One of my favorite parts of writing a book is the moment it goes from being mine to being ours. And by ours, I mean, mine as the author, but also yours as the reader. Because yes, as the author I dreamed up these characters and put them in these situations and decided how they would respond. But they don’t really come to life until you take the words on the page and see them in your mind. And it’s that collaboration of an author’s words and the way they take shape in the reader’s head that makes a story magical.
And it’s also why two readers (or three readers or ten readers or one hundred readers) can read the same story and not take the same thing away from it. I was really struck by this when I sent my most recent book, Songs of Home, to my incredible advance reader team. And I started getting back all kinds of responses about the theme of the book (not that I ask my ARC readers to identify the theme like in a high school English class…they just do it naturally!).
Different readers pointed out so many different themes in the book:
- Belonging and finding a family
- Looking ahead to the future, not backward at doors that have already closed
- Redemption and helping others through their trials
- Being real and honest with each other rather than pretending everything is fine
- Not living in fear of the future because God already knows his plans for us
- Moving from grief to hope
- Learning to trust
- God’s never-ending love and faithfulness even when life seems dark and uncertain
I’ll be honest: some of those themes I didn’t even realize were in there until I started reading the feedback! But once my perceptive readers pointed them out, I had to say to myself, “Duh. How did I not see that?”
And the funniest part is, I didn’t realize that some (most) of these themes were ones I needed to remember in my own life. I started writing Songs of Home before my family even thought about moving to Texas—and yet God knew that we’d soon be thousands of miles from everyone we knew, feeling a little out of place at times. But this little snippet from Pastor Cooper was exactly what I needed to remember:
“Listen to what God tells us.” He picked up his Bible. “‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’”
He set the Bible down and scanned the congregation. “You know what that means, right? ‘You are mine,’” he repeated. “So many people in this world are searching for a place to belong. But here God is saying that belonging isn’t about a where, it’s about a who. He is saying you belong to him.”
And don’t even get me started on how I needed the reminder not to live in fear of the future or to be real about our messy lives or to look forward, not backward. The list could go on and on.
Ultimately, I guess what I’m saying is, thank you for bringing my stories (and the stories of other authors) to life in your mind! And for sharing what you get out of them with us. Because without you, half of the equation for story magic would be missing.
Giveaway time! The whole idea for this post came from a conversation I had with my kids about books the other day, and I can’t even tell you how much I love talking about books with them! Do you have a favorite person/people to talk about books with? One person who comments by May 12 will be drawn at random to win a paperback (U.S. only) or ebook (international) of Songs of Home!
In the wake of a very public—and very scandalous—breakup, country music star Lydia St. Peter finds herself in need of a place of refuge. She doesn’t know why she thinks she’ll find it with the family she never knew she had in River Falls, Tennessee, but at least the small town will offer her the privacy she so desperately craves.
She never expects it to offer more—in the form of her new landlord, Liam, and his troubled teenage daughter.
When single dad Liam returns to his hometown of River Falls, it’s with the intention of taking care of his mother and protecting his daughter. He knows his own happiest years are behind him. They died with his wife.
What he doesn’t see coming is the instant connection with the new tenant staying in his mother’s carriage house.
As Lydia feels the pull of family and Liam allows himself to open to the possibility of love again, a new relationship starts to blossom. But when Lydia is presented with an opportunity that could rocket her to household-name status, she has to decide whether she’s willing give up everything she’s gained in River Falls to chase her dreams—or if her heart has finally found its home.