This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Eileen will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to five randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
Eileen, thanks for coming by It's Raining Books. Did you do any kind of research to determine the details of your characters’ lives / lifestyles?
I did a lot of research for Veiled Intentions. In fact, the whole book started because I started reading about and researching Islam. My boyfriend’s father (Ken) had made some remarks about not trusting anyone who was Muslim when he was visiting us. I tried to explain why as a Jew I felt it was extra important not to vilify an entire group of people based on their religion because of like that whole Holocaust thing. He called me naïve. My boyfriend stopped me before I called his father a bigot.
Over the next few months, Ken sent me weekly emails with links to all kinds of anti-Islamic propaganda. Now here’s one of the embarrassing parts of this story: I didn’t know how to argue back because I didn’t know anything about Islam. I had a knee-jerk reaction that we should all respect each other’s belief systems, but nothing more. I decided to educate myself.
I attended lectures. I read books. I talked with a friend who is Muslim. I went to her Mosque. I spent a lot of time on the Internet. I talked with a lot of high school students. I learned a lot, but ended up with even more questions. Writing the book helped me figure out how I felt about all those questions.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up mainly in Lincoln, Nebraska. We moved there when I was four years old. I left when I was eighteen. My experience growing up there formed some of Veiled Intentions as well. I often joke that being Jewish made me a minority in my high school, but it’s not really a joke. There was a lot of thinly veiled bigotry that was simply accepted. The last time I went to Lincoln was for my grandfather’s funeral in 1995. During the graveside service, three boys from a nearby junior high walked up to the grave, spit on the ground and performed Nazi salutes as they left. The boys were eventually arrested and did some kind of community service. In an interview in the newspaper with the mother of one of the boys, she said something about how her child had not been raised to act that way. My first reaction was that he most certainly had, that somewhere along the line he had gotten a very clear message that Jews were not people who needed to be respected. I worry that with all the anti-Islamic fervor that seems to go unchallenged in this country, we are sending that same message to our children about another group of people.
Did any real-life political incidents or maneuvering make it into the book?
One of the things I stumbled across while researching Islam was an incident that happened in my hometown. A Muslim teenager was accused of hitting a parked car and leaving the scene of the accident. The police response to the accusations ended up being more of a news story than the actual crime.
I started watching how certain stories hit the news and became huge disruptive things in a community. Everyone involved always seemed to have a personal agenda of some kind of another. Sometimes it would be a cause that they believed in. Sometimes it was chasing a story. Whatever the intention was would often be hidden behind a veil of vitriol or sentiment.
Many of these situations seemed to end up with various talking heads screaming at each other. The events polarize people and push them farther apart. As a novelist and a person, what I care about is how these things impact real people in their everyday lives. That’s what I wanted to examine while writing Veiled Intentions.
How did you get into writing?
I come from a family of storytellers. A huge number of my childhood memories center around my family sitting around the dinner table long after the meal was finished telling stories. We don’t hand out actual awards, but it’s a little competitive. The harsh truth about that is I would not be the winner. My sister Marian is undoubtedly our best storyteller. She has an innate sense of timing, uses dialogue with great effectiveness and can conjure sensory details like nobody’s business.
I am not the only published author in the family and my guess is we will spawn more as times goes on. That said, my own children are totally math and science-focused. I figure it’s their way of rebelling.
What do you consider your best accomplishment?
My best accomplishment as a person? Definitely my kids. I am constantly amazed at the spectacular human beings my two baby boys have become.
As a writer? I feel like my best accomplishment is an ongoing desire to keep improving, keep growing, keep pushing myself. Veiled Intentions was a big step for me. The subject matter is risky and somewhat controversial and the approach I took to it uses a more complicated narrative structure than what I’ve written before.
In June of 2013, I went back to school. I’m very close right now to getting my MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles. I want to constantly strive to be a better writer and a better person. That effort is probably the best thing about me and is my greatest accomplishment.
What is your favorite quote?
It’s kind of a long one from Teddy Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a writer?
It’s a tough business and I’m not a particularly tough person or much of a businessperson. I guess I would have a more stable existence in another profession. The problem is, I don’t want another profession. I actually considered quitting writing several years ago. I put it on the back burner and stopped working on new projects for a few months. I ended up getting terribly depressed. Being a writer has become too wrapped up in just being me. It’s not a sacrifice. It’s just who I am.
How did you come up with the title? Names?
Names and titles are super hard!! I’m usually quite a ways into writing a book before I come up with a title and this one was no exception. I think the title for Veiled Intentions came to me as I was talking with my boyfriend about the book and explaining how everyone had their own hidden reasons for what they were doing. Then the idea of hidden intentions suddenly seemed to work with the idea of the veil, which one of the characters in the book starts wearing at a certain point although in her case it is to make her intentions clear rather than hidden. I liked the irony of the real veil revealing intentions rather than hiding them while everyone else who appears to be open isn’t.
What do you think of “trailers” for books?
I think they’re fun. I love movie trailers, too. I love that an author can give a potential reader a little taste of the tone and feel of the book in a totally different medium. As writers, we’re so focused on words. Trailers let us try to express what’s special about our books with images and music and a whole different set of tools.
Do you have strange writing habits?
That’s so hard to answer! We all have our own processes that probably come with their own quirks. I definitely play way too much spider solitaire when I’m writing, but other than that, not really. I am always juggling a lot of different things. I’m a mom and a daughter. I have a boyfriend and a house. I have a job outside of writing. Right now, I’m also a student. I like to exercise on a regular basis. Writing time is hard to come by and I generally don’t have the extra minutes to have too many time-consuming rituals (outside of the spider solitaire). Where I get strange is probably in that non-writing time. Because my subconscious seems to always be noodling with whatever I’m working on, I’ll sometimes freeze in the middle of something because I’ve figured out how to solve a plot problem or had a terrific line of dialogue suddenly come to me. My family still laughs about the time that I was in the process of getting into my boyfriend’s truck when an idea hit me. I froze with my leg in the air in the Captain Morgan position from the rum commercials and could not be budged until I thought it through.
When Lily Simon finds cops in the lobby of the high school where she’s a guidance counselor, she’s not surprised: cops and adolescents go together like sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. But when the cops take Jamila, a Muslim student, into custody for a crime she didn’t commit, Lily’s high school becomes a powder keg.
Police think Jamila is responsible for a hit and run, and since she’s not talking, they have no choice but to keep her as the main suspect. And since the victim—a young soldier recently returned from Afghanistan—is lying unconscious in the hospital, the whole town is taking sides on whether or not Jamila’s arrest is religious persecution. Determined to find the truth, Lily teams up with a reporter to uncover what really happened the night of the hit and run.
Enjoy an excerpt:
Shelby went to her room, pulled the basket of old stuffed animals out of her closet, and dug down under the teddy bears and bunnies and puppy dogs until she found the bottle of vodka. She ran her hand up and down the cool, clear glass already starting to feel how it would calm her, steady her, heal her.
Maybe it didn’t have anything to do with her. Maybe it was all a coincidence. Maybe Miss Perfect Princess Jamila had really done something wrong and had to suffer the consequences like everyone else.
She got a juice glass from the cupboard, poured in a healthy slug of vodka and added orange juice. Then she drained the whole thing in one long gulp. She stashed the bottle of vodka, rinsed her glass and put it in the dishwasher, and started watching the episode of Survivor she’d DVRed. She floated on the couch, feeling warm and soft, like all the hard edges of the day had been somehow sanded off.
“Hey, sweetheart, how was school?” Her mom bustled in the front door, kicked off her shoes, and dumped her purse on the credenza by the front door.
Every day. How was school? Did you have a good day? What did you have for lunch? So many questions and none of them mattered. None of them meant anything.
“Fine.” Shelby didn’t look up from the TV.
“That’s it? Fine?” She stood there, hands on her hips, waiting.
“Yeah, Mom. Fine. That’s it.” Shelby felt her heart kick up a little. It always did that when she lied. She hated it. She pulled the blanket she was under up to her chin.
Her mother came over to the couch and sat down next to her. “You feeling okay, honey?”
Thank God, she’d popped that piece of chewing gum in her mouth five minutes before. No way would her mom smell the booze on her breath over the blast of watermelon and lime. “I’m fine, Mom. Just tired.”
Her mother brushed her forehead with her hand. “You look a little flushed. You sure you’re okay?”
Shelby rolled her eyes. “I’m fine, Mom.” If she only knew how far that was from the truth. Shelby was so far from fine, she wouldn’t be able to find it with a GPS.
About the Author:
Eileen’s alter ego, Eileen Rendahl, is the award-winning author of four Chick Lit novels and the Messenger series.
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