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I hope you don’t mind but I thought this might be a good place to pop in my chat with Caryl McAdoo – she is interviewing me!
Who would have thought Victoria Sponge would be changing lives?
I am so very blessed today to bring a Heart”wings” sister and dear friend from ‘across the pond’. Besides being excited for me to get to know her a bit better, I’m glad for the opportunity to introduce her to you, as well because I know you’ll be blessed. Thank you for spending some time with me, Margaret!
Oh, it’s my pleasure. I’m happy for the opportunity and appreciate the invitation to visit with you.
I’ve heard you express that you were an unlikely candidate to write a book—that you never thought you would—so how did God convince you He was serious about this calling of yours?
God and I have a history of disagreeing! There have been many times when I have not believed that I could do something when He knew I could. God gave me the gift of storytelling, and I loved making up stories for my children when they were younger.
Often, I would jot down an idea and occasionally share it with my husband Peter, who would say he wanted to know more. But I did not have the confidence to take it any further.
Then God took my life and turned it upside down.
I became ill and stopped working. As I struggled with not being super mum, I opened my arms and asked God to reveal to me what He wanted me to do with my life. At 5 am in the morning, unable to sleep, I received my answer.
Of course, as usual, I disagreed. I could make up short funny stories for my kids, but a book? God had to be joking; He knew I could not hold a plot in my head nor remember character names when I read a book. No – this was too great a task.
But nothing is impossible for God. In a way, I challenged Him by saying, “Who am I to do this?” Well, God ignored my protestations, and as I sat at my keyboard thinking, this is going to be interesting, the floodgates opened, and words filled my mind and flowed onto the page. About an hour later, I was exhausted and stopped.
I thought that was the end of it, proving that this was not my calling. However, over the next two years each time I felt able, He led me back to the story, and I wrote what I was given. I remembered the story line and the different levels that were needed to make it work. That’s when I knew God had not made a mistake. He convinced me He would be sitting right beside me, inspiring and guiding the contents of the book. When I finished it, I had to read it for myself!
That’s wonderful, and I can imagine how excited you must have been. Your title is so unusual, Margaret. I wonder about the thought process you went through to name your heroine after a cake. Are there qualities about her and the cake that relate?
Again, it was a 5 am moment. Thinking about the book, I just couldn’t come up with a catchy title. I wanted something that would instantly make people think, something quirky. Again I asked God to reveal what He wanted. I had a picture of a sponge cake and just laughed, thinking I was just being silly.
But then I thought about it, in the story, Victoria loves to cook cakes. God loves to make and mould people. The strawberry jam in the middle is the blood of Christ shed for us so that we can become perfect examples of His creation. Then the name hit me, How to Make Victoria Sponge. It was a eureka moment. In the front of the book there is a recipe:
It is all in the ‘a’. We make ‘a’ Victoria Sponge; God makes Victoria Sponge.
So, God is the baker in the book, and Victoria is the main ingredient. Without God, we sink—like my cakes tend to do. With God, we rise. I love that analogy.
Awww, that’s beautiful, friend! In my heroines, there’s always some of me …maybe a lot. How much of Margaret is there in Victoria?
I laugh when I am asked this question, Caryl. Some of my friends call me Mrs. S. Perhaps they know me too well. Like Victoria, I wear many hats. We are similar, have the same sense of humour, but she is definitely more confident than I am and better at dealing with a crisis. Her family is very important to her as mine is to me, but I think I would struggle with four children, especially with twins in the middle. Vicki is clumsy, very like me, so we’re alike there. A lot of the events are true, but not all of them happened to me!
I hear again and again that your debut novel How to Make Victoria Sponge has changed readers’ lives. How has it changed yours?
It has totally changed my life, Caryl. There is something amazing about having a book published that you completely believe in. When I first started to approach publishers, all I got in return was, ‘great book, but too different for our readers.’ They want safe books, ones that are either devotional or fiction – not both in the same book!
As the publishers did not actually read the book, it was hard to convince them that the story was a life changer; that people did want to read it as it helped on so many levels. One local publisher took the risk, and it was just wonderful hearing great reviews.
But I knew it needed a wider audience; say like, America, as well as England. Then God introduced you and everything changed. It has been awesome meeting so many Christ-filled people through Facebook – readers who will confirm this book is needed to encourage mums, especially in their relationship with God.
Being able to do this for God is simply awesome. It is, I believe, now my ministry to write and encourage others through everyday events. As far as changing me, my prayer life has increased. That’s the main difference.
Is there a favourite passage of yours you might share with us, sweet, Margaret?
One of my favourite prayers from the book is:
Oh Lord, we grow, we fall, we win, we lose, we struggle, we cope, we laugh, we cry, we make our way through life. You watch, you listen, you lead, you stand back, you encourage, you heal, you care, and you teach us the path we should follow. So many lessons and only one life. Help me, Father, to take those opportunities which are often presented as problems and use them to enrich my life’s experience.
One of the funny scenes from the book involves the youngest, Lily Pink aged ten. She is always in motion. I laugh because silly things like this happen in my house.
Suddenly there is a crash. The noise resonates from the living room, then silence. I am aware that the other three (children) from my clan should be arriving almost immediately. I am wondering if I ought to see what caused the noise and make sure Lily Pink is alright. But before I can react at all the front door opens and my brood are disarming themselves of school bags, coats, shoes, art folder and sports kit, building an obstacle course in their wake. Gabby opens the door to the living room, says “Hi” to Lily Pink and then just stands there.
“You could give me a hand you know,” Lily Pink pleads, to which Gabby, Henry and Johnny file in and start to disentangle her from the clothes drier. It’s one of those moments that you have to get a photograph for the album, as no one would believe the image otherwise. Lily Pink is protesting against having the evidence publicised but isn’t in much of a position to do anything about it.
Being an author, I know how amazing it is to get a note from a reader as to how your story touched them. Have you received such a special missive? If so, how did it affect you, and would you share it with us?
Yes, Caryl, I have. In fact, in person. When I attended our church, a lady came up to me in floods of tears and hugged me tightly. She told me that my book continued to make her cry. Ultimately the words spoke to her as she struggled through her own personal pain. They produced balm to her wounds.
I apologised and said “sorry” that I had made her cry, but she kept thanking me for helping her do so as it was the healing that she needed. So many of the events in the book were pertinent to her situation and the prayers helped her to pray through the day in order to cope.
I’m so humbled, her sharing gives glory and praise to God.
So what’s next? Do you have something else in the oven?
I am working on some devotionals and another book – God’s timing is always perfect so in His timing…
Indeed it is! So I know you got your novel to America! That Celebrate Lit Publishing has released it here, and I’m so thrilled for you! I want to thank you so much for visiting with me and letting me in on the skinny! I didn’t know Victoria Sponge cake had strawberry jam in the middle! Love and hugs to you, Margaret!
Thank you so much, Caryl, I have loved chatting with you. And yes, cream and strawberry jam is traditional in the English version of Victoria Sponge. Many blessings on you and the awesome readers who have blessed me by buying the ebook. Now I am delighted to say that it is in paperback, too, and AVAILABLE HERE.