I’m often asked where I get my ideas. Sometimes a story is sparked by a setting, a snippet in the news, or a random anecdote or conversation I overhear. Other times, I cull things from my own experiences and work them over until they become someone else’s story altogether.
Such is the case with my book, All the Way to Heaven.
As a missionary kid, I grew up traveling the globe, but I’d never been to Italy. Unfortunately, my husband loathes flying, and the ten-plus-hour flights to get there and back were a major roadblock for us taking a romantic getaway to Italy together. So a friend and I went on a girlfriend getaway instead.
Like Ani Tomlin in All the Way to Heaven, we boarded the wrong train out of Pisa and lost much of our first afternoon in Italy. When we finally arrived in lovely Lucca, we were greeted by Fabio, our ebullient guesthouse owner, who delivered us to our rooms above a pastry shop. And each morning, like Ani, we were awakened by a gregarious Romanian woman, Georgiana (Madalina in the book), who woke us with her beautiful singing while she set up tables on the cobblestone sidewalk beneath our window. (And like Ani, we too, caught a glimpse of a rather amorous couple through the open window across from ours….)
We rode bicycles around the city ramparts, climbed the 230 steps to the gardens atop the Guinigi Tower, ate candied almonds and gelato, practiced our terrible Italian on patient shopkeepers and baristas, bought locally-made silk scarves—Lucca is famous for their silk merchants—and wandered the streets just drinking it all in. Every moment of our time in that city was glorioso!
It was at our next stop that I received one of those dreaded phone from home—my beloved father had suffered a terrible stroke. I got to speak briefly with him by phone—such a gift. I told him I loved him, that I was on my way home. We scrambled to get any available flights, but it still took us almost three days to get back, and in the end, I arrived too late to say goodbye in person.
In my grief, I tucked away the memories of those lovely days in Lucca and buried them somewhere at the back of my heart. For the longest time, I couldn’t talk about the trip, couldn’t look at photos, couldn’t unpack my bag of souvenirs.
Then one October morning seven years later, I came awake to the echoes of Georgiana singing at my window, her voice drifting out of my dreams with me. I lay still, tears seeping from the corners of my eyes, and allowed myself to be swept back to Lucca where I’d awakened on a glorious Tuscan morning to that same haunting voice.
I knew then that there was a story to be told, and in the telling of it, I’d find some long-overdue closure. Like Fabio says to Ani at the beginning of All the Way to Heaven, “Lucca is full of light and joy. If you look for it with open eye and open heart and open hand, you will find happy here, okay?”
So that’s what I did. I opened my eyes, my heart, and my hands, and found light, beauty, and joy in my memories of Lucca. And in so doing, I found a happily-ever-after romance for Ani, too.
I call this a “beauty from ashes” book (Isaiah 61:1-3). God turned my Italy trip from bitter to sweet in the process of writing All the Way to Heaven!
Over the summer, an idea started percolating for a second “trip to Italy” romance, and although All the Way to Heaven is a standalone novel, I’m happy to announce that Sunlight on my Shoulders, A Tuscan Romance Book 2, is coming this fall!
To celebrate, I’m giving away one paperback copy (Continental US only – sorry!) of All the Way to Heaven, and two digital copies (worldwide). Have you or has someone you know had a “beauty from ashes” experience? Leave a comment below to be entered in the #giveaway!
Ani is finally on her dream trip to Italy, but boarding the wrong train on her first day derails her idealistic plans, and things just go downhill from there. When a bicycle accident in the medieval city of Lucca lands Ani in the care of the bighearted Lazzaro family, she gratefully accepts their invitation to recover at the family’s Tuscan country villa. Surrounded by ancient olive groves, vineyards, and sunflower fields, Ani finds healing for her heart as well. Just as she’s getting back on her feet, an unexpected turn of events leave her doubting the very existence of happily ever after.
Becky Doughty writes inspirational fiction overflowing with love, friendship, humor, and lots of family drama. And usually a dog or two. She’s also the voice behind more than a hundred “family-friendly” audiobooks.
Becky is married to her champion of 30-plus years. They have three adult children and a growing brood of delicious grandchildren. They share their lives with too many animals, a couple of riotous, rambling gardens, and a house that’s alive with music at all hours.
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