Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wearing Her Author's Hat

by Ruth Dell

Helsinki Sunrise, a Passport to Romance, blog tour follows on from yesterday’s hero interview and book review with Heidi McCahan.

Today we welcome Marion Ueckermann to our blog. She’s a regular blogger here, but today she is wearing her author's hat. We will be chatting about her debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise

Marion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles and stories in Winners, The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter (Tyndale House Publishers), and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven, and her debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise (White Rose Publishing, a Pelican Book Group imprint, Passport to Romance series).

Marion blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and Beauty for Ashes. She belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.

Marion, welcome and congratulations on the release of Helsinki Sunrise.

Thanks, Ruth. It’s great to be here today, this time as a published author. Can I just say, “Whoo-hoo!”

A few months ago I visited Marion and one of the highlights of the day was enjoying her homemade blueberry pie. It was, in fact, the first blueberry pie that she had ever made. It was delicious and definitely “moreish”. Marion, what was the significance of that pie?

Firstly, Ruth, it really was a flop-proof recipe. For anyone interested, my heroine, Eveliina’s blueberry pie recipe is available in Pelican Book Group’s free recipe book, Cooking with Grace. And I just noticed that the crockery I used that day was lined with a blueberry pattern.

In the summer, the forests of Finland are filled with berry-bearing blueberry bushes. This was important to the book, originally titled Blueberry Eve. When Eveliina is faced with the prospect of having to share her grandparents’ summer cottage with a fasting missionary from the other side of the world, she’s adamant he has to go. And she knows exactly how to make Adam Carter want to leave—her grandmother’s blueberry pie. Here’s a little teaser excerpt:

Eveliina held her breath as tightly as she held the spoon, waiting for Adam to succumb. If he did, she was certain he’d leave the island a defeated man, unable to live up to his goals and ideals, his God and his Christianity.
But if he resisted…
How many blueberry recipes did she have?

Finland is an unusual setting for a book. How did you research that county? Do you have any anecdotes or interesting experiences arising from your research which you would like to share with our readers? Have any of these found their way into your book?

It certainly is, Ruth, and that’s why I was so excited to see it on Pelican Book Group’s list of stories required for their Passport to Romance series—I had visited Finland for my son’s wedding seven months before. What better research could I have had than living with Finnish people, immersing myself in their culture?

One thing I never expected in Finland was the infestation of mosquitos in the summer. I always thought they were unique to Africa. But then again, with all that water, something close on 190,000 lakes, what else could one expect. And those tiny buzzing bugs were far more vicious than African mosquitos. My feet definitely took the brunt of their attacks. For some it was their faces, others their backs or arms.

Interesting experiences during our time in Finland involved taking a sauna, gently beating myself with a vasta or vihta which are leafy, fragrant boughs of silver birch used to massage and stimulate the skin, and to calm the effects of mosquito bites—pity I didn’t know that then—and thereafter running and jumping into the lake…several times in succession. Hot, cold, hot, cold.

Another cultural experience we enjoyed was roasting makkara (a Finnish sausage), stuck at the end of a long two-pronged fork, over an open fire.

And what fun we had blueberry picking. It was unforgettable.

The sauna and lake experience definitely made it into Helsinki Sunrise in a really fun way, along with the mosquitoes and blueberries. Vasta and makkara didn’t make it into my story.

Did you have any particular Bible verses running through your mind as you wrote?

One verse defined Helsinki Sunrise—Luke 15:6, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I chose this verse because Eveliina had become the black sheep of her family. She desperately needed to be found and returned to the fold and Adam was determined to do just that through prayer and fasting.

There were several other verses from Isaiah that I used toward the end of the story but I’ll keep those a secret as I don’t want to give away anything of the story and spoil the read.

How did you weave a spiritual thread through Helsinki Sunrise without being preachy?

Adam’s vocation as a missionary definitely lends itself to a preachy hero, but his character fortunately did not allow it. It’s not without a struggle that Adam manages to hold fast to his integrity and beliefs as Eveliina tries her best to tempt Adam who’s fasting. Between Eveliina’s shortcrust pastry and shorts, Adam has a difficult time. I believe it is this humanness of Adam that will draw readers in so that they will listen to his subtle messages.

Even when Adam has the golden opportunity to present the gospel to Eveliina, he does so by drawing her in gently, raising challenging questions only she can answer.

The salvation message is conveyed to the reader subtly through Eveliina’s thoughts as she reads the scriptures from Isaiah I alluded to in the previous question when she’s placed in a situation where she struggles with her own fears and doubts.

Here’s an excerpt of one of the ways the scarlet thread is gently woven into the story:

Adam’s thoughts drifted to his favorite parable. Doesn’t a good shepherd go seeking after the stray sheep? Doesn’t he leave the safe open country, venturing into dangerous territory until he finds the one that is lost?
Heaven will rejoice more the day you show Eveliina the way back to Jesus, than at your teaching the Finnish church to pray. The thought struck Adam like the cold water splashing across his back as the oar skimmed the water instead of sinking deep.
Both took his breath away. 

What do you want your readers to take away from your book?

I want my readers to not only feel like they are falling in love all over again, but also to know that God will pursue the lost sheep relentlessly to bring them back home.

What are you currently working on and what are your future writing plans?

At the end of July, I signed my second publishing contract with Pelican Book Group for another Passport to Romance novelette. This story is set in Oslo, Norway, and my hero and heroine have the exciting occupations of being professional wingsuiters.

I've just completed a submission for Pelican Book Group for their Easter Lilies series. The story is set in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Currently, I'm completing a third Passport to Romance story, this time set in Glasgow, Scotland. I definitely plan to write more Passport to Romance novelettes. Maybe one day soon I'll get to polish some of those completed novels, or finish writing one of the four semi-complete ones.

Thank you, Marion. I'm looking forward to reading more of your books.

Thank you for hosting me, Ruth. It’s been fun to sit on the other side of the interviewing table.

Marion has kindly offered to give away an e-Copy* of Helsinki Sunrise. To enter the draw for her book, please leave a comment before September 19th telling us which country you would like Marion to use for a setting in her next novel. Please include your email address to be eligible for the draw. The winner will be announced on the blog on September 21st. International readers are welcome to enter.

This blog tour will remain at International Christian Fiction Writers tomorrow where I will share a book review of Helsinki Sunrise.
Numerous eBooks of Helsinki Sunrise will be given away on the blog tour, so take a journey to each of the stops and leave a comment. Don’t forget to include your email address.
Helsinki Sunrise is available to purchase from Pelican Book Group,, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

Watch the Helsinki Sunrise book trailer on YouTube.
Watch the Passport to Romance book trailer on YouTube.

Connect with Marion Ueckermann:

* Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

Permission to use images obtained.

Ruth Ann Dell writes children's stories and international Christian fiction from her home in a sunny South African suburb. She is a member of several writing groups including the American Christian Fiction Writers and Writer's Ink. Her desire is to craft gripping stories which draw her readers into a closer relationship with God.

Ruth Ann and her husband have lived in several countries and are renovating a cottage in the heart of Ireland.


  1. Thank you, Ruth, for your pointed questions and this lovely interview with Marion. This novella is a delightful read, well conceived, well paced, well written.

  2. Marion and Ruth, great interview! I also wouldn't have associated Finland with mosquitoes! It really shows how visiting a setting in real life can add authenticity to the story. Please don't enter me in the drawing because Helsinki Sunrise is already loaded on my Kindle :)

    1. Great to hear that Helsinki Sunrise is on your Kindle, Narelle. Thank you for your support.

      Yes, it was quite a shock being bugged by those tiny buzzing creatures.

  3. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment, Judith.

  4. Thanks Ruth and Marion for a fun interview. Like Narelle I would never have thought of mosquitoes in Finland.

  5. As you can imagine, Shirl and Narelle, mosquito repellent was not one of the items I packed for Finland :)

  6. Marvelous! And if I may...mosquitoes leave me alone when I wear patchouli oil. Stinky from the 70's, but works wonderfully.

    1. Fortunately, the mosquito repellent we had to buy worked fine...but we did go through quite a few bottles. Thankfully, December when we go to visit again, there'll be no mosquitos, but I might just freeze.