Welcome! Meet Stephanie McCall and learn more about her characters in Promise of a Future…
Tell me a bit about your journey to salvation.
I always respond to this question with, “Which time would you like to hear about? I was “officially” saved at age nine, with guidance from my dad in our family’s kitchen. However, my prayer for salvation was mostly based on the fact that I wanted to be sure I was going to Heaven. Besides that, our church at the time didn’t do much to disciple new Christians. I didn’t know that after the prayer of salvation and baptism, you were meant to begin a personal journey. I learned about this concept when we switched churches, but became increasingly afraid of hell and displeasing God. I ended up rededicating myself to Christ three different times between the ages of nine and twelve, and engaged in legalistic behavior and thought patterns to protect my eternal soul. I eventually learned about grace and attempted to apply it to my life with mixed results. I now identify strongly with those who have doubted their salvation and struggle with fear. As for my own salvation, I refuse to engage Satan in mind games about it anymore. The Holy Spirit has assured me on many occasions that I am as saved as it’s going to get.
Tell me three things about yourself that would surprise your readers.
Number one: I enjoy country music, particularly artists like Reba McEntire and Martina McBride. Number two: I am a somewhat picky eater. I love salads and “exotic” vegetables, but have never touched veggies like green beans, peas, or mashed potatoes. I’m very sensitive to mushy textures. Number three: Even though physical activity is hard for me, I’m disciplined about being fit. I ride about 30 miles a week on a stationary bike.
What’s your favorite book? Why?
I wanted to challenge myself with this question. I’ve had multiple favorites ever since I could read independently, but if I had to choose a current favorite, it would be Julie Lessman’s A Passion Most Pure. I identify strongly with main character Faith O’Connor: we’re both readers, writers, romantics, and have mild disabilities. I love the huge Irish family featured in the book and the romantic twists involved.
Where did you get the idea and continued inspiration for this book?
I was a “twice-exceptional” kid in school (academically gifted, but with a disability—cerebral palsy). Being twice-exceptional is a mixed bag: On the one hand, you’re seen as capable and smart, but on the other, teachers, therapists, and peers act almost insulted when they realize you have a disability and thus, need assistance in some areas. A lot of people think you can’t do anything, or need 24-7 supervision. I wanted to write a book about these struggles, and also create a story starring a protagonist with a disability, who was also intelligent and didn’t want to spend her life being everybody else’s “inspiration.” Thus came Kate McCune, her desire for independence, her Aunt Elinor, who serves as Kate’s greatest ally, and their story, Promise of a Future.
Tell me about your main characters.
Promise of a Future has two main characters. The first, Kate McCune, is eighteen and just starting college. She hoped that once she got into college, she’d be recognized for her creativity and intelligence, not her cerebral palsy. But her disability is in the spotlight more than ever now. The college’s Disability Services director, Ms. Throckmorton, is always on Kate’s case with outdated expectations of how a person with a disability should behave (basically like an overly submissive, slightly dumb robot) and what they can do (basically nothing for themselves). A nasty sorority queen is determined to make Kate feel like trash, and is succeeding. But Kate’s spirit is strong. She wants independence and will do anything to get it, even if it means moving away from the safety of her hometown and her huge Scots-Irish family. Her experiences are not like mine, but her core character is based on me. We’re bookworms, writers, lovers of all things Celtic, devoted Christians, and spirited women with disabilities.
Elinor McCune is Kate’s aunt, age 32. In some ways, she’s more like Kate’s big sister, but she’s extremely mature. Elinor is a Mensa member, an athlete, a chess champ, and Kate’s heroine. She’s also battling specters of her past, which involved an abusive parent and an eating disorder. When Elinor gets the opportunity to help Kate find independence, she jumps on it, but isn’t prepared for what she’ll face on the journey.
I have to say I had the most fun creating Elinor. She’s named after one of my favorite characters, Elinor Dashwood, and her personality is somewhat based on her namesake’s. She’s also gone through a lot of backstory development—in original drafts, she had other roles in Kate’s life, such as teacher or neighbor. In some ways, Elinor also serves as my “shadow.” That is, she’s the woman I want to be—a genius, stick-thin, and always emotionally in control. But she put herself in danger to achieve those things, and she reminds me that I don’t want to become that kind of person.
Tell me about your villain.
The main villain in this book is Vanessa Worthington, a sorority girl who attends Kate’s college and delights in torturing Kate. She calls Kate a “crip,” insinuates that she’s mentally deficient, and plays to stereotypes of people with disabilities to get a laugh out of her friends (i.e., they lack basic self-care skills and don’t care what they look like). Vanessa doesn’t limit her bullying to words, either—she and her sorority sisters physically push Kate around quite a bit. However, yes, there is a flicker of good in this young woman. Readers discover that she has a reason to resent people with disabilities. This reason causes great pain, which Vanessa then takes out on anyone who isn’t as able as she is. Readers are meant to speculate that if Vanessa gave herself to Jesus and dealt with her pain, she could become the kind of young woman Kate is.
Who would play your main characters in a movie?
For Kate, I’m picturing Katie LeClerc, who stars in the TV drama Switched at Birth. She’s a redhead like Kate, and has had experience playing a character with a disability. Or maybe Emma Stone. For Elinor, I have a few possibilities. Hilary Swank comes to mind since she played an English teacher in Freedom Writers; I think she could pull off the “genius” vibe. Claire Danes also comes to mind, or even one of my favorite actresses, Anne Hathaway.
What did you learn from the editing and publication process?
Promise of a Future was rewritten—completely—four times, often because the premise itself didn’t work or there were too many conflicts and complications. For example, in the very first draft, Kate was sixteen and insisting she needed to escape her hostile high school to live independently at a junior college. Also, Elinor, on top of everything else, was struggling with infertility, and hiding her entire past from her loving husband. I so wanted this novel to be a surprising masterpiece full of twists and turns that, in my editor’s words, I created spaghetti. I learned that a good novel need not be a complex tale, and I don’t have to try so hard to make it perfect. Underneath all the spaghetti, I discovered a simpler but more compelling tale of the feminine spirit, undergirded with the perfect Spirit of God.
Are you planning a sequel?
Originally no, but now I think these characters have more to say. I want to give Kate a love interest—perhaps someone who clashes with her over his beliefs about disability, or because of his personality or interests. I also want her to confront Vanessa and have the dynamic between them change. As for Elinor, I want to give her a real adventure, maybe something that necessitates her rescuing her husband.
Share your favorite Bible verse and the ways it impacts your writing.
My favorite Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11, where the Lord promises a hope and a future to His followers. It’s also Kate’s favorite verse. It’s special to both of us because people with disabilities are not expected to have real futures, where they make their own decisions and follow their own dreams, let alone God’s dreams for them. This verse completely disproves that theory. But it’s a key verse for anyone who has dealt with fear, guilt, adverse circumstances, or anything that threatens to destroy one’s hope.
Stephanie McCall earned a B.A. in Religious Studies and two Master of Arts degrees, one of which has a professional writing concentration. She lives with her family in North Carolina, where she enjoys reading, writing, and participating in Bible studies, prison ministry, and her church’s drama team. She devotes time to studying Spanish and plans to tackle French next. Promise of a Future (January 2014), for Christian young adults, is her second novel. Her debut romantic suspense novel, Fiery Secrets, was published in 2013.
As always, thank you for hithering and venturing to another world with me. Please visit again next week to read a guest post from Teresa Pollard, author of Tokens of Promise.