by: Staci Stallings
When I first started writing Contemporary Christian Romance in 1996, nobody told me what a crazy, twisting road this journey would turn out to be. First of all, back then there was no such thing as Contemporary Christian Romance. It literally did not exist as a genre.
I had been told to go and get books in the genre you want to write and read them. So I tried, only to be told, “Oh, you mean historical, right?” When I insisted on contemporary, they laughed at me.
It took five years for contemporary Christian Romance to even become a thing. By then there were lines for it and a band of authors who got together to form the American Christian Romance Writers Association (now the ACFW, when Romance morphed into “fiction”). I was member #75 of that fledgling group, and while both the genre and the visibility of Contemporary Christian Romance had risen, the lid on what you could write had clamped down firmly upon the genre.
It was in this environment that my first book, “The Long Way Home” was published. I went with a POD publisher because the lines had strict guidelines and my books just didn’t fit into them. So this romance about a son sent against his will to a little town in Kansas was molded by this company trying to become one of the big boys, and unbeknownst to me “formula” was their goal all the way. My editor and I worked and honed and fixed, and finally, I thought it was ready.
Then he emailed me one day and said, “We’re just over 89,000 words, and they want it more like 84,000, so I’m just going to go through and hone it to that word count.” Now, in my defense, I was a new author who was way big into people pleasing and I wanted my book published. So I said, “Okay.”
Well, you would be surprised how much difference 5,000 words makes to a book. “The Long Way Home” was the sixth book I had written, and I had many readers at that time who had read my other books. When “The Long Way Home” came out, they all eagerly got a copy. But as I started reading, I realized in those 5,000 words, he had completely stripped my voice right out of the book!
I started getting feedback, and everyone said the same thing, “It’s a good book, but it doesn’t sound anything like you.” But what was I to do?
That was in 2001, and by 2002, I had three other books out (now self-published so no editor could take my voice out), and I set the boxes of copies I had of “The Long Way Home” into the corner and left them there. I didn’t want anyone to read it and think that was how I write.
In answer to your question, yes, over the last couple of years I had thought about rewriting it and putting it out on ebook. The problem was I was working with 2001 technology. Remember 3.5 floppy discs? That’s what I had the book stored on, and that, to me, seemed an insurmountable obstacle until a friend of mine mentioned she had an external drive that would read those.
Best $35 I ever spent!
So at the beginning of October, with my real-life commitments behind me, I pulled up my copy of “The Long Way Home,” and lo and behold, it was the one still written in my voice! I went through it twice to fix and reshape a few things, and now… here I am… 13 years later seeing “The Long Way Home” listed on Amazon with the rest of my books—right where it always should have been.
And I’m already getting feedback about how romantic it is and how many tears people have shed over it. “One of your best yet” a friend said the other day. I’ve never lost my love for this story, and I’m so glad God didn’t give up on it.
Interestingly, the technology in the story will make you laugh, and on that point, it almost becomes a “light history” story because as you read, you will remember what it was like as the technology revolution got going. How laptops were new but not connected to the thing we now know as the Internet. Cell phones weren’t smart, and faxes were cool. Makes me smile just thinking about it.
I guess all that’s to say, nobody warned me how long the journey with this one book would be, but I am thankful for every step, including this final one of putting it out there and letting others enjoy the story as it was always meant to be. God works miracles. I’m so honored to get to share this is one of mine with all of you!
The Long Way Home