Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Interview with writer Leona Stucky about her memoir

Writer Leona Stucky joins me today to chat about her memoir, The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God.

The religious narratives of Leona’s faith could not reconcile the violence that intruded upon her Mennonite farm story. She yielded to answers more in sync with the harsh realities she faced. That was the beginning of a search that lasted throughout her studies and professional career.

Dr. Stucky first received a degree in psychology and philosophy from Boston College, graduating summa cum laude, before plunging into seminary, first at Andover Newton Theological School and then at Eden Theological Seminary. She earned a doctorate from Southern Methodist University with honors, and a Diplomate certificate from the American Association of Pastoral Counselors—their highest credential—for teaching, supervising, and conducting therapy services. She currently has standing as a Unitarian Universalist community minister.
These professional explorations might have quieted her mind, but the areas where integration seemed impossible became mental sand kernels that disrupted many intellectual resting places. Being fiercely honest in confronting contradictions, she honed her wisdom, gained unusual insights, and enjoyed a professional and personal journey that could only be shared by telling the whole story. After numerous failed attempts, Dr. Stucky finally completed her memoir, The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God.
The provocative title aptly indicates the unflinching moral dilemmas she reveals. The gripping story reads like a real-life thriller that readers can’t put down. Still, each step grounds itself in nuanced networks of passion, relational complexities, cultural and religious dilemmas, circumscribed choices bound by woman’s poverty, persistent violence, and an untamable resilient desire to redeem herself with or without God.
Dr. Stucky’s memoir has gained recognition as a well written, riveting story and also as an important work of art. MS Magazine named it on their best summer reads recommendation. Readers typically say they could not put it down. They report being deeply stirred by the content.
An expert and author on domestic violence intervention, Michael Paymar says, “The voice of this woman’s spirit and courage rings clearly as she faces the personal challenges of her faith—when the adversity in life tests the veracity of her beliefs against the reality of terror. This is an important, insightful book that I highly recommend.”
 “Your book has been the most impactful book I’ve ever read. It has kept me in it for days during and after I read it.” Barbara, a Mennonite from Kansas
While authoring this book represents the pinnacle of Dr. Stucky’s career, she still maintains a limited psychotherapy practice, often teaches and speaks, and writes an interactive blog. She can be reached at Leona@TheFogofFaith.com or her website www.TheFogofFaith.com.

Welcome, Leona. Please tell us about your current release.
This is a coming of age story but with unusual wisdom that offers depth and universality. It has been well received and highly praised by reviewers and recommended by Ms. Magazine. I feel most fortunate to have had a successful launch that put me in first place with one Amazon category. Here is a description of the current release.

After the trauma of a savage attack, a farm girl recovers physically, but her identity, faith, and relationships are shattered.

This is the true story of Leona Stucky’s childhood on a Kansas farm, surrounded by a loving family and the simple tenets of her Mennonite community. Violence enters her world in the guise of a young man who seems normal to everyone else but whom Leona knows to be deranged in his obsession of her.

His unrelenting abuses take root, and Leona must deal with them utterly alone. Her pacifist father cannot avenge or protect her, nor can a callous justice system. Even God is impotent.

Leona is cast into a bewildering life of disgrace and poverty—with a baby, a violent husband, and battered faith. Through a series of page-turning events, she hacks through the bones of her naïveté to confront harsh realities and to probe the veracity of religious claims.

The Fog of Faith is a suspenseful and morally unflinching drama of shame and survival, as well as useable and unusual wisdom.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve been inspired to write this book since I was about 30 years old – a little over 30 years ago. I tried numerous ways and failed each time. I then avoided trying for a number of years but finally couldn’t get the task to move from my number one bucket list position. So, 12 years ago I took another shot at it and finally I have actually written it. My friends heard about it for so long that they used to roll their eyes and laugh with me, but they knew I’d stick with it and I did.

Excerpt from The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God:
“I should have asked them what they thought about their dads. They went to World War II, didn’t they? They killed people, not cows, pigs, or chickens. None of these students approved of the Vietnam War. They had no desire to kill or be killed in Southeast Asia. Still, they didn’t put their wartime dads on the same level as brutish farmers. I didn’t ask why, because I didn’t think of it until several hours later. But given time to ponder, anyone who ruminates would know we all have blood on our hands.”

“I uttered variations frequently—in the red barn while sorting calves, on the swather while cutting hay, or lying in bed before sleep. I wanted to feel blessed and cared for again.
When I was not begging, I was furious with God. While my life depended on Him, I apprehended the ways that God was not dependable. What could be so great about faith if you had to ignore the evidence that God wasn’t doing His job? Why couldn’t God solve problems for people rather than put them in terrible binds? He knew already whether they were good.
            Is forgiveness that hard for God? Couldn’t He just understand that the people He created were screwed up? He should help us more or forgive us more—one or the other.”

“I wanted to believe these women, but I was worried that the theory could be ripped apart. In spite of my stunts to prove I was equal to my male cousins, I’d known from childhood that I was not as important. Ubiquitous men around the world appeared on TV, making key decisions for our or other nations, reporting the news, playing the leads in sitcoms. The Boston Metropolitan Art Museum was full of their beautiful works. I didn’t see more than one or two works by women. The faculties at college were mostly men. The books I read for my classes were written by men. All the businesses I knew were run by men. The history books I read were all about men. And, of course, our imaginary God was masculine, and at least 95 percent of the stories in the Bible were about men. All the ministers, elders, and deacons were men. The teachers of adult Sunday school were men. Even the choir leader was a man, if a man was available to do it.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m creating an interactive blog next to answer questions that people have about The Fog of Faith, and after that?... We’ll see.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Maybe about 5 years ago when I finally realized with complete certainty that I would not give up on writing my memoir. I was a lifetime into trying to tell that story and had been actively writing for seven years at that point. However, I still think of myself as a psychotherapist more than as a writer – it’s still new to me.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m a psychotherapist in my day job, though I slowed my private practice as I finished my memoir. I now spend more time learning my new role as a promoter and I’m teaching, speaking and leading workshops for therapists.

I don’t know how I found time to write, because I didn’t have it. Basically I had to keep my nose to the grindstone. Friends had to be patient because I often turned down their offers.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m an introvert and as such I have to dredge things up from deep inside before I can put them on the page. They come up loaded with emotion so I often cry or laugh when I write, or feel an interminable morass when groups of stories congeal together.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Age 4, I wanted to be a missionary. By 10 or so I wanted to be a circus trapeze artist. By 17 I wanted to be anything other than what I was.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
This memoir is a page-turner – almost like a thriller you can’t put down – except it is true. It is deeply honest and revealing and it took all the courage I could muster to write it. While it is tempting to race right through it, you’ll find more contentment if you slow down and let the layers of meaning soak into you.


Thank you for being here today, Leona.

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