Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blog Tour: Touching the Clouds (Review & Interview)

She went looking for adventure . . . and found more than she bargained for.

In Bonnie Leon's newest novel, Touching the Clouds, pilot Kate Evans is looking for a future filled with adventure as an Alaskan bush pilot during the 1930s- all while running away from a past filled with pain.

Leon said she crafted the story, based in Alaska, because of her family heritage.

"My mother grew up on a homestead in the bush. There were no roads in and out of their place so her family relied upon bush pilots to deliver their mail and sometimes they traveled by air," Leon said. "She had great respect and affection for the pilots and spoke of them often."

Leon said her mother would often purchase books describing the life of Alaskan bush pilots. Those books eventually became part of Leon's personal collection.

"One day while reading about these courageous people a glimmer of a story flickered to life," she said. "Soon I was jotting down notes and before I knew it, I had my story."

Leon describes Touching the Clouds' main character, Kate Evans as an "adventurous and independent young woman with a pioneering spirit."

"When she leaves her home in Washington State to follow her dream of being an Alaskan bush pilot, she knows it will be an uphill battle," Leon explained. "But she never expected it to be quite like this.

"As the lone woman in a man’s world, she finds that contending with people’s expectations is almost as treacherous as navigating the wild arctic storms. When she crosses paths with a mysterious man living alone in the forbidding wilderness, she faces a new challenge. Can Kate break through the walls he has put up around his heart? And will fear keep her from realizing her dreams? "

While the book is centered on life as a bush pilot, it is not based upon a specific woman or pilot.

"Bush pilots flew in Alaska clear back in the 1920’s with open cockpit planes. I can’t imagine that," Leon said. "There were women who challenged the skies in the territory, but very few."

Diving into the novel
Leon said while she often becomes attached to her characters, she finds herself having "special" feelings for Nena and Lily - two native Alaskan characters - because they represent Leon's heritage.

Her favorite character, though, is Kate.

"I admire women who go after their dreams, even when the stakes are high," Leon said. "Kate takes a great risk and makes real life sacrifices to go after her dream. And even though she carries a burden that would ground others she doesn’t allow the past to shackle her. Instead she faces her greatest fears."
 
Ultimately, Leon hopes readers walk away from the novel, discovering two major ideas woven among the story lines - "chase after your dreams" and "running from heartaches will not resolve them."

"Don’t let fear or self-doubt stop you," Leon said. "Listen to the leading of the Lord rather than the voices in your head that discourage you, and then live according to His wishes.

"Wherever we go, we carry the sorrows of life with us," Leon continued. "Allow the Lord to heal your sorrows. He will replace grief with love and grace and set us back on our feet."

What's Ahead for the Series
This is the first book of what is expected to be a trilogy. Leon said the cast of characters introduced in Touching the Clouds will return in the second novel.

"Paul and Kate have only begun to grasp God’s greater plan for their lives," Leon explained. "The story is played out mostly in Alaska, but Kate makes a journey home to Yakima, Washington where she must face her greatest fear."

Lessons learned through writing Touching the Clouds
Throughout writing this novel, Leon said God taught her many lessons - including one about being tenacious and never giving up.

"I’ve always believed this and have tried to live that way, but while I worked through the pages of this book I was reminded how difficult it can be," Leon said. "While writing the book, everything in my life was changing. Heartaches abounded. Writing was difficult and  I knew the story was out of sync, but facing a deadline I pushed on and sent it to my editor.  It came back, needing major revisions.
 
"This is not something I’m used to contending with. But in the midst of painful circumstances, with my emotions strung tight I continued to work and to seek God’s guidance and strength. I felt a bit like Kate—pushing on, trusting God and believing He is in control.

"He is. And I feel good about the finished product, Touching the Clouds."

Who is Bonnie Leon?
Leon describes herself as an "open book" who tries to live life transparently.

"It’s so much easier to connect with people when I’m living genuinely," she explains. "The bottom line is I’m a child of God. And just like all believers I’m a sinner saved by grace, a sojourner here on earth.

"My family and I live simply, day-to-day like everyone else. We love the country and live on a small farm. Family is important;  the most precious possession is one another. The best thing God allowed me to do is be a mother. And now, I’m blessed by my loving grandchildren."

What I Thought - The Review
When I pick up an historical novel, I typically look for two things - a subject that will interest me historically, and well, a well-written novel without an unrealistic plot.

I found this and more in Touching the Clouds. In this novel, Leon has crafted a world of Alaskan bush pilots that has given me a new picture of the Alaskan frontier.

While I know this world doesn't match current-day Alaska, it's made me want to travel to the state to see some of the sites - mountains & snow - that exist there. I enjoyed seeing the state through the eyes of Kate.

Many of the scenes made me want to research/learn more about life in Alaska - which to me is an other successful hallmark of a historical novel.

On a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, I give this novel a four. The characterization was awesome, the storyline tight, and well, some of the plot twists kept me turning the pages for more. It's definitely made me look forward to the release of book two.

About Bonnie Leon
Bonnie Leon is the bestselling author of more than ten historical fiction novels. She stays busy teaching women's Bible studies and speaking at writing seminars and conventions. She and her husband, Greg, live in Oregon. Visit Leon's website for more info!

Want to read more by Leon? Click here.

It's A Contest
About the Contest:
In Touching the Clouds, Book 1 in Bonnie’s Alaskan Skies series, bush pilot Kate Evans pursues her dream of flight against all odds.

Now, to celebrate the release of Touching the Clouds, Bonnie Leon and her publisher, Revell books, is offering one (1) Grand Prize winner the chance to be a pilot for a day and touch the clouds for themselves!

Enter the Take Flight Contest to Win!
The Prize Package
The Winner of our Take Flight Contest will receive 

a once in a lifetime flying experience, including:
> A 40 minute flight lesson with a FAA Certified Instructor
> A 25 page eBook covering all the details of your flight
> A training video to prepare you for your flight experience
> 2 Ground School lessons credited toward your pilot's license
> A pilot's log book to keep record of your flight time
> A certificate of accomplishment for flight completion
> A 6 month subscription to a leading flight training magazine
> A CD copy of The Airplane Flying Handbook
> A CD copy of The Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

How To Enter:
Visit the contest page on Bonnie's Website!

Online Resources
Find it at Amazon
Find it at Barnes & Noble
Find it at CBD
Read an excerpt online
Use a Reading Group's Guide

About The Publisher
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. For more information, visit http://www.revellbooks.com/.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.
 

2 comments:

  1. Hi Kaylea,

    I really like how you crafted this interview--it flows very naturally. Well done.

    And thank you for the review. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book.

    I'm hard at work on book three and can't wait to write the closing scenes. I think you'll like them.

    Grace and peace to you,

    Bonnie

    www.bonnieleon.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I enjoyed Touching the Clouds very much! Bonnie Leon's book was intriguing and made me smile!

    I thought this novel compared very well with others in the world of Christian historical fiction. It had numerous tricks and turns that kept me turning one page after another well into the night.

    I wrote my own review that can be found here:
    www.tracysbooknook.com

    -Tracy

    ReplyDelete

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