Tag Archives: Maple Valley Trilogy

The Maple Valley Trilogy by Sherrie Hansen

Book One of the Maple Valley Trilogy by Sherrie Hansen: An ill wind is brewing up a storm and as usual, Rachael Jones is in the middle of the fray. If the local banker succeeds in bulldozing the Victorian houses she’s trying to save, she’s in for yet another rough time before the skies clear. The only bright spots on the horizon are her friendship with Luke… and her secret rendezvous with Mac…Is Rachael meant to weather the storm with Luke, who touches her heart and soul so intimately, or with Mac, who knows each sweet secret of her body?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Stormy Weather

Kindle Sale! From June 1 until June 21, Stormy Weather will be only $.99 on Amazon

Book Two of the Maple Valley Trilogy by Sherrie Hansen: Once upon a very long time ago, Jake Sheffield and Michelle Jones graduated from the same high school.

Jake can’t wait to take a trip down memory lane at their 20th class reunion. Being with his old friends is like guest starring in a favorite episode of Cheers. Everybody knows your name. Everybody’s glad you came.

The last thing Michelle wants to do is dredge up a lot of old memories and relive a part of her past that wasn’t that great in the first place.

Will the murky waters of the past destroy their dreams for the future, or will a water lily rise from the depths and bloom?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Water Lily

Kindle Sale! From June 1 until June 21, Water Lily will be only $.99 on Amazon

New!! Book three of the Maple Valley Trilogy by Sherrie Hansen: Tracy’s supposedly perfect life as a pastor’s wife and mother of three is turned upside down when her husband leaves  her for a man.

Clay Alexander’s charmed existence starts spinning out of control when his father threatens to shut down Maple Valley’s  woolen mill – unless Clay conforms to his family’s expectations.

Is Tracy and Clay’s love meant to be, or will they forever be on opposite sides of the merry-go-round?

Her children. His parents. Her pride. His honor. The welfare of an entire town.

MERRY GO ROUND… Hang on for dear life.

Click here to read the first Chapter of: Merry Go Round

Click here to buy: Merry Go Round

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Interview With Sherrie Hansen, Author of Merry Go Round

1. What is your book about?

Merry Go Round is about Tracy Jones Tomlinson, the youngest of three sisters in my Maple Valley trilogy. Tracy married her childhood sweetheart, is a minister’s wife, and has three lovely children. In the first two books, Rachael and Michelle’s mother brags about how perfect Tracy and her husband are. “Why can’t you be more like Tracy? Tracy never gives me this kind of trouble…” When Merry Go Round opens, it quickly becomes apparent that Tracy’s supposedly perfect life is anything but. When her husband leaves her for another man and she’s faced with moving out of the parsonage, she has no where to turn for help but to her older sisters. Rachael, her oldest sister, from Stormy Weather, is none too eager to help, and frankly, feels that it’s about time that Tracy gets hers. Tender-hearted Michelle, from Water Lily, wants to help however she can and offers Tracy a job painting and wallpapering the home of Barclay Alexander III, the owner of the house she’s decorating. Between Barclay’s critical parents, Tracy’s three kids, and a town full of people who are depending on Barclay to keep Elk Creek Woolen Mill open despite his father’s insistence that the factory be closed, there are all kinds of ups and downs in this story. The extreme changes occurring in Tracy’s life make her feel like things are spinning out of control and that all she can do is hang on for dear life.

2. How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

I think I wrote the book very shortly after the idea first came to me.

3. What inspired you to write this particular story?

I guess on some level, I’m like Rachael, Tracy’s oldest sister – I thought it was time for Tracy to “get hers”, to have to deal with her pride issues and becomes a real person instead of a perfect, plastic, Barbie doll character. People who have been humbled a little are so much more loveable.

4. How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

In a long ago life in a different place and time, I loved a man who turned out to be gay. I remember how it felt, and how hard it was to move on after I found out. I do need to add a disclaimer at this point, however. Like Trevor, Tracy’s husband, who is gay, my husband of seven years is a pastor. He is definitely not gay! The first draft of this book was written before I even met Mark and became a pastor’s wife. I think of all the sisters in my Maple Valley trilogy, I am least like Tracy. Maybe that’s why she was so fun to write!

5. Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

I love this book because it has several scenes that involve all three sisters from the Maple Valley trilogy, together in the same room, duking it out. I loved writing Rachael in this book because she gets to say things to her sisters that I never would. She’s very gutsy, and totally justified. I love it!

6. Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Barclay (Clay) Alexander III is very unlike my other heroes in that he is wealthy, and has a very distinctive plot line and character arc of his own. He’s trying to do the right thing by several different people, and try as he might, he can’t please everyone… anyone, or so it seems for a time. Clay is falling in love with the wrong woman, but she is so right for him that it is painful. He has the weight of the whole town of Maple Valley on his shoulders. When he finally gives in to his feelings for Tracy and lets himself indulge in a bit of selfish pleasure, the results are devastating. I have a lot of respect for Barclay and hope my readers feel the same although he is a much more complicated hero than most.

7. How long did it take you to write your book?

I wrote the rough draft of Merry Go Round several years ago in about six months time, tabled the project for years, and then spent the last year re-writing and editing the book.

8. How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

I always have a specific framework in mind, but the characters and plot details evolve and grow as the book progresses.

9. Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

I interview people when needed and look up details about places on the internet, visiting in person when I can.

10. How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

I think my characters have very distinctive personalities, and in Merry Go Round, the differences in the sisters is very apparent when they’re all in the same scene, interacting with one another. I try to get into their heads and consistently think and act like they would.

11. Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I pick my husband’s brain occasionally and I constantly ask the question, “What if…?”

12. How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

I have no idea! I just seem to know.

13. What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

A song we used to sing in my adult Sunday School class in Colorado Springs comes to mind… “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up…” I think when we are prideful, and refuse to let people see our imperfections and idiosyncrasies, we make it very hard for people to know and love us. It’s our humanness that makes us loveable. When Tracy finally lets down her defenses, drops her perfect life facade, and lets people glimpse a little of what she’d been going through, she is lifted up and at long last, truly loved for exactly who she is.

14. Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

The subject of homosexuality and the church, nature or nurture, sin or not sin, etc. is a touchy issue for many right now. I tried very hard NOT to let this book become a forum for my beliefs and thoughts on the issue, but to accurately reflect the feelings, emotions and conflicts my characters go through as they struggle through the implications of Trevor admitting he is gay, and dealing with the ramifications to his children, extended family, and church. I have been told by my advance readers, whose opinions on the subject probably vary from mine, that I was successful — that they finished the book not knowing what I, the author, thought about the subject. I took that as high praise and hope other readers agree.

15. What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

The only struggle I seem to face with my writing these days is finding enough hours in the day to sit down and write. I own and operate a bed and breakfast and tea house and am a pastor’s wife. I maintain four houses. It’s a good, but very busy life, and when the day is done, I am often too exhausted to think.

16. Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

I think each book that I’ve written has changed my life. I remember an episode of Star Trek, Next Generation, when Jean Luc Picard was swept away to live out his life on another planet. He eventually fell in love, married, had children, and learned to play a musical instrument. When his new world came to an end, he learned that he had never left the Enterprise, and that the whole alternate life experience had occurred only in his mind, in a few days time. I feel like that every time I finish a book. It’s like I’ve visited some alternate reality and lived the life of my character from start to finish, feeling what they feel and experiencing what they experience, when in reality, I’ve just been sitting at my desk, typing away. In a very real way, I think each book makes me a richer, more multi-faceted, more understanding person because when I’ve walked a mile (or a hundred) in my character’s shoes.

17. What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?

When I first started writing, I was single and had been for almost 20 years. My life changed dramatically when I met my husband and remarried (in a good way, but still… it was a big adjustment!)

18. How has your background influenced your writing? How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I was raised in a very conservative Christian home. My upbringing and personal beliefs color everything I do and think. I have lived in many parts of the world, known many people and experienced many things. My writing is filtered through each of the things that have made me the person I am. Although my books do not fit into the Inspirational Fiction category because they contain some adult scenes, they definitely have a Christian world view which includes characters honestly struggling through issues of faith. The mistakes I’ve made and life lessons I’ve learned over the years have become fodder for many interesting characters and scenarios in my books.

***

Click here to read an excerpt from: Merry Go Round

Click here to read first chapter of: Merry Go Round

Click here to buy: Merry Go Round

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On Being a Pastor’s Wife and the Pretense of Being Perfect by Sherrie Hansen

I might as well get it out there right away. I’m the author of four somewhat steamy, very sensual, sometimes gritty romance novels, AND I’m a pastor’s wife – a combination that more than occasionally calls me into question.

So for those who haven’t yet figured it out,  I’ll admit it right off.  I’m not perfect. In fact, I have a confession to make. I just turned the heat on. It’s May 26th and I’m from Minnesota. I’m supposed to be tough. I’m supposed to be hot-blooded. When I was attending Wheaton College, near Chicago, I made fun of the locals for being wimps when it came to 40 below zero temperatures and Illinois’ supposed lake chill effect. I have no business turning the heat on in what’s practically summer.

At least I’m not at the parsonage (which is a whole different story, and one I should evidently also be feeling great guilt about), or I’d feel even guiltier, since my husband’s congregation pays the utility bill. But I’m not. I’m in my own house, it’s 44 degrees outside, the sun hasn’t shown for at least 24 hours, I got soaked by a cold rain and 33 mph winds 3 times yesterday, my husband was hogging the covers when I woke up, and I’m freezing. Some women my age get hot flashes. I get easily chilled. So there. How’s that for justifying my actions?

The truth is, I can feel the heat seeping out from the radiator under my desk even now. It’s warm. It’s wonderful.  It’s creeping up my thighs. It’s making my toes tingle inside my soft pink slippers. It’s deliciously comforting. It’s decadent. It’s making me feel relaxed and warm and cozy…

But I regress. I’m not living up to the ideal of being the perfect pastor’s wife, and some of the ladies from church are in a snit. Advance readers are predicting that when the contents of my current release are made known, I’ll be in even bigger trouble.

It’s a sad situation when people can’t separate truth from fiction. But then, it comes as no surprise that I’m in trouble because of the words I’ve written.

I’ve always lived with a long list of expectations, some imposed by parents and other authority figures, some by my own finely-honed conscience and genetic tendency to perfectionism.  I’ve always been rebellious, not so much in my actions, but with my words. Although I freely admit that I’ve done a couple of really bad things in my lifetime, my rebellion usually occurs not by deed but by thought.

I’m the sassy one, the very articulate one who isn’t afraid to speak up and say what she really thinks. The first time I got in trouble with the ladies at church because of certain words I’d written, I was 16 or 17 years old. I’d written a poem for creative writing class entitled Dear Pastor ____ (whose name I omit because I know he is on Facebook).  My brutally honest, heartfelt, full of teenage passion poem railed against the hypocrisies of organized religion, and the failure of our prim, proper Sunday School class discussions to meet the needs of teenagers who acted perfect around their parents and the people from church but walked on the wild side (and I mean wild) the rest of the time. It contained the word “damn”. Several times. I thought the poem would only be seen by my teacher, a man I trusted with my private thoughts. But the next semester, it was selected by a group of students charged with picking out the best poems to be published in our school’s poetry and short story collection.

The ink was barely dry when a church lady spotted my poem in her son’s copy and ratted me out to the pastor, who called my parents, who said I wrote it, I had to bear the consequences. So I reluctantly trudged (well, drove really) into the pastor’s office and took my comeuppance like a man (well, a young woman, really).

I guess not much has changed in the last forty years. As a generation, we’re much more candid than we used to be. We can talk freely about all kinds of things that used to be “best left unspoken”. Unless you’re a pastor’s wife.

So here’s my disclaimer:  Merry Go Round is about Tracy Jones Tomlinson, the youngest of three sisters in my Maple Valley trilogy. Tracy married her childhood sweetheart, is a minister’s wife, and has three lovely children. In the first two books, Rachael and Michelle’s mother brags about how perfect Tracy and her husband are. “Why can’t you be more like Tracy? Tracy never gives me this kind of trouble…” When Merry Go Round opens, it quickly becomes apparent that Tracy’s supposedly perfect life is anything but. When her husband leaves her for another man and she’s faced with moving out of the parsonage, she has no where to turn for help but to her older sisters.

Rachael, her oldest sister, from Stormy Weather, is none too eager to help, and frankly, feels that it’s about time that Tracy gets hers. Tender-hearted Michelle, from Water Lily, wants to help however she can and offers Tracy a job painting and wallpapering the home of Barclay Alexander III, the owner of the house she’s decorating. And so the plot thickens until Tracy has thought things and done things that a pastor’s wife should definitely not be thinking or doing. Everything Tracy has clung to is moving up and down and round and round and spinning out of control until all she can do is hang on for dear life.

So… Like Trevor, Tracy’s husband, who is gay, my husband of 7 years is a pastor. He is NOT gay. The first draft of this book was written before I even met Mark and became a pastor’s wife. So when I write about the drawbacks and privileges of being a pastor’s wife – specifically Trevor Tomlinson’s wife, I am speaking from Tracy’s point of view, NOT mine.  I am NOT Tracy. Tracy is a fictional character. To any church ladies who might be reading this, please keep this in mind when Tracy meets Clay and things start to heat up.  I am NOT Tracy. I repeat, Tracy is a fictional character. And give the poor girl a break. She’s at her sexual peak. She hasn’t had sex for 3 years. And before that, she’s been having sex with a man who wishes he were having sex with a man. She’s trying really hard to live up to her perfect pastor’s wife persona and her personal beliefs, but it’s hard, and she’s human, okay?

Which brings me to my next disclaimer. The subject of homosexuality and the church, nature or nurture, sin or absolutely okay, deviant or perfectly normal behavior, etc. is a touchy issue for many right now. I tried very hard NOT to let this book become a forum for my beliefs and thoughts on the issue, but to accurately reflect the feelings, emotions and conflicts my characters go through as they struggle through the implications of Trevor admitting he is gay, and dealing with the ramifications to his children, extended family, and church. I have been told by my advance readers, whose opinions on the subject probably vary from mine, that I was successful – that they finished the book not knowing what I, the author, thought about the subject. I took that as high praise and hope my readers agree.

I was raised in a very conservative Christian home. I am a Christian. My personal beliefs color everything I do and think. Although my books do not fit into the Inspirational Fiction category because they contain previously mentioned steamy scenes, they definitely have a Christian world view which includes characters honestly struggling through issues of faith. While people I’ve loved, mistakes I’ve made and life lessons I’ve learned over the years have become fodder for many interesting characters and scenarios in my books, I am NOT Tracy.  I am NOT perfect.

Got it? 

I almost deleted this daffodil photo yesterday because its pretty white petals were splattered with mud from a heavy rain storm we had a few days ago.  But I saved it, because even though it was flawed, I thought I might find a use for it some day.

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Merry Go Round by Sherrie Hansen

Tracy’s supposedly perfect life as a pastor’s wife and mother of three is turned upside down when her husband leaves her for a man.

Clay Alexander’s charmed existence starts spinning out of control when his father threatens to shut down Maple Valley’s woolen mill – unless Clay conforms to his family’s expectations.

Is Tracy and Clay’s love meant to be, or will they forever be on opposite sides of the merry-go-round?

Her children. His parents. Her pride. His honor. The welfare of an entire town.

MERRY GO ROUND… Hang on for dear life.

Excerpt:

Their mother went to the door and looked out. “Did Trevor have trouble finding a place to park?”

“He’s not here,” Tracy told her with feigned surprise. “I’m sorry. I thought I told you he wouldn’t be able to make it.”

“I’m sure you didn’t, dear.”

Her mind went blank. Panic clutched at her side. What was wrong with her tonight? She was a master at keeping a straight face when she was trapped in a half-truth and had to find the right words to cover her tracks. She’d been practicing since she was what – eight or nine? She knew hundreds of ways to bend words, to get out of a jam without actually lying. Sadly, the web of deceit she and Trevor had woven since he’d asked her for a divorce had stretched even her reserves.

“Um…” She had already nursed the counseling-a-hurting-parishioner angle to death, and given the excuse about Trevor having to visit a very ill member of the con­gregation too many times over the last few weeks for it to be plausible. Their church wasn’t big enough to warrant such never-ending pain and suffering among its members. Be­sides, the children were still within earshot. Whatever she said now would have to jive with what she had told them ear­lier.

“I’m sure I told you about the conference, Mom.” She kept her tone light. “He’s been gone all week. He did call the other night though, and he told me to give Ian a big birthday hug. Is he downstairs with his daddy?” Tracy was halfway across the spacious kitchen by the time she finished speaking and around the corner before her mother could for­mulate the words to disagree with her again.

“Conference? Something to do with the church?” She heard her dad ask.

“I have no idea,” she heard her mother say.

Tracy gripped the handrail at the top of the stairs and stood concealed from the sight of the others. She could hear Jake’s melodious voice, Mac’s deep, rumbling laughter, and Timothy’s high-pitched squeal of excitement mingling with the noisy clatter of the other children’s voices.

It wasn’t really lying, she tried to convince herself. Keeping your troubles to yourself was just what the Joneses did. Problems, personal flaws, shortcomings, and weaknesses of the flesh were squelched –
squashed if necessary – and made to disappear long before they ever became public knowledge. These people lived victorious Christian lives even if it killed them.

Unless you were taken with a serious disease, of course. No one asked to be sick. There was no shame in sharing your woes when one of you was ill. She certainly didn’t wish Trevor any harm, but him being
sick would have been easier to explain than what was really going on.

She herself was feeling ill just imagining what people would say if they knew their perfect pastor / son-in-law / husband of the year was gay.

***

By day, Sherrie Hansen owns and operates a Victorian bed and breakfast and tea house in Northern Iowa called the Blue Belle Inn. By night, she enjoys not only writing, but traveling, reading, needlework, quilting, and renovating and decorating old houses. She is the author of three additional books, Night and Day, Stormy Weather (Book One of the Maple Valley Trilogy) and Water Lily (Book Two of the Maple Valley Trilogy).

Click here to read first chapter of: Merry Go Round

Click here to buy: Merry Go Round

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