MLS grad to have first novel published

Sometimes, a little peer pressure is just what is needed. Stephanie Evans was among the great group of “Founding Scholars” in our Master of Liberal Studies program when it started in the fall of 2005. She had been working on a novel, but had “put it aside” because she was busy writing papers for her MLS classes. She says one of her professors, Dr. Dennis Huston, commented that, ya know, most people in the program work full time outside the home (which Stephanie did not) and still managed to get their MLS work completed. Plus, he threw in the age-old prod: “Writers write.”

“I started writing again, and used all that I had learned and was learning (in the MLS program),” Evans says.

For her MLS capstone course, she finalized the novel. Her capstone mentors, Dr. Huston and Dr. Dave Schneider, “praised and criticized and corrected,” she says. “They made it a better book.”

She received her MLS degree in 2009 and was awarded the William F. Deeck – Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers – an international writing grant for her mystery genre. In 2010, Penguin Putnam offered her a deal, and her novel “Faithful Unto Death” should be on bookshelves in June 2012. Amazon is already taking pre-orders.

Evans says each of her professors contributed to the book. “Each professor changed me. Their passion, their eagerness to share what they have learned, the discipline and rigorous standards they set, made me give them the best I had.”

She says it’s all “pretty exciting,” But then quickly changes her mind. “No, that’s not true. It’s heart-stopping, pillow-hugging, crying-out loud exciting. It’s living-the-dream exciting.”

Stephanie Evans

Rice MLS grad and first-time novelist Stephanie Evans with her dogs Tommy (left) and Mr. Wiggles

Want a glimpse of “Faithful Unto Death”? We’ve got an excerpt:

“It doesn’t seem like much to go on, does it?” I asked. “Lots of teenage boys stay out overnight, racing their cars, probably smoking pot in the greenbelts. And the Avalon parking lot is a favorite make-out spot. That’s what I’ve heard. Why is he supposed to have killed his dad, anyway? Far as I know, father and son got along fine.”

“How far do you know, Mr. Wells?”

And there it was, the great difficulty. How far do I know? How far do I go on faith? And where do I place my faith? Not in men, and certainly not in chariots and horses, or whatever their modern equivalent might be.

I don’t have any idea on earth what goes on behind the closed doors of the members of my congregation. I don’t know what temptations beset them, I don’t know what demons they wrestle, I don’t know which of them cry themselves to sleep, I don’t know who is enslaved to addictions that ride them ragged, I don’t know who is on their knees all night praying and hearing no answer, I don’t know who walks out of church, smile on his face and clap on the back to go home and beat his wife and children bloody or to excoriate co-workers with words sharper than glass shards. I don’t know.

I trust in the encompassing love of God but I know from experience that that love allows horrors on this earth. In short, not that I ever am, I didn’t have one clue on earth whether Alex Garcia might have a motive for killing his father. I didn’t know but that Alex might feel he had a very good reason for killing his father.

I said, “I don’t know.”

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