Today I’m going to do something every writer should love. I’m going to interview a character from my newest novel, One Among Men. Why should every novelist love this? Because it’s the best way to get to know your character as you write the book. The crazy thing is, I’ve already published One Among men and yet I’ve discovered even more about this young woman today then when I first wrote her.
Take a look …
First, tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Samantha Hart and I am the resident director of a 500-person dormitory, Calvert Hall, at Maryland State University.
Isn’t that an all-male dorm?
Um, well … yes.
Don’t you have to live there?
Ummmm … How’d you get that job?
Actually, I’d interviewed for the all-female dorm, but they didn’t offer it to me. The Calvert vacancy came up suddenly, and I needed a way to pay for my graduate-school classes, so when I was offered that building <Samantha shrugs> I figured why not. I’d have my own apartment with its own bathroom. I didn’t think about the fact that the guys would be roaming the halls, coming in and out of the public men’s rooms dressed only in a shower towel. I just knew I needed a job and someone was willing to give me one.
Other than the fact that you are a lone woman living with 500 college guys, tell us three things about yourself that would surprise our readers.
Let’s see … I should warn you, my life hasn’t been pretty. You ready?
<Connie nods her head>
<Connie nods again>
Okay. Here you go …
· My mother was murdered in a drug bust gone bad,
· My last boyfriend was an abusive drug addict, and …
· I rebelled against God after my mother’s death until just last year, when I dove all-in to a new Christian faith. Hopefully, I’ll make better choices now … and be able to tell others about my wonderful Creator who sent His son to wipe away all the other junk I did before.
Wow! So glad things have turned around for you. Do you have any career aspirations?
I am currently working toward a graduate degree in psychology. I hope to help women who’ve been abused so they can know they deserve better than that. Although sometimes I feel I’m running against the wind with these plans, like maybe God is setting up a road block. In fact, I couldn’t figure out how I was given the all-male building instead of my colleague, Tiffany Lundgren. After all, my resume demonstrates my focus in women’s issues. She’s studying College Student Personnel, and yet was placed in the all-female dorm.
<Connie taps her chin>That is interesting.
What’s the quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?
I don’t know about quirky, but the night of the multi-cultural program seemed filled with unusual opportunities. First, one of my resident assistants, Kadhi, asked me to wear his mother’s sari to represent his country of origin, India. Do you know what a sari is? It’s a long silk cloth you wrap around your body and fasten with pins. It’s beautiful!!! But not particularly practical on a blustery March evening. Still, it did get the notice of … uh … <she blushes> never mind.
After showing up in that, Kwan, another resident assistant, wanted me to taste some native Korean fare. I agreed before I knew what it was. Let’s just say, some animals are not meant to be seen in a chafing dish.
Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
My day usually includes lectures, study, research, homework, office hours and various staff meetings. During office hours, I meet with residents who have complaints or disciplinary issues needing punishment. The staff meetings throughout the week are endless. I’m required to meet with each member of my six-person staff, then the staff as a whole. Additionally, I need to meet with my boss, and then my boss and the other RDs of the community. My favorite meetings <Samantha smirks> are the meetings to schedule meetings. Those kind of remind me of the forms we have to prove we filled out the other forms. Bureaucracy at its best.
However, sometimes this monotony is broken up with a good-ole-fashioned drug bust. Ugh! Which means I have to play prosecutor against the student at a Resident Life Judicial Board Hearing. <she grimaces> Fun!
When did things change dramatically in your life?
There have been two major shifts in my life. The first was when my mother died. I was fourteen and just beginning to “blossom into womanhood” as she used to say, looking me over, a gentle smile on her face. My mom was a woman of great faith, and yet God let her die. Not just die, but be murdered. I never understood that. I still don’t, exactly. But at least I trust God enough to know His ways are always better than mine, even if I can’t figure Him out.
That was what happened in the next big shift of my life. After many, many years of being lost, I finally surrendered to my Creator and accepted His wisdom. It took a very long relationship with my best friend, Emma, who is now a missionary in Africa. It also took me messing up a whole lot before a realized I needed to trust Him. I hope to show God’s ways to the students here at the University, but I’m not so sure they will be receptive to the idea. I certainly wasn’t at their age.
Who are the most important people in your life today, and why?
First, my dad. I love him so much. He and I got lost together a little when Mom died. But we’re both better now. Next would be my best friend, Emma, and her parents. They saw me through a lot of broken years, never judging. Just loving me through that time … even though I knew they worried a lot about me, because they saw all the destructive decisions I kept making.
Who do you despise?
I try not to despise anyone, but there are those who I avoid when I can. Two people who make my skin crawl whenever I see them are Drake Dixon and Marcus Williams. Drake is one of those guys who looks at you like you’re naked all the time, and he’s rumored to be selling drugs to residents. I can’t figure out why Chris Johnson is such good friends with him, except that they’re in a band together.
Who’s Chris Johnson?
Oh … just some guy in my building <she waves her hand>.
Marcus is a resident doing community service for me because he sexually assaulted a girl last semester. I don’t understand how the Judicial Board allowed him to stay in the halls. His lawyer’s argument at the hearing should have been repulsive to anyone who heard it.
Tell us about the current journey you are on.
Really, I’m just trying to get a degree and find some purpose in my life. I know now I want to honor God with my work, and even my current job, but I don’t really know what that will look like. I’m also trying to figure out how to NOT make a fool of myself in a position I have no experience for, with a staff that is afraid I’ll get too “girly” on them, hanging lacy curtains in the lounges or paint the halls pink. And there’s Chris, who seems to be waiting for me to mess up one minute, and then helping me the next. I just can’t figure that guy out, but something tells me I need to.
Is he cute?
<Samantha’s brow crunches> Why would you ask such a thing?
<Connie smiles> Just wonderin’.
He’s … well … I guess some girls might think he’s … kinda good looking.
<Connie’s smile broadens> Hmmmmm.
Ahem. In three words describe yourself.
· Fascinated … with the differences between people and the world around me (Oops, that’s more than three)
Do you trust yourself in your work or do you rely on the wisdom of others, feeling they know more than you?
I feel like a child in so many areas of my life. I’m a new Christian, so still need to rely on my best friend’s parents to guide me spiritually. I have no experience in resident life, so I often ask lots of questions of my staff for work … not to mention to understand the ways of men … which, it turns out, are not completely the same as women. I’m very blessed this semester, however, to work with a wonderful resident assistant, nick-named Preacher, who though a few years my junior, has wisdom in all those areas: faith, job and men. God has been very good to me. Now, if He’d only tell me what to do about that resident, Chris.
What about Chris?
Oh, uh … nothing.
What is the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you?
That might be the time one of my residents got my white shirt wet at a field-day event. That was most humiliating. Not just because his goal was to see through my top, but it showed his great lack of respect for me both as an authority figure AND as a woman.
That sounds horrible.
Yes, it was, but thank goodness Chris was there to … ummmmm …
That’s okay, Samantha. You needn’t tell us what Chris did, since he seems a sensitive topic. We’ll just have to read One Among Men to find out.
And thank you for joining us today. It’s been fascinating getting to know you.
A Christian Romantic Suspense dealing with today’s issues and the clash that sometimes occurs between faith and secular academia.
Though her job requires she live with five-hundred, hard-partying college guys, only one will lead her to danger.
Samantha Hart wants to find Godly purpose within her new Christian faith, like her missionary best friend, but is forced to take a job as the resident director of the all-male, Calvert Hall at Maryland State University. Facing the typical challenges of her position, such as sexual assaults and drug use by residents, and those unique to being a woman, she leans heavily on her faith. She must also gain respect from young men who view her as a sex object—one of whom is stalking her—while guarding against the campus serial rapist.
It doesn’t help that her boss treats her like an imbecile. So why did God put her here when her experience was with women’s issues and she’d applied for the all-female building? Sam’s new faith reminds her not to question God, but she still wonders what He’s up to.
Chris Johnson, a rock guitarist who is returning to school as a music major, is intrigued by the resident director and the faith she shares with her muscle-bound resident assistant from “the hood,” nick-named Preacher. While Chris observes how they act on their beliefs, he is drawn into a relationship with a ruthless supplier of the on-campus drug trade.
While observing Sam’s care of students who don’t deserve her efforts, Chris assists her on the sly. Can he manage his two worlds without risking Samantha’s life?
Though this work is set at a completely FICTIONAL campus, “Maryland State University,” ten percent of current author income from it will go to Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) at University of Maryland College Park.
Connie Almony is trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. Her newest release, At the Edge of a Dark Forest, is a modern-day re-telling of Beauty and the Beast about a war-vet, amputee struggling with PTSD.
You can find Connie on the web at ConnieAlmony.com, writing book reviews for Jesus Freak Hideout, and hosting the following blogs: InfiniteCharacters.com, IndieChristianFictionSearch.Blogspot.com, and LivingtheBodyofChrist.Blogspot.com.
You can also meet her on the following social media outlets: