She likes anything with chocolate and her greatest fear is drinking milk from a glass after someone else. The book she wishes she’d written? “To Kill a Mockingbird.” And in high school, she was voted “Most Likely to End up on Saturday Night Live.”
Best-selling author Donna Payne VanLiere, whose 12 titles include the popular “Christmas” series, headlines a Tuesday luncheon that raises money for women and children who can’t afford counseling. The Samaritan Fund of the Pastoral Institute is sponsoring the lunch at the St. Luke United Methodist Church Ministry Center.
In a recent phone interview from her home near Nashville, VanLiere said pretty much “anything chocolate” counts in her cravings -- particularly “those caramel and chocolate turtles.” However, she’s not sure where the fear of the used milk glass comes from. “I have no idea,” she said. “It’s probably from childhood.”
VanLiere, 44, had a memorable first-time writing experience. While penning a story about a bear at her desk in second grade, a boy classmate peered over her shoulder and chided her for writing about a bear. She was embarrassed enough to drop her hobby. Plus, she thought, who decides on a career in second grade?
Some 35 years later, her books “The Christmas Shoes” and “The Christmas Blessing” were both adapted into CBS movies starring Rob Lowe, Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Neil Patrick Harris. Lifetime Television adapted “The Christmas Hope,” starring Madeline Stowe. VanLiere’s non-seasonal novel is “The Angels of Morgan Hill.”
VanLiere is the recipient of a Retailer’s Choice Award for Fiction, a Dove Award, a Silver Angel Award, an Audie Award for best inspirational fiction, a nominee for a Gold Medallion Book of the Year and she was recently inducted into the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges Hall of Excellence. With that award, she joined such luminaries as Coretta Scott King, Hugh Downs, Norman Vincent Peale and Sen. John Glenn.
She’s a graduate of Cedarville University in Ohio.
VanLiere is a regular at Women of Faith and Extraordinary Women conferences. She lives in Franklin, Tenn., with her husband Troy and their three children: Grace, Kate and David.
Speaking of Grace: VanLiere contends that many Christians, herself included, miss its meaning. Her book “Finding Grace” contains stories that put grace into words.
“Part of our biggest problem is we don’t accept grace. We don’t know how,” she said. “We don’t think we’re good enough. We put a lot of conditions on it. It’s a gift, regardless of who we are, but our problem is, we don’t think we’re worthy.”
She knows of what she speaks. When she was a child growing up in Ohio, she was molested by a neighbor.
About 25 years later, she wrote about it and let a friend read it. “Her response was, ‘Why do you make this sound like it was your fault?’ ” VanLiere said. Like many survivors of sexual abuse, VanLiere carried around shame and guilt from the experience. “It was a big ‘Aha! moment’ ” when her friend offered her perspective. “We have a tendency to blame ourselves. Shame is the molester’s shame, but the victims feel it. ... Sometimes it takes another person to point it out.”
Though VanLiere grew up outside of the South, the famous southern novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee had an immediate and lasting effect on her. “There were so many things she had a handle on -- her use of the language, and the time, and the people are so real,” VanLiere said. “Nobody was watered down. ... The beauty and the ugliness of the time” touched her deeply.
Her own writing career began in earnest in the 1990s, when she started freelancing. “I just saw freelancing as a way to make extra money. Then in the late 1990s, I realized I really loved it; it seemed to come naturally.”
Allison Kennedy, 706-576-6237