Welcome, Lillian! It’s so great to have you here today. Tell us a little about yourself.
Lillian: My husband and I live in a small town in Ohio. I mean small—we only have 1 traffic light. I grew up in the area, but moved to the big city of Cleveland for many years. Like Dorothy, I love being home again.
Where did you grow up and attend school?
Lillian: I grew up in rural Ohio, near Wooster. It’s a farming community. Most of my books have a similar setting. Sometimes I actually use the names of local communities, other times I use a fictional name
I received my Bachelor’s Degree from Akron University and my Master’s Degree from Kent State. Then I moved away to the big city of Cleveland to work for many years until I retired from Cleveland Schools in 2007.
What is your favorite genre to read? To write?
Lillian:Mostly I read and write Christian mystery and suspense with a little horror thrown in. PUZZLE HOUSE is a complete departure from what I usually write. I would simply classify it as Christian Fiction, like the book WAR ROOM.
Tell us about PUZZLE HOUSE.
Lillian: I call it the book I never wanted to write!
Really? Can you explain that?
Early on in the story, the main character (Rachel Summers) discovers she has brain tumors due to a genetic condition called Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF 2).
Lillian: That’s exactly what I said when I was diagnosed with NF 2 and bilateral brain tumors in 2012. Don’t gasp! The tumors are almost always non-cancerous but as I like to say that hasn’t stopped them from wreaking havoc on my health and my life.
And that is why I say Puzzle House is the book I never wanted to write. I would never have written it if I hadn’t developed the brain tumors. But I do have NF 2 and the brain tumors and Puzzle House is one of the good things that’s come from it.
What inspired you to write this novel in particular?
Lillian: Like Rachel, I have Neurofibromatosis Type 2. I wanted to show that even when you have a serious chronic illness, God can use you to help others.
What is Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2)?
Lillian: It’s a rare genetic disease that allows tumors to grow anywhere there are nerves, but most people with NF2 develop brain tumors, which I did. The tumors affect both your hearing and your balance which can affect your health in significant ways. It’s been a difficult journey but God is good. There’s a lot I can’t do these days because of the brain tumors, but I can still write!
Tell me a bit about your main characters.
Lillian: Rachel Summers was all about Rachel Summers until the day she crashed into a semi-truck. While in a coma she has a very special visitor that asks a very special question. Do you want to be healed or to be a healer? Her answer changes the course of her life as well as many others.
What’s the setting for PUZZLE HOUSE?
Lillian: It starts out in the icy cold city of Cleveland Ohio but moves on to the warmth of Georgia.
Do you have personal experience with any of the events in your story, and if so, could you share about that?
Lillian: Like Rachel I have neurofibromatosis Type 2 which is a genetic condition that causes bilateral brain tumors. They are usually benign meaning non-cancerous but believe me when I say they aren’t benign meaning harmless!
I was diagnosed a little over 5 years ago. In that time I’ve had two Gamma Knife surgeries, 3 rounds of chemotherapy, and months and months of being on steroids. I’m completely deaf in one ear and partially in the other. I also have severe balance issues that make it hard for me to walk or do lots of daily activities that other people take for granted.
It’s been quite a journey but even as my health declines my faith in God grows stronger and stronger. And that has been a blessing.
What’s your day job? Tell us a little about it.
Lillian: I retired as a speech therapist from a large city school district in Ohio, then spent several more years working part-time in smaller, rural districts near where I live. Between the two jobs, I don’t think there is any type of child I haven’t worked with at least once.
How did your education or previous career impact your journey to publication and where you are now?
Lillian: My day job was as a school speech pathologist, better known as a speech therapist. So for more than 30 years I listened…and listened…and listened some more. I think it helped me in a lot of areas but certainly with writing dialogue of my characters.
What do you want readers to take away from PUZZLE HOUSE?
Lillian: That God can and does still do miracles but the miracle we want isn’t always the miracle we need and God knows the difference.
What is your writing process?
Lillian: I never know what is going to happen in my story on any given writing day. It’s as if my mind is a movie screen and I watch that day’s events and then I write it.
When I start a new story I usually have a clear picture of the main character in mind and what obstacle he/she will face, but anything goes after that. If I’m writing and start to feel bored—then I kill someone or blow something up. And that way it’s a surprise to me and to my readers.
Do you have a favorite or “life” verse? Why is that one important to you?
Lillian: Romans 8: 28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whoa have been called according to his purpose.
After I was diagnosed with the brain tumors, the treatments and the side effects wreaked havoc on my health as well as the tumors themselves! When I was at my lowest points, I kept repeating this verse over and over. It kept me trusting God and it kept me in peace and joy in spite of how bad I felt at the time.
Looking back I can now see how God used many of the past events in my life to prepare me for this struggle of a lifetime and for that I’m very grateful.
What are you working on now?
Lillian:I’m working on a sequel to PUZZLE HOUSE. It’s called The David Years and without giving too much of the plot of Puzzle House away, it follows one of the characters you meet in PUZZLE HOUSE.
Are there any other authors in your family?
Lillian:Actually there is! My nephew, Chad H. Young, is a missionary for CRU, formerly Campus Crusades For Christ. A few years ago, he decided to give writing a try, nonfiction. I’m so proud of him—he has two books out and is about to have a third published, Authenticity: Real Faith in a Phony World and Wrestling with Faith, Love, and Gators: Overcoming Barriers to Fully Loving God.
How did you get started writing? How old were you? What made you want to start?
Lillian: I started writing when I was 40—a late starter. (This is a pretty good story.) I was feeling the way a lot of 40 year-olds feel. Unsettled, not sure if I wanted to keep teaching. I was watching a TV show, probably Oprah. Her guest recommending writing your own obituary and putting in outlandish things that you’ve never done.
So I did. As I reread the obituary, it said that I was a multi-published author. What? I’d never written any fiction even though I was an avid reader. The most I’d ever written was some poetry years before.
When I read those words, a spark ignited inside me.
And I started writing!
It took me a year to finish my first novel and it was horrible. I made every mistake that writing “experts” say are no-no! As bad as it was, I knew I wanted to keep writing and I did!
If you could offer a word of encouragement to an aspiring author, what would you say?
Lillian:DON’T GIVE UP! It took me 15 years to get a traditional contract, and now I have almost 20 books published! If I can do it, so can you. But not if you give up your dream!
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Lillian:My website is www.lillianduncan.net and I have a devotional blog at www.PowerUpWithGod.com My blog is TIARAS & TENNIS SHOES at www.lillian-duncan.com. I’m also on Twitter as @LillianDuncan and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lillian.k.duncan
What an awesome interview, Lillian! Thank you so much for being here today.
Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.
Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in the middle of Ohio Amish country with her husband and a menagerie of pets. After more than 30 years working as a speech pathologist for children, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.
Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us. To learn more about Lillian, you may visit her at www.lillianduncan.net or www.lillian-duncan.com. She also has a devotional blog at www.PowerUpWithGod.com.