Marlo Schalesky is the award winning author of nine books, including the Christy Award winning Beyond the Night and ACFW Book of the Year Veil of Fire. She’s had articles published in various Christian magazines, including Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman, Decision, Moody Magazine, and Discipleship Journal. She contributed to Dr. Dobson’s Night Light Devotional for Couples, Tyndale’s third Book of Devotions for Kids, and Discipleship Journal’s 101 Small Group Ideas.
A graduate of Stanford University, Marlo earned her Masters in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. She lives in Central California with her husband and six children.
What sparked your writing journey? Which came first fiction or non-fiction?
Fiction came first, but really it all started with a poem I wrote on the bus on my way home from school when I was thirteen years old. I wrote about an old tree, forlorn and desolate, standing alone in a field. I read that poem at every recess, tweaked it, polished it, and for the first time, felt the thrill of how the written word can convey profound beauty. That day, I fell in love with writing.
Shortly after that, I told my mother (with all the angst of a newly-turned teenager), “I will just die if I don’t write!” So naturally when I grew up I decided to get my degree in Chemistry. And, oddly enough, I didn’t die. I enjoyed chemistry. But always that desire to write was with me, in the back of my mind, saying “Someday, someday.”
Someday finally came in 1993. I started writing articles for various magazines and putting out proposals for book projects. I thought it would be easy to get my first book published, but alas, it took years of writing and honing my craft (six years, in fact). And more than that, it took giving up my dream entirely. For me, I had to come to a place in my heart where I didn’t have to write to be content. I had to let go of that strong desire born at thirteen years old and embrace God’s will for me whether that will included writing or not. Only then, only when my dream had given way to God’s, was I offered a contract by Crossway Books for my first published book in 1999.
Sometimes God sends us down an unexpected path in life, but one that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?
My whole life is a Divine Detour, but nothing more than my journey through infertility. When I was young, I had a Plan with a capital P! I’d get married to a wonderful man, we’d have three children (either two boys and a girl, or two girls and a boy—wow, look how flexible I was! ;-)) all before I turned thirty-one, and then we’d all live happily ever after. By the time I turned thirty-one, I had indeed married my wonderful husband, but instead of three kids, we’d been on a ten-year journey through infertility and had no kids at all. The following ten years would be filled with (for a total of twenty) tests and treatments and seemingly endless procedures, some successful but most not. I would also go through six miscarriages in the midst of infertility.
But through it all, I would grow and learn enough to see the story of Mary, Jesus’ mother, with new eyes. I would find my journey in hers, and discover God in new and breath-taking ways . . . I would come to a place where I could write Wrestling with Wonder.
And, in a crazy twist, God would also bless me with six children in the journey through infertility. And in that journey, the only number of children I would never have is three, the number I had originally planned (daughters #3 & 4 were twins, so I went directly from two kids to four kids, skipping three altogether—that’s God’s sense of humor right there!).
You’ve never seen Mary, or her God, like this before! Mary’s journey was transformational for me, and I think it will be for readers too. It seems that in our culture we either deify Mary or we ignore her altogether, but the truth is, she’s a lot like you and me. Her journey with God reveals so much about our own journeys. It shows us God in ways we may have never seen Him before.
After all, everyone wants to be highly favored by God. And yet, like Mary, we face hardships, life’s unexpected twists and turns, and times when God seems absent. What do we do with this apparent discrepancy? We walk with Mary through her journey, and let her and her God, walk with us in ours.
In the end, this book invites readers to recapture their hope, restore their souls, and renew their vision of a passionate and breath-taking God. It encourages them to experience a walk of faith that is vibrant in the face of disappointment, a relationship that is dynamic, alive—wondrous! It says, “Come, join the adventure of being highly-favored of God!”
God often uses our work to teach us something. What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?
This book changed me, transformed me, at the deepest levels. And it wasn’t because I saw Mary more clearly, it was because I saw God—vivid, beautiful, perplexing . . . and so unlike the bland prayer-answerer-santa-in-the-sky that we often believe Him to be. Through wrestling with Mary’s story, and my own in the context of hers, I encountered a God who blew away my expectations. I found Him in my own heartaches, in the life’s-gone-awry moments of those close to me, in tears of a woman who lived thousands of years before me.
When I sat with her in a dirty, stinky stable, when I raced back to Jerusalem, panting with fear over a lost son, when I stood at a crowded doorway and heard Him say, “Who are my mother and my brothers?,” when I knelt with her at the foot of a cross and listened to His breath stop as the sky turned black as pitch . . . I found God in the dirty, stinky, fearful, hurting, black-as-pitch places in my life too. And I hope, I pray, that readers will take this journey with Mary and me and discover God in those places too, those places in their own lives where they never expected Him to be.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
Starbucks decaf Pumpkin Spice Latte. Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen all the posts on Facebook about how it’s bad for you, but I don’t care. It reminds me of warm fires, cozy fall evenings, and all the beautiful tastes and colors of autumn . . . and besides, it’s delicious.
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
Don’t I wish!! I love music, but I can’t play an instrument and even sing really, really badly. Sigh. The rest of my family is filled with musicians, though. My husband plays trombone and guitar and leads worship. My kids play piano and also flute, violin, trumpet, and clarinet (one kid per orchestral instrument!). And happily, none of them inherited their mom’s ear—they all sing beautifully, even the three-year-old.
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
Oooo, I want to be a Michael Card song! I want to be a song that reveals Jesus in deeper ways and makes connections in the Bible that are not easily seen. I want to be a song rich with sounds of guitar and cello, a touch of mystery, a touch of reverence, and a soaring portion of joy . . . something that communicates the wildness and wonder of life with Jesus!
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
Since the exhausted mother of six isn’t one of the options . . . I’d like to be the mysterious woman behind dark glasses (but that’s probably just the introvert in me talking).
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
Ha! Are we sure we have room for this question?!!? Okay, get ready . . . I have eight horses, six cats, two parakeets, one rabbit, one rat, one dog, three chinchillas, five goldfish, and one lonely betta . . . currently. (Note: Critter numbers may change without notice, especially if I attend yet another adoption event for rescue animals . . . to my husband’s chagrin.) So, there is a lot of poop scooping that goes on around here!
But we love our pets. When you have six kids, you have to have a lot of pets too—that’s in the rule book. But of all these twenty-eight (oh my, are there really twenty-eight?!), my favorite is my horse, Jewel. She’s half-Arabian, half-Fox-Trotter, eighteen year old chestnut mare, and she and I love to run the trails (bareback) on our property with our hair flying behind us and nuthin’ but joy in our hearts. Ah, there’s nothing better, and she loves it just as much as I do.
Thank you, Marlo! It’s great to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
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For more information about Marlo, visit her website.
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