Spotlight on Terri Kraus and Renovation
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After eleven co-authored books with husband, Jim, Terri Kraus has added her award-winning interior designer’s eye to her world of fiction. Terri has worked as a professional designer for 25 years. She has also directed women’s ministries at her church for the past 6 years and has traveled extensively internationally. She makes her home in Wheaton, Illinois, USA, with her husband, son, Elliot, miniature schnauzer, Rufus, and Siberian cat, Petey.
Visit Terri Kraus at her website: http://www.terrikraus.com/.
by Terri Kraus
Published by David C. Cook
ABOUT THE BOOK
Ethan Willis has made a career out of restoring old houses like the Carter Mansion, so he's an expert with doors and windows. Tragically widowed and left with a young son, he's done the best he could, but now that Chase has become a teenager, that best somehow isn't quite good enough.
For his part, Chase doesn't know what he'd do without baseball, his best friend Elliott and the secret hideaway even his dad doesn't know about. What he does know is that the reporter lady who suddenly started chatting with his dad can't be a good thing.
In a small town where everyone knows everything, does an outsider a young, cute, ambitious reporter-kind-of-outsider like Cameron Dane even have a prayer of getting to know the handsome but moody builder? Does it matter that they both hold secrets from their pasts? And can Chase ever be freed from the hidden guilt of his mother's death? Only time, and a special kind of patience, will tell.
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1. This is your first solo novel after writing for years with your husband, Jim. What gave you the inspiration for this story and how did you find the experience of launching out on your own?
Writing a novel set in the world of the restoration of old buildings has always been a dream of mine. The idea of renovation is in my family's blood. I'm an interior design professional. My brothers are rehabbers. My husband, Jim, and I have survived the renovation of three houses.
Many readers are probably, like me, HGTV fans that watch the many shows about fixing up old houses. You find yourself glued to the glimpses of contractors and owners engaged in the process. You live vicariously through the rehabbing, renovating, and restoring.
I've always been captivated by old buildings. Poring over books about art, architectural styles, and decoration from all over the world has always been one of my favorite pastimes. As I've traveled internationally and visited many of the places I've studied independently and in the course of my education in design, I've become even more passionate about restoration. I can talk forever about the importance or preserving buildings that are testaments to the creative impulse, the hours of painstaking effort, the motivation and dedication of artists, designers, craftsmen and artisans from previous eras. All were, no doubt, imperfect people—but people used as instruments in God's hands to create perfectly rendered works of art that endure and can stir our hearts so many, many years later.
For me, there's something quite magical about walking into an old place, with all its history, where so much life has been lived, where so many events and significant moments have taken place—the happy ones, the sad ones, and all the everyday moments and hours in between. Imagining who might have inhabited a house, how the family came together, the love they shared, their conversations, the tears and laughter, is irresistible to me. I find inspiration as I imagine how they celebrated and grieved, how they overcame adversity, how they survived tragedy, then moved on to enjoy life within the old walls once again.
Having my own series to write has been a bit scary at times, but a great experience nonetheless. Jim and I work wonderfully together, having very complementary skills, so it's different than I'm used to. He'll always be my best critique partner, so it’s been good to have his input. He's great with dialog, so that's very helpful.
2. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Ethan, Chase and Cameron? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?
Having worked as an interior designer for 25 years, I've been involved in a lot of restoration/renovation projects. I know well the upheaval, the despair of having no control, the agonizing over style decisions, the budget constraints, the disagreements between contractor and owner, and the emotional rollercoaster of unexpected problems and unanticipated gifts along the way. Together my clients and I have accepted big disappointments, celebrated tiny successes, and experienced the inexpressible elation at seeing what was once in ruins—old, broken, useless—become, with all its quirks, a beautiful, completely renewed, and usable place for people to share life again.
Looking back on all those projects, I can echo the sentiment in the opening line of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." As the owner of the Carter Mansion in the book, these are the struggles and triumphs CeCe experiences. As the builder/contractor, Ethan struggles with all of the problems and victories on the reverse end. CeCe is Italian, so I enjoyed giving her some of my own ethnic characteristics. Ethan and Cameron, the other two main characters, are a conglomeration of people I have worked with, and their journey back to God through all the pain and secret keeping caused by tragedies in their lives is their own entirely. Ethan's son Elliot does reflect some of the character traits of our son Elliot, and that was fun to weave into this book.
3. What themes exist in Renovation that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?
I love the metaphor of restoration, which is why I came up with the idea for the Project Restoration series—stories that would follow both the physical restoration of a building and emotional/spiritual restoration of a character.
After all, God is in the business of restoring lives—reclaiming, repairing, renewing what was broken and bringing beauty from ashes. I know, because I've seen his renovation firsthand. For many years, I've worked in women's ministries. I've seen many women—as well as the men and children they love—deal with scars from their past that shape their todays and tomorrows. They all long for restoration—to live joyfully and productively once again—but that also requires forgiveness. Forgiveness of others (whether they deserve it or not) and, perhaps most importantly, forgiveness of oneself in order to be healthy and available to God. Clinging to past hurts or "unfairness," hostility, anger, grudges, resentment, bitterness, or allowing abuse to alter your self-worth renders your life virtually useless.
Unforgiveness shapes your perception of yourself, your outlook on life, the kind of relationships you have, and keeps you in "stuck" mode. It leaves you in a dark, emotionally paralyzing, spiritually debilitating, physically draining state and causes so much unnecessary pain…even addiction.
Yet God himself stands and waits, extending the gift of restoration. The light of his love shines on all those dark places deep within us, exposing what needs his healing touch. This is the type of restoration I've become passionate about too. For when our souls are gloriously freed through God's renovation, we become whole, useful, and able to extend the forgiveness we have experienced to others. Then individuals, families, churches, and entire communities can be transformed!
Perhaps there are readers who have an event in their past they need to let go of. It is my hope and prayer that by reading the book some will experience the renovation that awaits them through saying yes to God’s invitation of heart restoration…and the life-transforming joy that will follow.
4. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?
I think he most difficult were the heart-wrenching scenes, because it’s sometimes difficult to strike the right balance of conveying the emotion without becoming overly sentimental and "sappy." It's also difficult to know how to be sure to convey the theme without overdoing it. My favorite parts to write are, of course, all the design features of the renovation and the historical details of the house.
5. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?
Book 2 of the Project Restoration Series comes out in October.
Single-mom Leslie Ruskin and her 5-year-old daughter, Ava, are starting over in a new town—Butler, Pennsylvania—where her ancestors once lived, after a devastating divorce turned their world upside-down. As Leslie tries to provide a stable life for little Ava, she struggles to manage her own anxiety. She buys a landmark building in the historic area of town, which she is strangely drawn to. As the new owner of the Midlands Building, with its architecturally stunning first floor, Leslie is in need of a master carpenter to renovate its neglected interior. Jack Kenyon seems to be the perfect man for the job. He's starting over, too, after leaving Franklin, Pennsylvania, where he worked for Ethan Willis on the restoration crew of the Carter Mansion. But Jack is struggling to master his own demons. Haunted by loneliness, his past failures, and the lost relationship with his own young daughter, Jack finds it difficult to maintain his sobriety. As the Midlands Building is transformed from the run-down former home of a locksmith shop, with its own secrets, into a vibrant café/bistro, the relationship between Leslie and Jack becomes the catalyst in their journey towards the renewal that their lives so desperately need…and unlocks the love they are destined to discover.
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Thank you, Terri, for being in the spotlight with us.
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