Do you like reading realistic fiction? Have you ever suffered from depression, or gone through a traumatic experience that makes you want to escape, or makes you question whether God is real?
Sometimes there’s a tricky line in writing fiction that feels real, where we want to offer an ‘escape’ through a story that feels authentic but doesn’t descend into the too-dark depths of reality. I wrote Muskoka Blue after the most wonderful trip to North America, which saw my husband and I visit places including Boston, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Niagara Falls and Chicago. I’ve used various of these locations in my contemporary series, The Original Six, with books such as The Breakup Project which is set in Boston, Montreal-set Hearts and Goals, and Chicago-based Checked Impressions. Visiting the beautiful lake-strewn region of Muskoka, two hours north of Toronto, was a highlight – and not just because this Anne of Green Gables fan was able to visit Bala’s Museum, a museum dedicated to the life and works of LM Montgomery.
Muskoka is a gorgeous area, filled with scenic lakes and trees, which were ablaze with color when we visited in October. I loved our time there.
But within a few weeks of returning to Australia we were in the midst of massive turmoil, which led to us resigning as pastors, which then led to questions about our purpose, identity, and ultimately, the dark spaces of depression. Writing Muskoka Blue became a form of therapy for me, as I struggled to reconcile what I thought I’d always known about God with my new reality. Life was hard. Pat answers felt trite and dismissive. The struggle really was real.
This much reworked and edited version of that book sees Sarah Maguire face devastating loss, which sees her seek solace on the other side of the world. Her struggle to work through her faith takes several twists and turns, something which both challenges and fascinates next door neighbor Dan Walton. And while I like keeping things raw and real, I found it necessary to temper some of the heaviness through flashes of humor (apparently some characters can be so real they’re unlikeable – who knew?). I like to write authentic sounding fiction, but I always want to thread it with hope, and I don’t mind offering some wit and banter along the way.
So Muskoka Blue sees scenes set in real places I’ve visited, incorporates real humorous situations I’ve experienced (hello, mouse and shop tag at teacher interviews!), and sees characters battling with some of the real issues I’ve faced, along with some of the real solutions God has shown, some of which I’m still learning. Muskoka Blue is basically my heart on a plate.
It’s rather special to see this book finally release to the world. And it’s very special to have readers already writing to tell me they love it, that they’ve connected with the characters and setting and issues. I love how as a Christian writer I can share some of the hope that God has given me, and see God’s truth permeate my fiction. Writing stories is really about writing about life, and so much of Muskoka Blue has been real for me.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading it too.
Here’s a bit about the book:
Two hearts, two secrets, one unforgettable summer.
An ice princess with a broken heart. A pro hockey player with a secret.
For Sarah Maguire, spending the summer at Lake Muskoka was supposed to be about finding the courage to put back the pieces of her shattered life—not falling in love with the charming yet unsophisticated hockey player from next door.
Daniel Walton may have been praying for Miss Right to appear, but Sarah’s ice princess act just cries Miss Wrong. Dan’s summer plans hadn’t included befriending a redhead with a sassy tongue and cute accent, but as Muskoka works its magic he soon discovers that underneath the frost and prickles is the funny, feisty, loving woman he’s waited all his life to meet.
As their friendship deepens, Sarah comes to appreciate Dan’s patience and kindness yet struggles to let go of the past and embrace the future, while Dan, only too conscious of the personal history he wants to forget, questions the wisdom of pursuing a girl whose heart may never be wholly his – who may soon return to live on the opposite side of the world.
Will past regrets lead to further heartbreak? Or can Sarah and Dan learn to leave the past in the past and embrace God’s promises for the future?
Muskoka Blue can be read as a standalone novel, and is the sixth book in the Original Six, a sweet and swoony, slightly sporty, Christian romance series from bestselling author Carolyn Miller.
So let’s talk:
Do you enjoy reading heartfelt fiction? What are some books that have really stirred or challenged you? Do you like to read to escape? Where would you like to escape to in fiction?