Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Missing", by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen: Review, Author Interview, and Giveaway

Back Cover Blurb for Missing:

A BYU-Idaho choir tour in British Columbia turns out to be anything but ordinary when soloist Stacie Cox spots a kidnapped child from Rexburg during a performance. Before Stacie can alert the authorities, the little girl disappears. Stacie vows to find and rescue her, a choice that forces her to deal with her guilt-ridden past and another little girl that haunts her dreams. When the handsome Matt Brennan helps Stacie in the search, she tries to resist the attraction she feels for him. Yet as he gains her friendship and trust, her resolve to never fall in love begins to crumble. And after a series of harrowing events, Stacie must decide if she is willing to sacrifice her life - and a possible future with Matt - to save a stranger.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen is one of my sister authors at Walnut Springs Press. When Illuminations of the Heart was published this summer, Ronda generously agreed to participate in my book blog tour. So when her debut novel, Missing, came out, I volunteered to read and review it, not only to return the favor, but because I was curious about the story. That’s a good thing, because curiosity about the story is what drives me to crack open the covers of any book and give it a try.

Missing’s subtitle, An LDS Mystery Novel, is slightly inaccurate as Missing is actually more of a suspense novel than a mystery. We know almost from the beginning who committed the “crime”, but that in no way detracts from the fast-paced twists and turns that await the reader. The heroine, Stacie, is a warm and sympathetic character, while Adrienne, the villain, is so diametrically the opposite that the reader will find great pleasure in wincing at her awfulness and rooting for her defeat. Missing includes a romantic subplot, but I would not personally classify the book as a romance. My definition of a romance (and mind you, this is my personal definition only!) is when a hero and heroine unite to thwart the villain. While Matt Brennan, the man Stacie grows to love, indeed helps Stacie significantly in her determination to save an innocent child, he does not participate in the final rescue. This leaves the ultimate victory to Stacie alone, a perfectly acceptable finale since, in truth, this is Stacie’s story from first to last. (Romantics will not be disappointed, though. “Subplot” though I call it, the romantic aspects of the story are nevertheless strong and highly satisfying.)

Missing is strongly tilted towards an LDS readership, although anyone enjoying inspirational fiction will enjoy this, too. Some of the terminology, such as “Primary room”, “Relief Society room”, and “Cultural Hall” are distinctive to the LDS culture. Non-LDS readers can easily avoid confusion by understanding that these are simply names of specific rooms in an LDS meetinghouse.

When Ronda participated in my blog tour, she generously included an interview, not only with myself, but with my heroine, Siri. I warned her at the time that one day “turn about would be fair play”, so it is now my delight to share with you a few questions and answers with Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen, followed by an interview with her intrepid heroine, Stacie Cox. And if you stick around to the very end, I’ll tell you how you can enter for a chance to win your very own copy of Missing!

JDP: Welcome, Ronda. Thank you for joining us today. I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, but perhaps my readers haven’t read your answer. What inspired you to write Missing?

RONDA: The initial idea came while I was walking in a parking lot several years ago. I saw a man get out of his car and tell a child to stay inside. The child was crying and the man was angry. After the man walked away, the kid looked straight at me with a terrified look on his face, and my first thought was, “What if that kid was kidnapped?”

But you know, Joyce, one of the amazing things about the writing process is the uncanny way fiction melds with true life. Like the story about Tracie Dean I saw on Oprah one afternoon while I was writing Missing. She, like my lead character, Stacie Cox, had a chance encounter with a child (and adult) that unsettled her to the point that she contacted several police agencies, believing the child had been kidnapped. Finally, after having no success with the authorities, she returned to the place she'd originally seen the girl and eventually helped the police rescue her and uncover the truth: she and another boy were sexual abuse victims. Yes, my story is fiction, but heroines like Stacie Cox really do exist.

JDP: Why did you choose to make both your heroine, Stacie Cox, and her romantic interest, Matt Brennan, music majors. Do you have a strong music background of your own?

RONDA: It’s the age old rule, “write what you know.” Yes, I have a strong musical background, but there was never any question in my mind about Stacie’s and Matt’s similar connection to music. Music has a tremendous ability to unite hearts and minds, so initially, it was what brought them together.

 JDP: Is Stacie, or any of you other characters, based on people you know in real life?

RONDA: No. They, like each of us, are their own people; however I did use the real life experiences of several people as a basis for a few of them. For instance, I have a dear friend who grew up in the Indian Placement program, just as Janice’s mother did.

 JDP: In your bio in Missing, you mention S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, and how it inspired you to want to write “golden words”. For those of us who have not read The Outsiders, can you tell us a little about the book and its influence on you?

RONDA: At its core, The Outsiders is a drama about young men from two gangs growing up and facing a world where they have little going for them. At the end of the story, Johnny, one of the youngest characters, writes a letter to his friend Ponyboy. In it he discusses a poem by Robert Frost titled “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” Here’s a quote from the book:

“I’ve been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you’re gold when you’re a kid, like green. When you’re a kid everything’s new, dawn.”

He then encourages his friend to “Keep that way.” As I mentioned in my bio, when I heard those words, I knew I wanted to write words that would encourage others to hold on to that gold—that light and goodness—that’s inside them. To stay “new.” If we can stay gold, perhaps that which is dark will dissipate.

JDP: What a beautiful thought! Thank you so much, Ronda. Now I have a few questions for your heroine, Stacie Cox:

JDP: Thank you for joining us today, Stacie. I’m very excited to have you here. Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been studying music? Why did you choose to make that your major at BYU-Idaho?

STACIE: Thank you for inviting me, Ms. DiPastena. I feel really honored to be here. It’s interesting you asked me about music in relation to myself, because, while both my parents died when I was young—my father in a car accident, then later when I was thirteen, my mother from cancer—most people don’t know my mother was also a musician. She played the violin. Actually, the violin was my first instrument, and my mother and I used to play duets together in church. When it was time to start college, I considered a few other professions—law of all things!—but I finally settled where my heart knew I should be. Music connects me to so many people, especially my mother and Matt, that I’ll never give it up.

JDP: Do you have any other hobbies or interests?

STACIE: Oh, yes! I swim. I also love hiking in the mountains. And something I’m just beginning to realize is that I really enjoy working with children. Matt suggested I start a children’s choir. I’m seriously considering doing that.

JDP: My sister’s talked about starting a children’s choir someday. I wish you the best of luck with that goal! I know that your parents both died when you were young and that you were raised by an aunt and uncle. Were these relatives on your mother’s or father’s side? Did they have any children near your age? What was your relationship with them growing up?

STACIE: Aunt Kathy is my father’s oldest sister. She and Uncle Frank were never able to have children, so when I went to live with them after my mom died, I was like their only child.

JDP: You suffered other tragedies, in addition to your parents’ deaths, early in life. How did your aunt and uncle help you cope with your emotional turmoil? Or did they?

STACIE: They did a great job, actually. They always told me the truth, no matter how hard it was, yet at the same time they were always ready with a shoulder to cry on. I’m not sure I could have ever come to terms with my mother’s death without them.

The one thing they couldn’t change, though, was the way others treated me. Like Mrs. Smythe. She hated me. No matter how hard I worked to overcome my past mistakes, she tried to stop me. It was like I was constantly fighting the same battle over and over again. My aunt and uncle intervened when they could, but their efforts usually lead to more persecution. Even now, Mrs. Smythe finds ways to come after us.

JDP: Yes, she sounds like a dreadful woman. I’m so sorry to hear that she’s still hounding you after all this time. And speaking of dreadful women…when you tore off all alone over the foreign Canadian countryside in an attempt to rescue the child, Becka, from her kidnapper, Adreinne Doyle, what was going through your mind? You didn’t have any weapon with you. You were indeed very brave, but what were you planning to do if you caught up to her? Do you feel you were thinking clearly, or in retrospect were you acting on instinct or inspiration or something else?

STACIE: Honestly, Becka had no one else to help her. Yeah, I was terrified, and I knew I was in way over my head, but I didn’t think I had any other choice but to go after them.. At first, my only hope was Adrienne would leave Becka alone for a moment, just long enough for me to get her away from her, but after Becka’s mother begged me to save her child—well, could you have told her “no, I’m not prepared?”

 JDP: No, I suppose not. Okay, nobody gets out of an interview on JDP NEWS without tackling at least one historical question. J (Actually, consider this one question with two follow-ups.) Members of the LDS Church are renowned for their interest in tracing their family history. (I should know…my sister works for the Family History Library in Salt Lake City!) How far back have you traced your ancestry? If you’ve traced any of them out of the United States, what were their countries of origin?

STACIE: We came from England. And I hate to say this, but all I’ve done is fill out my own pedigree chart with the information my mother had copied from her mother. That act alone was pretty hard for me since so many of the women lived such a short time, but I’ll eventually get back to it.

JDP: Do you have any funny or heartwarming or simply interesting stories about any of your ancestors that you would like to share with us?

STACIE: The first Cox’s to join the Church were newlyweds from Boston. It was in the late 1860’s. When they came out West, they went by way of the new Continental Railroad. I don’t really know much else about their lives, but when I was a little girl, my parents and I used to pretend the people in our Christmas village were our ancestors. My dad once told me one of the little boys—he called him William Cox—used to wrap cardboard around his feet so he could ice skate on the pond. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I always liked that story.

JDP: You fall in love with your pianist, Matt Brennan, in a very short span of time—a single week’s choir tour in Victoria, Canada. What made you fall in love with him so quickly?

STACIE: Sorry, I didn’t mean to smile when you referred to Matt as my accompanist. Yes, he was that, but he was also so much more to me. He stood by me, helped me, believed in me when so many didn’t. To me, that’s what true love is, and that’s what won my heart. Even my best friend, Janice, doubted me more than he did. I suppose that’s why I realized I was in love with him during that week, but the truth was, I’d known him for most of the year, in class and such, so I already had a fairly good idea of who he was.

JDP: Finally, how are things now that you’re back in Rexburg, Idaho? Are you pushing ahead with your wedding, or do you still have cold feet?

STACIE: If it was only “cold feet” that made me resist Matt, I’d have got over that in a heartbeat. How could I not? You know, you’ve seen him! Matt’s both amazing and hunky, right?

No, my hesitancy wasn’t cold feet. It was concern about the future my children might face. I didn’t want them to grow up as I had done, so the only way I could ensure that wouldn’t happen was to not have them. To not marry. Little did I know Heavenly Father would take until I saved Becka to help me find hope. And Matt.

Oh! And we’re getting married in August. I’ll send you an invitation to my reception, if you’d like?

JDP: I’d love it! Thank you so much! Now what about Adrienne? I presume she’s been arrested and is being brought to trial for her crimes. Have you been following the court case? Can you update us on the case’s status, what defense, if any, Adrienne is pursuing, and what you think the odds are for a conviction?

STACIE: I’m sorry. I thought everyone knew about that. At least, there’s always something about her or Becka or Becka’s family in the Rexburg Journal. Adrienne Doyle did an awful thing, and Becka and her family are still trying to come to terms with what happened, but in a surprise turn of events, Doyle pleaded “No Contest.” I understand she used to be a policewoman. Maybe her scruples kicked in?

JDP: Not all of us live in Rexburg, Idaho, Stacie. You have many fans in many other states, so thank you for the update! Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us today. And do give all our best wishes to Becka and her family!

Missing, by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen, can be purchased in Deseret Bookstores and online at DeseretBook.com and Amazon.com.

Now, I promised a giveaway, didn’t I? How can you win a copy of Missing, by Ronda Gibbs Hinrichsen? By doing one of the following three things:

(1) Visit Ronda’s website to find out what Ronda’s favorite dessert is. Then email the answer to jdipastena@yahoo.com with “Missing #1” typed in the subject line. AND INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND MAILING ADDRESS.

(2) Visit Ronda’s blog to find out what Ronda’s “Writing Must Haves #1” is. (Hint: This is something I always struggle with myself!) Then email the answer to jdipastena@yahoo.com with “Missing #2” typed in the subject line. AND INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND MAILING ADDRESS.

(3) Ronda’s heroine, Stacie Cox, learned to play the violin at an early age. Email me at jdipastena@yahoo.com and tell me what your favorite musical instrument is. Type “Missing #3” in the subject line, and INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND MAILNG ADDRESS.

Please don’t combine your entries into a single email, or you may only be counted once for the drawing. Deadline for entries is February 12th, midnight PST. The winner will be announced here on JDP NEWS on February 13th.

Thanks and good luck!

For the FTC: Walnut Springs Press generously sent me a free copy of Missing for review. This has in no way influenced my comments above.

6 comments:

hopeandme said...

Whow! What an interview! I'm really impressed, Joyce. I can't wait to read this book and meet Stacie and her beau in person. I will be following your leads in the contest and hope I'm the winner.
barbara b

Nichole Giles said...

I've read Missing and agree, that it's a great book. Fun interview!

Nichole

Miss Mae said...

Rhonda, I want to know if that small child you saw in the car when the angry man walked away...did you find out if he was okay? He really wasn't abducted, was he? Oh, me. Now I'm going to be worried!

Wonderful interview with you and Stacie, and I've entered the contest too. :)

Ronda Hinrichsen said...

Miss Mae,
I didn't do anything. I talked myself out of it, telling myself I was being an overanxious, idiot with an overactive imagination. And yet, to this day, I still wonder, "WAS he a MISSING child?" I hope not.

Karin said...

Both interviews were very interesting. Many thanks.

Joan Sowards said...

Great interview. I look forward to reading Ronda's "Missing"