“I’m like an old house, run-down and falling apart,” she said, smiling at me from across the table. We had a good laugh at her analogy of aging – she’s a young 88-year-old at heart, but the mind and body are not cooperating so well these days. She struggles with balance and failing eyesight. She loses her train of thought in mid-sentence, and often forgets the simple things. In spite of it all, she maintains a sweet, positive outlook that is nothing short of amazing. Oh, how I love my Mama!
Recently, our conversation took a turn for the serious and left me feeling like I needed to hold onto her a little tighter – for fear that she might leave me sooner than later. “This old house is going to be traded for a mansion in Heaven one of these days,” she said, matter-of-factly.
Today, my grip is firm and my reluctance to let her go is immense. I’ve bargained shamelessly with God, reminding him that I need her more than he does. At the end of the day, I know I’ll have to relinquish my hold and let her have her mansion. But, for now, I’ll cherish every moment that God will allow me to have on this side of Heaven. ~ Deborah L. Norris
Deborah L. Norris is the author of the biographical fiction novel:
The House Guest
Deborah Norris was born in Northern California but spent the majority of her growing up years in Boise, Idaho. She has written hundreds of short stories and articles on health, emotional wellness, family, and cultural history. Norris’s novel, The House Guest, captures in colorful fashion the actual events, cultural mindsets and obvious proclivities surrounding her own Scandinavian family and personal life experiences. Deborah’s expressive writing style quickly engages her readers and encourages them to sit back and enjoy an often nostalgic, magical journey. She and her husband Quincy have grown children and several delightful grandchildren. They are happily retired in beautiful Boise, Idaho where Deborah continues a passion for writing.
Interview Q & A
What inspired you to write your first book? I consider myself most fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend so much time with my Scandinavian family throughout the years – especially the older generation. I would listen for hours to their beautifully told tales of life in Norway and then how they slowly transitioned to life in America once they emigrated. By the time I was twelve, I knew that I would someday write a book about their colorful and spirited lives. They were my true inspiration.
How did you come up with the title? My family’s big, two-story Victorian house in Nebraska was the inspiration for not only the book title, but also the setting. They always had house guests, and everyone was welcome.
How much of the book is realistic? The events which occurred in The House Guest are primarily factual, derived from the written and oral recollections of family members. Names were changed, but the general account is a fairly accurate compilation of their respective stories.
What books have most influenced your life? Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup, just to name a few.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? Maya Angelou, of course. I love her many works, but most of all, I love her unique, overall perspective on life.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? Absolutely. When it happens, I put my hands up slowly and step away from the computer. Creativity requires inspiration. If my writing has hit a plateau then I need to refuel my inspiration. The most inspiration-building activities I can engage in are conversing with positive, faith-filled people and going for a walk to take in the awesomeness of nature and my surroundings. Most importantly, I don’t stress over so-called writer’s block. Creativity and inspiration always return, and sometimes a break is exactly what is most needed.
Do you write an outline before every book you write? Yes, and along with a fairly extensive outline, I pre-determine chapter titles and the ending before beginning the actual content writing of the novel.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? Maggie Davis is a gentle soul, but also has a determined side, as well. She has endured tragic circumstances, yet remains true to herself and to her love of life. Maggie is not the most notable character in the book, but she certainly is the one who creates the atmosphere for life to happen.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? My best time of day is early morning, after a cup of coffee, and following a little quiet time. I write when I’m inspired, generally a few pages per day.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand? I usually keep a notebook handy for jotting down thoughts and ideas when I’m away from my computer. It’s easy to transfer those writings into my book outline on the computer when I’m ready to formulate a chapter.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews? Of course my favorite reviews are good ones. But, I certainly don’t lose sleep over a mediocre review. It’s going to happen. I will say that I don’t care for one-liner reviews, whether they’re good or bad. My thought is, if you’ve taken the time to read a book and intend to do an honest review, then put some thought into why you like or dislike the read.
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview. ~ EBReviews
Deborah L. Norris’s The House Guest, is a warm and uniquely rich story that shares the depths of family bonds and friendships, joys and sorrows, life and death. This book follows a widow, Maggie, throughout her life from birth to after death, giving readers a full glance into her laughs, tears, thoughts and everything in between. We watch, in a front row seat, as she deals with losing those closest to her, raising her daughter, Jenna, putting up with ungrateful freeloaders, and even finding love again. But she doesn’t do it alone! All throughout this book, we are introduced to some amazingly, well-developed characters whom anyone would grow to love. Readers will get a clear sense of what each characters bring to the book, whether it is warmth, laughter, love or greed. Each of the characters stood out on their own, but I’ve reserved a couple of them as my favorites; those being Lee, Noah and Anna. And who wouldn’t love a pet like Lobos! Lee is a clear favorite who made me laugh on too many occasions with her witty humor, perspectives and slamming doors. Noah burrowed deeply into my heart because even through his past, he still came out a hard-worker and sweetheart. Anna is such a gentle-loving soul whom reminds me so much of my own grandmother and for that, she will always be a favorite. Another thing The House Guest offered was the quotes by the author in the beginning of each chapter. My favorite quote being, “The earth graciously supplies enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but there will never be enough to satisfy every man’s greed.”
Overall, this book had me feeling as though I was sitting at the table with them sharing their conversations, shedding tears as I felt their grief, laughing along with them and wanting to take a bite of those delicious sounding oatmeal cookies! I was thoroughly engaged with the book and would highly recommend to any and all who enjoy laughing and sharing conversations with family and friends at any meal! ~ EBReviews
The old house was nothing at all like what she had described to me through the years. From her vivid recollections, I saw in my mind a lovely, well-kept home with spacious rooms and beautiful furnishings. According to her, it was a glorious place that remained alive with the laughter of children and happy conversation around the kitchen table. Now I stood in the doorway of this dilapidated structure, and found it all but difficult to disguise my shock. She walked slowly into the rundown keeper of her childhood memories, and raised her head as if to draw in the yesteryear aroma of homemade bread cooling on the kitchen counter. She smiled with utter delight, her hands clasped tightly to her chest. It was in this moment I realized she had described precisely what she would always remember. ~ Deborah L. Norris
The House Guest by Deborah L. Norris follows the life of Maggie Davis, a middle-aged widow living in a large Victorian home in 1950s Nebraska with her daughter. The house also doubles as a bed and breakfast, so new boarders come in and out to gather around Maggie’s kitchen table for conversation about life and the latest gossip. As Maggie is still recovering from her husband’s tragic death, she has a lot to contend with in her own life, but she’s also a keen observer of her visitors. A scheme to swindle Maggie out of her property leads to a striking climax in which we learn there’s more to Maggie than meets the eye.
The House Guest is all about relationships, big and small – the town of Tilden has no shortage of drama. Given that the novel takes place in the early 1950s, it harkens back to a time before the internet, and when television was just starting – so conversation with family and friends was a major source of information and entertainment. It’s a pleasant reminder of yesteryear, and really does read like a time capsule of a certain era. Deborah’s description of the house also reveals a sturdiness that seems lost to the transience of modern life. It’s a quiet, old-fashioned novel – comforting in its calm attention to detail.
Though the novel is a period drama, it also shows people’s timeless and universal humanity. Each person who visits Maggie has a novel’s worth of story of their own, making The House Guest a lively and entertaining literary read focusing both on the small details of people’s lives and the big issues that shape us. ~ Lysa Grant, SPR