We are so blessed to have Anne Marie Gazzolo, Author of Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in the Lord of the Rings, with us on Terraverum today. As a huge Tolkien fan myself, I especially enjoyed Anne’s interview and could really relate to what she had to say. I am so excited about getting my hands on her book and reading it for myself.
The Lord of the Rings is obviously a big part of your life. How were you first introduced to it?
I first met this wonderful world and people through the LOTR films starting in 2001. I was an obsessed Star Wars at the time, so I admit it did not make a great impression on me at first. But Frodo was a favorite of mine even then. Little did I know then how he would grow on me, and I would eventually leave a galaxy far, far away for the Shire.
What made you decide to write this book?
I had signed up for a class about finding your direction in writing, but it was canceled due to low enrollment. I used my refunded money to buy some of the books that explored Middle-earth. It came to me that as I read them, I could do this myself, so here I am!
You are a big fan of hobbits. Is there a reason why this race is so special to you, more than others of Middle-earth?
Big is putting it mildly. 🙂 I love their innocence, simplicity, cheer, and deep love for and loyalty to each other. They have so much to teach us about how to live and love.
Which part of The Lord of the Rings do you feel is the most special to you and why?
If I had to choose just one scene from the book, it would be the reunion of Frodo and Sam in the Tower of Cirith Ungol. It shows the beauty, purity, and innocence of their blessed bond so well. A few other parts stand out especially too. My favorite part in Book I is the unveiling of the conspiracy with Merry’s words about friendship and the lengths he and his fellow conspirators are willing to go because of their love for Frodo. I love Sam’s words in Book IV while he watches Frodo sleep in Ithilien and thinks of his light and how much he loves him whether it shines or not. The whole torturous journey to Mount Doom from Sam searching for his master to the rescue from the fire is another favorite.
In the magnificent BBC Radio adaptation, I love how faithful it was to the books. Some of my favorite parts there are Frodo’s excitement over Gandalf’s fireworks; the reunion scene in the Tower for so vividly showing the terrible grip the Ring has over its Bearer; Sam saying to Frodo “It’s all right” during times it most definitely appears not to be, but at the same time it is because it said it was and he would not lie; and Frodo’s wail “Where shall I find rest?” during one of his anniversary illnesses. Ian Holm did a marvelous job of showing Frodo’s path from innocent lad to one nearly destroyed by the ordeal of being a Ring-bearer. It was also nice to see Aragorn and Faramir portrayed as their real selves.
In the films, it would be the celebrations of courage, sacrifice, friendships and love for kin. One of my favorite scenes is Sam with Sting held at his throat by the one he holds so dear and yet he still loves without skipping a beat. Totally made up but totally right for showing the powerful, destructive force of the Ring and the equally awesome power of love.
Could you tell us about your book,Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in The Lord of the Rings?
It is part an exploration of how involved God is in the history of the Ring from Isildur to Mount Doom and how He uses His children’s choices for good or evil to always advance the plan to remove the threat of Sauron from Middle-earth. Whether these freely cooperate with Him as He presents to them their part in the Great Music, or are merely used as unwitting instruments, they help bring about the fall of the Dark Lord or his servants. There are many grace-filled moments throughout the tale. There are also moments that show the truly important warfare does not occur on battlefields but in the souls of those who struggle not only against their great Enemy but also at times against themselves. The other emphasis in the book is how these people can teach us how to live a grace-filled life ourselves by modeling our hearts to be as open to pity, love, mercy, and God’s will as they were.
What is your writing process like? Do you have any writer quirks or habits?
For my nonfiction, I do a lot of reading and research first. I write out longhand in many journals the things that especially strike me and then transcribe them to the computer. I then have to decide what to use in the current book, what to save for another, and what to cut out. I go through several drafts as every writer does and have to force myself at some point to stop editing and pronounce it done.
I also like to write fanfic, and in the past I had to write it all out longhand first and then transcribe it. If I just sat at the computer, I would freeze up and couldn’t write. But some years ago now, it suddenly become much easier to write directly on the computer. All I had to do is listen to what Frodo and Sam were saying or writing to each other and write it down. Since I was merely transcribing their thoughts, I did not have to worry about coming up with anything myself!
Do you have a special area to write, or are you able to write anywhere?
I can pretty much write anywhere, but my two favorite places are my bedroom and, in warm weather, my balcony. Sitting out there is like being at home and on holiday at the same time, as Sam said of Lothlorien.
Do you enjoy listening to music that inspires your writing or do you prefer silence?
I have done both. If it is music, it normally has to be instrumentals. My oldest niece introduced me to Pandora and love much that I would not have heard otherwise. I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks, most of which are from movies I have not seen, so I can enjoy the music without being distracted of knowing what scene it is from.
As an author, what would you say is the most important thing to remember as one writes?
Write what you are passionate about. This is what will get you through the long hours, the many drafts, the inner and outer critics that cause you to doubt yourself, question your sanity and your worth, tell you to quit, get a life and a real job. If you do not have the fire inside you to keep you going, any of these demons will quench your flame and your words will never see the outside world. Know the difference between being interested in writing and committed to writing. Be committed because there are enemies of productivity everywhere, within and without. I fall into their traps all the time. But if you are convinced that you have something vital to share with the world, then nothing in the end will stop you.
Do you plan out the book beforehand, or do you more rely upon an organic approach?
More organic. I would work better and faster if I actually knew what I was doing and had it all planned out, but I am a fool of a Took and enjoy the unplanned adventures that come with writing, especially in my fiction! J
Which reader base do you hope to affect, and what would you like readers to take away from this book?
I want my readers to learn that there is always hope, no matter what the dire circumstances they may be in now. There is more than one direction to go than down despite what the doomsayers of our time say. I want to show them the true nature of love, which is so far beyond the shadow world of lust and sex, which is all that the world presents and mistakes as love. Love requires sacrifice and faithfulness and selfless devotion. It is hard work, as is hope in trying times, but the most fulfilling work that can be done. I want to show them that God has “chosen and selected” them for a particular task, just as much as Gandalf says this of Bilbo.
As an author, Tolkien is incredibly inspiring, which other authors would you say have inspired you?
As far as Middle-goes, Ralph C. Wood’s The Gospel According to Tolkien, is one of my top favorites. It was the first one I read of the many books out there exploring the themes of the Red Book, and it is one of the few I have read twice. Another is Verlyn Flieger’s Splintered Light, which is another great book. I love the marvelous things she says about Frodo. She has a deep love for him and Middle-earth. I also love Noble Smith’s The Wisdom of the Shire. You can find lots more too at my Tolkien Scholar’s Bookshelf page at my website, or on Pinterest, . I am looking forward to Constance C. J. Wagner’s book on Frodo, The War Within, which is due out in 2014. I cannot wait!
As far as writing and productivity goes, Steven Pressfield rocks! His The War of Art and Do the Work are must-reads. He speaks of the Resistance, an incredibly powerful force inside everyone, whose sole purpose is to stop us from doing anything worthwhile in our life. He knows all about it for it controlled much of his life, and he also tells you how to defeat it. He also wrote Turning Pro, which I look forward to reading.
As far as life goes, no one else rocks as much as Joel Osteen as a source of motivation and inspiration. Gary Ryan Blair’s Everything Counts is another must-read. I also love Jentezen Franklin’s empowering Believe That You Can.
I hear you have a new book on the way, could you tell us a little more about that one?
I am working on an ebook due out next month called Pathways Through Middle-earth: A Guide for the Heart, which will be based on what the Free Peoples can teach us about how to live a moral life. You can get it as a free gift if you subscribe to my mailing list at . My third book will focus specifically on the physical, emotional, and spiritual journeys of Bilbo and Frodo.
Thank you, Anne, for an amazing interview that I found so special. Best of luck with your future books and I can’t wait to read more!