Friday, September 09, 2011

Interview with Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira about her new book, Grumble Halleljuah

Today we have an interview with Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira about her recently released book, Grumble Hallelujah: Learning to Love Your Life Even When It Lets You Down. Caryn and I have become friends over the last few months, and discovered, actually, that we have a mutual friend that we've both known for quite some time! Her book, which we discuss below, was really enjoyable. I laughed out loud at parts of it and enjoyed Caryn's humble attitude and frank honesty about her spiritual walk. I caught up with her recently and asked her a few hard-hitting, journalistic questions that almost made her weep, but I didn't stop because I'm just that kind of guy. Enjoy.

Matt: Tell us a little bit about your book... what's the main idea behind it?

The best summary of Grumble Hallelujah
 that I’ve got is actually is actually its sub-title. It’s all about “learning to love your life even when it lets you down.” You know—living well and praising God even in the midst of disappointment or heartache. The book is for anyone who’s ever looked around and life and said, “This is not how my life was supposed to be.”

Matt: I heard a rumor that you debated not writing this book at all after you had already sold it... that you even considered sending back the first half of your advance? Are you crazy? What happened?

Yeah. One day while writing some personal stuff—actually a part where I sort of ‘fess up to the various scandals of my life and “sins of my youth”—I panicked and remembered, “Wait. People are going to read this! My mom is going to read this. My mother-in-law. My kids. My kids’ teachers. People I go to church with are going to read this! And it made me not want to write it.

I thought, “I’m going to send my advance back and just say I can’t do it.”

Matt: Clearly you did finish writing the book, though... or hired a ghost writer. What made you change your mind?

God made me change my mind by making me remember that we were in fact broke and that the first half of the advance went to pay property taxes and that probably the county wasn’t going to give it back.

So I had to go on writing anyway. God bless America.

I’m really glad I kept writing. Even though I’m still freaked out when people tell me they’re reading it—like my next–door neighbor just did! I wonder, “Have they gotten to the part yet?”

Matt: There's a common conception among writers especially that "once I have a book deal everything will be better." But Grumble Hallelujah has a lot to do with following God in the midst of dissatisfaction. What about your life has NOT improved or changed since writing this? Or, how did writing this book make your life worse?

I’m pretty clear in the book that I didn’t write this from a place of “it’s all better now!” (In fact, I think that’s exactly what I did write.) And I’m still in a place where it’s not all better. For example, the book has not eliminated all marital stress in our household. The book has not yet dramatically improved our financial situation. Now, if a quick hundred thousand or so of you could go ahead and buy it, then it will have. (Thanks in advance.)

Writing a book is the best thing in the world (or, close to it). But it certainly makes life more stressful! Especially the promotion part of it. You can write it, you can blog about it, you can talk on radio about it. But doggone it! You just can’t make people buy it. (Insert subliminal “buy Grumble Hallelujah now” message here.]

Matt: We hear all the time from authors about what they want people to get from their book. What are the things you don't want your audience to know or learn from reading this?

Great question. I don’t want readers to think this is a 1-2-3 step process. Where they shut the book, follow my advice, and voila! Problems solved. I do love my life now—I really love it. And I’ve still got heartache and hardships and all that. But it’s taken a long time to get here.

What I share are the things that put me on the road to loving my life—and honoring God with it. But it’s no quick fix.

Matt: Your book comes from the expectation that people are sometimes having a rough time in life. Talk to those who are deliriously happy right now. Readers for whom everything is going just perfectly. How can you (and this book) help them through this time?

Totally laughing right now. I love feeling sorry for super happy people. They miss out on all that God has to offer us in the dark times, you know?

I love being happy—really, I do. But I also try to encourage happy people to “fear not” the unhappy stuff of life we may need to face. To not run from the unhappy places we’re sometimes called to head toward. That stuff—those places—tend to drip with Jesus.

Matt: If your book had to fight another book to the death, what book would it choose and why?

Oh! Fun! To the death. That’s serious. Of course, because we were just talking about happy people, I think of Joel Osteen. He’s got a new book out, Every Day a Friday: How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week. That seems like Grumble Hallelujah’s natural enemy, doesn’t it? Except now that I’ve identified it as an enemy, I suppose I need to love it. Okay. How about Grumble just fight it till it cries. And admits that there’s a lot of good in grumbling. And that constant happiness is overrated. And that Mondays are really the best day of the week.

Matt: I think you might be one of seven people on earth with a name that is as hard to spell and explain as mine. What tricks do you use to get people to remember your name and how to spell it?

Rivadeneira (at least in English) sounds a bit like Robert DiNiro. Sort of the same cadence. I tell people just to start Rivadeneira and just commit to it. Say it like you own it. And then usually you get it.

In Spanish, it has diphthongs and all sorts of weird things happening that I cannot even do. Spanish speaking people have no trouble at all, of course, except they always ask if it’s Portuguese. (It’s not.)

The added bonus of my name is that Caryn is pronounced CAR-IN (car in, car out).  And that I can’t let go of Dahlstrand (not Dahl-STROM!). Radio people LOVE me. But once you can spell all this, I’m easy to Google—and find on Facebook.

Thanks, Caryn! 

If you're interested in hearing more from Caryn, here's her website or you can follow her on Twitter.

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