Friday, November 11, 2005

Halo Tip#9: Angela Talks Amen

Angela Benson talks Amen, abusive churches   and themes in her new release the Amen   Sisters here at Christian Fiction. Her first christian novel,  Awakening Mercy was a finalist for the RITA Award given by Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Christy Award given by the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA). 
 The Amen Sisters
Dee: I read your article in this summer's Precious Times Magazine-"Helping a
Friend After the Trauma of an Abusive Church." Is that what The Amen Sisters is about or is it more than that?


Angela: The Amen Sisters is my tribute to survivors of church abuse. I tell their story, a story I don't think many of us think much about.  You know, we see the ministers on television who give their repentance sermons and we get to hear the stories of how God helped them pull their lives back together, but we never hear about the broken parishioners who get caught in the middle of the chaos.  I wanted to write about those broken people to show that they do exist and to show how God heals their hurt and restores their faith.  People laugh at the things that go on in some churches. I want The Amen Sisters to be a reminder of all the people who are hurt by the nonsense.

Dee:Francine alienated everyone in her life when she became a member of a cult-like church. Bits and pieces come out about what happened to her while attending this church, but the story concentrates more on how her hometown was affected by Francine's actions with this chuch. Why did you choose to build the story from this point?

Angela: This was a deliberate decision on my part. I didn't want to write a story that hinged on the sensationalism of the topic of sexual predators in the church. There are a lot of stories out there that already do this, stories that focus on the bad acts of the preacher.  I wanted to write a story that honored those who were, and are, preyed upon. So The Amen Sisters does not take the reader into the bad acts of Bishop Payne, but it shows the far-reaching impact of his actions and the struggle of all those affected to recover from the blow.

Dee: What are the themes in this story?

Angela: Now that's a hard one.  I almost want to ask, What's a theme? but I'll resist.  When I first started writing, I thought that I could write themes into a story.  What I've learned over time is that the themes emerge as I write the story.  If forced, I'd say the major themes in The Amen Sisters are 1) personal sin has community consequences, 2) healing comes with forgiveness, 3) your past doesn't have to dictate your future, and 4) faith in God's love overcomes any personal challenge or shortcoming.

Dee: You have you characters saying prayers alound and quoting scripture in dialogue. Why do you do this? And how does it help your readers understand the themes in this story?

Angela: The characters in The Amen Sisters are Christians who have relationships with a living God and who believe the Bible is relevant to their day-to-day lives.  It's normal for Christians to encourage each other by recalling situations in the Bible where God did or said something related to their current experience.  Therefore, it's natural for the the characters in The Amen Sisters to pray together and to recall scriptures related to the situations they face. I'm not sure the recalling of scripture helps the readers grasp the themes as much as I think it helps them understand the characters and what motivates them.

Dee: You give 5 tips in PT Mag to help friends support survivors of abusive churches. Does any characters act on these tips in the story?

Angela: That's a good question.  I'd like to think all the characters learned the tips by what they experienced and that, because of their experiences, they'll deal with other survivors in a supportive manner.

Dee: Bonus question: Were you an abusive church survivor?

Angela: I had a very negative church experience some years back. I didn't experience exactly what the characters in The Amen Sisters experienced but I did feel their same sense of hurt and betrayal.
 
If you have any questions for Angela, please leave them in the comments, so she can answer them for you. Thanks, Angela.
 
Dee
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2 comments:

upwords said...

Thanks, Dee. This was a great interview.

Blessings,
Mary

Dee said...

thanks for checking in.

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