction reflected in his familiar blue eyes. He may have grown into a man, but he was still the boy she had known so well.

With her final words still hanging in the air, she threw up her chin, turned on her heels, and went for the door, but her foot came down on the dog. He yelped and she tried to regain her balance. She squealed, twisted, and landed with a hard thud on her rump.

She sat facing David. Her eyes fell on his feet, his legs and then his tunic.

He bent down to help her.

“Don’t touch me.” She slapped his hand away.

He straightened as she tried to climb to her feet, but knifelike pain stabbed her back. She blew out a frustrated sigh.

“You may help me to my feet, but after that, don’t ever touch me again,” she said.

He pulled her to her feet and continued to aid her.

“No,” she said, gasping from the pain.

He released her, and she limped toward the doorway, trying to keep her nose in the air, but the pain was too much.

When she turned the corner and couldn’t be seen, she slumped down against the wall, releasing a deep breath. How humiliating. She had put him in his place and immediately made a fool of herself. She had to regain her pride.

“I expect the mess you made to be cleaned up before the rest of the family returns to the house.” She called out orders and pointed her finger. “They’ll wonder what the master’s food is doing sprawled out all over the floor in the slaves’ dining chambers, not to mention why the dog is eating it.” She clenched her teeth and her blood boiled with renewed vigor. “Since you are so disrespectful, Damonus,” she emphasized his slave name, “you can come downstairs when you are finished and entertain the family during the evening meal.”

Really, she was hoping to look at him some more. She pushed up to stand but her back pinched. She slumped back down. She’d just have to wait it out. After a bit of time, the pain would subside as it always did.

But while she was recuperating, she decided to continue her speech. “I also expect you to keep your eyes downcast when you look at me.” Oh, how she loved the way he looked at her. “We are no longer friends, Dav . . . Damonus. If you ever look me in the eyes again, you will be flogged.” Really, she had no intention of ever flogging him. She wouldn’t make that mistake again. “Do you hear me?”

“I hear.”

Her breath caught in her throat. He stood in the doorway, arms folded. How long had he been there?

Without warning, he scooped her up in his arms and carried her down the stairs.

“Put me down, you . . . you barbarian!” She balled her hands into fists and pounded his chest.

He didn’t frown, nor did he smile.

“How dare you.” Warmth coursed through her body from the strength in his arms. He carried her down the stairs as though she weighed nothing at all. Again, the pain in her back pinched, and she winced.

“I should have caught you when you fell.” He shook his head. “I was afraid to touch you.”

She slammed her fist against his chest again, but the zeal was gone. “I hate you!”

“Hate? Are Christians supposed to hate?”

“Don’t preach to me, you . . . you . . . slave. Aren’t Christians supposed to forgive?”

He frowned.

“Why were you afraid?” She couldn’t imagine that he would be afraid of anything, least of all her.

“It’s not good for a man to touch a woman.”

“Do you find me attractive then?” An uncontrollable grin spread across her face.

“Yes.” His eyes smiled, but not his lips.

“As lovely as Vibia?”

“You are beautiful. I haven’t seen Vibia yet, so I don’t know who is more attractive.” Now he smiled, and that dimple snagged her attention as it always had in the past.

“That slave girl thinks I’m prettier than Vibia.” She hoped he would think so too. “She said I was as beautiful as the Greek goddess Athena.”

“I’ve never met Athena. Last I heard she was made of stone. Are you sure that little slave girl wasn’t implying something other than beauty?”

Is “The Master’s Wall” your first published novel? If not, where would our readers be able to find other works by you to enjoy?

Yes. THE MASTER’S WALL is my debut! 🙂 Readers can find some of my shorter works on my website: www.sandirog.com.

The fun question of the day, what do you like to snack on when you’re writing?

Everything! LOL

How can you be contacted?

I tend to hang out at my blog: http://sandirog.blogspot.com/. And people can contact me via my website: www.sandirog.com.

To purchase “The Master’s Wall” just copy and paste the links below:

http://www.amazon.com/Masters-Wall-Sandi-Rog/dp/1936341026/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288761412&sr=1-2

And here’s the link to the Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/Masters-Wall-Iron-Stone-ebook/dp/B0049B31EI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288761412&sr=1-1

Thank you, Kara, for having me here. I enjoyed this interview!

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