Sunday, March 24, 2013

Blog Tour: Review + Interview- Angel by Laura Lee

I am absolutely thrilled to be part of the Angel Virtual Book Tour being hosted by Cami @ Reading Addiction Blog Tours

I loved reading Laura Lee's LGBT Romance or Literary Fiction novel, Angel and her free personal poetry collection, Where Souls Grow Warm
Both have made me a huge fan of Laura! She's an author whose works I love, who I admire and who is a very kind and sweet person as well. I always feel delighted to see her emails in our Inbox! 

I had read Angel a long time back when Laura very kindly provided me with a copy in exhange for an honest review and even more kindly let me be part of the Tour right now! 
My review for Angel can be read later in this post or separately RIGHT HERE and my review for Where Souls Grow Warm can be read RIGHT HERE.

Before we move onto the interesting Author Interview with Laura, let's get some basic information on her book, Angel


Since the loss of his lively, charming wife to cancer six years ago, minister Paul Tobit has been operating on autopilot, performing his church duties by rote. Everything changes the day he enters the church lobby and encounters a radiant, luminous being lit from behind, breathtakingly beautiful and glowing with life. An angel. For a moment Paul is so taken by his vision that he is tempted to fall on his knees and pray.

Even after he regains his focus and realizes that he has only seen a flesh-and-blood young man, Paul cannot shake his sense of awe and wonder. He feels an instant and overwhelming attraction to the young man, which puzzles him even as it fills his thoughts and fires his feelings. Paul has no doubt that God has spoken to him through the vision and he must figure out what God is asking him to do.

Thus begins a journey that will inspire Paul's ministry, but will put him at odds with the church he loves as he is forced to examine his deeply held beliefs about himself, his community and the nature of love.


I am the author of 14 books, best known for my non-fiction titles including Blame it on the Rain (Harper Collins), The Pocket Encyclopedia of Aggravation (Black Dog and Leventhal), Broke is Beautiful (Running Press), and the forthcoming Don't Screw It Up! (Reader's Digest).  Angel is my first novel.  I divide my time between writing and producing educational ballet tours. 


I honestly wish we could just skip my review and directly move onto the superb Author Interview, but well... The post title suggests that my review will be part of the post, so let's get it over with! Here we go! 


*NOTE: Author Laura Lee provided us (The Readdicts) with a copy of her book, Angel. We thank Laura for the book! 

When I read the Free Kindle Sample for Angel, I knew this was a book that I had to read, and author Laura Lee very kindly provided me a copy of it even though I took a long time to get back to her. 
Although I tend and try to stay away from religion-based books, Angel became an exception and from the beginning to the middle until the end, I was just so absorbed in it and I'm more than glad that I read it. It is a story that is going to stay with me for a very long time simply because of it's depth and the contemplation that comes along with it. 
Angel takes up the issue of Christianity and homosexuality in a contemporary and spiritual and not at all imposing way.
Paul Tobit is the Minister in a church, a place that he holds very dear since that is where he himself was taught to believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Extremely depressed after losing his lovely wife, Sara, due to cancer, he finds his life to have became monotonous, until there comes a time when an unusual, straight-laced and utterly graceful being walks into the Church. 
Attendant of the Church's Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, blessed with glorious looks, been through a troubled past, Ian is immediately the focus of the Church staff because of his unbelievable beauty. For Paul, Ian is a being sent to him by God... a miracle, an angel. 
Paul and Ian share an absolutely splendid relationship. I liked reading about how they met, what went into making their relationship into what it became. Their attraction towards each other was view-able and hard to miss.  
24 year old Ian was exceptional. He questioned the teachings of the Church. His comebacks and retorts were really clever. I loved how dedicated he was to Paul and how he was willing to try and change only for Paul. Ian was open and free about his sexuality and that was one the most significant trait that he possessed. 
Paul was an extremely kind and helpful man. There were times when I was irritated with him for not giving his relationship with Ian all the respect that it deserved. It is understandable that, being the Minister of the Church and having to maintain a clean and proper image, if not for himself than for the regular religious devotees of the Church; but that didn't mean he could just deny and neglect the importance of Ian in his life in public. 
The end of Paul and Ian's story was delicate, pure, realistic and totally perfect.
Author Laura Lee's writing is poetic and has a subtle flow. Angel is an absolutely impressive work of literature that opened my mind and made me think about how, even though religion teaches us to love, it comes with it's set of complications. I am not the most appropriate person to preach or even talk about religion, but I can say that Angel takes on a sensitive issue with elegance. A few excerpts from famous works and information on Mount Rainier (where Paul later works as a tourist guide/bus driver) were very enlightening to read. 
Angel is a distinct novel that is truly splendid. In no way does the book criticize the Church or it's teachings, it simply looks at something emotional and personal with an open yet oddly narrow perspective.  I know I haven't exactly praised this brilliant work the way it deserves to be praised, and that's because the book has left me stunned and speechless and it is difficult to describe it's beauty. All I say is that Angel is an enlightening, and completely opulent piece of work. Laura Lee's writing is truly charming and captivating.


Alright! Yes! We have finally come to my most favourite part of this post, the Author Interview! Without much waste of time and space, we'll directly move onto welcoming Laura and having an absolutely great time reading her responses to my questions! 

Hello, Laura! It's lovely to have you here on The Readdicts. The last time we did a nice, fun and really cool Character Interview with Ian
And now it's such a pleasure to have his creator right here with us. 
Welcome, Laura and we now begin our interview! We hope you have a great time answering our questions! 

1. Tell us a little about your book, Angel.

It is the story of a Christian minister whose world view is challenged when he realizes he is falling in love with a young man.

2. How did the idea to write Angel come up?

I took a tour of Mount Rainier in Washington back in 2000.  I had been invited to Seattle to speak at a conference and I scheduled a free day to see the sights.  The mountain is breathtaking, and the weather was perfect that day.  I understand it is often foggy and rainy and you can’t even see the mountain half the time, but fortunately I had wonderful views of the peak the whole time I was there.  The tour guide was entertaining.  What he had to say about Mount Rainier being a sleeping volcano poised to rain down on some of the towns in the valley piqued my imagination.  

The tour guide was funny and sometimes poetic.  I think the line about Rainier being “magnificent in its symbiosis” in Angel is something he actually said that I recorded in my journal.  He kept talking about burning out on his old job and coming to the mountain.  Towards the end of the tour someone asked him what his old job had been and he said, “I was a minister.”

Well, this really piqued my curiosity.  Why did someone burn out on the ministry to become a mountain tour guide?  I thought it had the makings of a great novel if I could only figure out how to write it.  

I should make it clear that Angel is not this minister’s story in any way.  I know nothing at all about him.  The idea of someone being drawn to the ministry and then to this beautiful natural setting and what might unite those things is what I kept coming back to.

3. Ian Finnerty is supposedly the "Angel". I personally like him a lot. He truly is exceptional.

Tell us a little about him and what made you write about him.

In my earliest work on the novel there was no Ian.  The working title was The Minister and the Mountain.  I always had the idea of a minister who somehow found himself out of step with his congregation.  I imagined the conflict as perhaps a crisis of faith.  It had to be something dramatic, not only theological.  It had to be something that had a lot of moral dimensions that were not black and white.  It had to be something where it was actually doing the right thing, from the minister’s point of view, that put him in conflict with his community.  I tried a lot of things, and nothing had quite the right combination of these ingredients until Ian walked into the story.

I saw an image of a young actor against a white background that, in the film, represented heaven.  He was gazing up and he was exceptionally beautiful and reminded me of Renaissance paintings, devotional paintings.  I started to think about what it is about certain kinds of beauty that creates this feeling.  What makes you want to go consume something when you see a bikini clad model in a commercial, and what is it that makes a beautiful person touch you on a different level, where it sparks your imagination and makes you want to create? 

So I wanted to muse about beauty.  I do a lot of musing on things in my journal.  At that time, my primary writing exercise was still “Why did the minister go to the mountain?”  So as I wrote about aesthetics the idea of combining these two thoughts came to me.  What if the minister encountered a young man and responded in this way to his beauty?  I recognized right away that this hit all of the right notes.  From then on I wrote Angel as though a tap had been turned on. 

Ian’s character was shaped by many things.  I had to figure out how to get someone who was not religious into a church so he could encounter Paul, and the choices I made to do that set his character off in one direction.  I used to work in a church, and a lot of visitors come in for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.  It solved the plot problem and also added another dimension to the characters and their relationship. 

The two characters were created together.  I consciously thought of their relationship as the mountain, where earth meets heaven.  Ian is “earthy.”  So he likes food, he is physical and sensual.  Paul is the one with his head in the clouds.  Ian teaches Paul to live in the moment and to get in touch with his physical nature, and Paul teaches Ian to appreciate the spiritual.  

I think Ian’s earthiness appeals to people.  He is not self-conscious in areas where a lot of us are.  He is not worried about his physical attractiveness, and he doesn’t seem to be particularly concerned about what anyone thinks about his sexuality.  Those are areas where a lot of us are hung up.  This doesn’t mean he has no issues.  He has a lot of them, just in other areas.  I think of Paul as being someone who has romantic ideas about love, he wants love to be spiritual and transcendent, but he has detached love from the sensual world.  He talks about the body and blood of Christ and the physicality of that, and yet it is all intellectual for him.  He can’t appreciate his own incarnation.  Ian knows he is sexy, but he doesn’t quite believe that he can be loved. 
At this time in their lives these two men need each other.  The relationship that brings each of them back to health is also one that is risky and could tear them apart. 
The process of creating a character, for me, is quite subconscious.  So it was only later that I recognized some of the experiences and people from my own life that have echoes in Ian.  I was recently writing about the young man who gave me my first kiss.  He was boyish and fun, personable and optimistic (also, as it happens, gay) and as I was writing about him it occurred to me that he probably contributed to Ian.  No one person or idea inspired him though.  He is just Ian.  

4. Putting Christianity and homosexuality in the same frame appears to be controversial.

Were you ever apprehensive about publishing your book?

No, because I never really thought of it in those terms.  I was trying to write the best novel I could.  I was looking for a narrative that would make everything click, and when I finally found it and the thing was homosexuality, I did not question it at all.  It is a rare thing when that happens, when the idea for a novel clicks that way, and as a writer, you never want to reject a gift like that from the muses.  What is it that Oscar Wilde said in his trial?  When they asked him whether Dorian Gray was an immoral book he said something like “there is no such thing as an immoral book, books are well written or badly written.” It doesn’t bother me in the least if people don’t like the book because they don’t approve of the theme and think it is controversial.  I wasn’t afraid of controversy.  My fear was that they would say it was badly written.

5. I loved reading the scenes where Paul and Ian are just hanging out at Paul's house.

What is your favourite scene from Angel?

I actually like the conflict scenes later in the book.  The chapter called “The Date” in which Paul’s irrational jealousy is on full display is probably my favorite.  That one, and the one about Chuck the mailman, in which Paul first finds himself driven a bit crazy with jealousy.  It was important to me that the characters actually have a relationship with its own conflicts and problems and that it wasn’t just the big bad outside world interfering.  It is funny, but one of my favorite lines in the book is when Ian says to Paul, “You’re talking about the past.  What exactly do you want me to do about it now?  Do you have a time machine?  Well then, shut up.”  I love the “shut up.”  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because I had a jealous boyfriend once, and I wish I’d been blunt enough to say that to him.

You know, there is actually a scene that I wrote for the sequel about Paul and Ian hanging out at home that I like a lot.  Paul, the introvert, is trying to read and Ian, the extrovert, keeps interrupting him.  I wish I’d written it before Angel was published, some version of it would surely be in there instead of in the unpublished sequel.

6. Angel ended perfectly. You said that writing a sequel worries you so as to not spoil what was already a well put out ending.

Nonetheless, do you plan on ever writing anything more for either Paul or Ian or both?

I have written a sequel to Angel, however, at this point I have no plans to try to get it into print.  The main reason is simply that Angel has not sold well enough.  

The main reason I started writing Ian’s story was that I wasn’t ready to end my relationship with him.  I plunged into a depression after Angel was published.  I longed to hear from readers who wanted to talk about Ian and Paul because I missed them. I spent ten years on the question of the minister and the mountain, and not having that question to nudge me was a void.

A friend suggested I just keep writing it.  I said, “But the story is finished.”  In an interview, I think, I talked about how we don’t really know Ian’s view of things in Angel, and that’s where the idea to write his story came from.  I spent a good two years on the sequel, maybe three, and I would say it is about 99% done, but for the time being I’ve abandoned it.

The sequel isn’t a “sequel” exactly.  It is the story from Ian’s perspective, and it starts before the action of Angel, in Ian’s childhood, and continues through the period covered by Angel from Ian’s point of view and then goes on to what happens to Ian afterward.  I envision it as something that would be read after Angel, not the other way around.  So the fact that not many people have read Angel is the deciding factor.  

I liked being able to go into a bit more depth about Ian’s process of recovery, because the story of Angel is also the story of Ian’s first year of sobriety, which is less central to Paul than it would be to Ian.  I liked being able to show some of Ian’s mood swings and cravings and how difficult it was for him, and how patient Paul was.  

Someone called the story of Angel “a little bit magical.”  I do think the magical quality is what a lot of people respond to.  Part of the “magic” is that there is a lot about Ian that we don’t know.
People have the opportunity to see Ian as Paul sees him–as an angel-- and to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations.  Anything I would write would have to contradict the reader’s own ideas of him in some way.    Part of what people respond to in Ian, I think, is that he is seen through Paul’s eyes.  Paul is in those first heady moments of love and he glosses over Ian’s faults.  For that reason, Ian is presented in Angel as a bit better than he really is.  I think you can see that Ian’s story, told from his point of view, would be darker than Paul’s version of Ian’s story.  

So it might be better to just leave him where he is.  That’s what I think at the moment, and I am working on getting another novel of mine in print instead.

7. Your writing is absolutely charming and poetic. I love your poems!

Can you tell us a little about your writing schedule?

(how often you write, any specifications you follow, a particular writing area you have, etc.)

The folksinger Arlo Guthrie tells this story about inspiration being like fishing.  You sit by the river and you put your rod or your net in the water, but the fish has to come to you.  (The punchline is that he is downstream from Bob Dylan and so he can only catch the ones Dylan throws back.)  

My process is that I simply write a lot.  I don’t let ideas keep swimming downstream.  I keep pens and paper around and I get out of the shower and I write down what came to me in there.  I honor writer’s block as a message that I need to stop working consciously and go away and let my subconscious do its thing for a while.  

Even when I have an assignment for something like a corporate speech, the process is essentially the same.  I write down my initial thoughts and ideas and then I go away and do something else and at some point while I’m taking a nap or driving I’ll have that lightbulb moment.  I think of it like the subconscious oven timer going off.  It delivers up the thing that brings my disconnected ideas together and then I write very quickly after that.  

With a novel, I never write in order, I just write scenes and dialogue and bits as they come to me, and then later when it seems there are enough pieces I put them together.  I guess I learned the technique of writing earlier to the point that it is highly internalized and so the key at this point is just catching the fish.

I am on tour with a ballet project five months of the year and spend a lot of time driving.  A lot of ideas come to me then, and I scrawl them in little notebooks.  Most of Angel was written this way.  Part of it was scrawled in notebooks as my car was being towed, broken down in West Virginia.

I am a full time writer when I am not on tour with the ballet project, so I write pretty much constantly.  Whenever I can.  I never have a problem making myself write.  I have the problem of way more text than I will have enough years of life to develop.

8. What are some of your favourite books and who are some of your favourite authors? 

I am an eclectic reader.  I like to go to the library and wander the stacks until something calls out to me.  I tend to check a stack of books out of the library each week.  I don’t finish everything.  Sometimes I just read bits and pieces of them.  Then sometimes one theme captures my imagination and I dive into that.

At the moment I’ve become fascinated with the life of Lord Alfred Douglas, a poet better known as the “intimate friend” of Oscar Wilde.    I would hate to be judged my whole life for the romantic choices I made in my early twenties.  That was his fate.  I was taken with his personality when I read his correspondence with George Bernard Shaw.  A lot of people think he was an awful man.  (Jude Law who played him in the movie Wilde thought he was an awful man.)  I suspect that part of my attraction to him is that his childlike qualities, which he kept until his death, remind me in some ways of Ian.  I don’t know if I would like him in life, but he fascinates me.  He has such a sense of justice and right and wrong.  Everything is black and white to him.  (I tend to only see shades of grey) He was passionate, bold, and he would not back down.  He was also a poet with a highly romantic sense of how life ought to be.  I’m reading his autobiography right now.  When Douglas boasts about himself in an aristocratic way, I can’t tell you why, but it tickles me.  The effect of Wilde’s prison letter “De Profundis” on Douglas was tragic.  Shaw said of Douglas’s Autobiography that he (Douglas) needn’t worry, that he’d had his say and that no one could “write him down,” but Oscar Wilde could, and did, when the full De Profundis letter was published after Douglas’s death when his own autobiography was out of print.  Douglas wasn’t the best apologist for himself.  Everything he wrote about himself was an argument against someone else’s version of his story.  If he’d just told his story as he remembered it without argument and pontificating on morality he would have been more sympathetic, but of course he could not have been other than who he was. He comes across best in his letters with Shaw because it is clear there that he had a sense of humor about himself.  I think he’s a wonderful character.  

Right after Angel I became interested in theology.  I read the New Testament in chronological order and I was also reading all sorts of books on the development of Christian thought and the historical Jesus and so on. That obsession is on pause for the moment, but I still have an interest.

I tend to like British authors. I loved Douglas Adams when I was younger and I like Lewis Carroll and Dickens, G.K. Chesterton.  I like Alain de Botton.  In college I had a great English professor, Dr. Bruce Mann, who instilled a love of Shakespeare in me.  I remember him saying that he had a fear that one day the ghost of Shakespeare would show up in the back row of his class and say, “That is not at all what I meant!”

Thank you so much for being with us and answering our questions today, Laura! I hope you had fun. Wish you all the very best! See you around! 

Wow! Wasn't that amazing? I seriously hope and pray and wish that someday Laura publishes the stuff she's written from Ian's POV. Until then, well, I'll just keep dreaming of him. ;) 

That brings us to the end of the post! I hope you'll enjoyed reading it because I sure enjoyed putting it up for y'all. 
Seriously guys, read Angel sometime. It is a beautiful story that's written charmingly! 

Thank you again to Cami @ Reading Addiction Blog Tours for having such a fabulous Tour and to Laura for the lovely responses and for writing such a beautiful story! And to you all, thank you for stopping by and happy reading! 


  1. i get excited every time you feature Laura Lee. :) thanks Sarika!

    1. I love having Laura on our blog, Ao! Thank you for stopping by. :)

  2. Wow, Angel sounds fantastic! I'm always a bit nervous at the inclusion of religion in the books I read, but this sounds like it was handled nicely. And it's always nice to see the inclusion of an LGBT relationship!

    1. Yes Aylee, I was nervous about religion too, but I'm so glad I read Angel because it is beautiful. :)


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