I’m excited to be writing my very first blog post for InspyRomace, and I’m thrilled to be in the company of such great writers and readers. By way of introduction, I thought I would share with you the story of how I ended up here, right where God wants me.
It was the summer of 2011. I had been a published author for eleven years, but I was struggling with where my writing career was going. Three publishing companies had believed in me enough to release my books, but I had never achieved the readership that would make me a successful writer. Eight books, several different genres — I was trying to find my niche, a place where my writing style – my voice – was a natural fit.
I was a needle in a haystack. If someone found my books, they usually enjoyed them. And sometimes they sought out more. But in the huge market of contemporary romance, I had to face reality: my books were … forgettable.
One thing I knew: I didn’t want to quit writing all together. Writing was such a huge part of my life that I couldn’t imagine life without it. BUT (and this was a big but …) I didn’t see the point in going down the same path I’d been on. Write another entertaining, but easily forgettable contemporary romance novel. I desperately needed to make a change for the better.
So I started brainstorming. What did I want to create?
- Something meaningful. Heartwarming. Inspiring.
- A story that makes people feel good.
- A story that will be remembered long after it is finished.
A few weeks of letting my brain mull this over, and I had the beginning premise of a story. At my son’s baseball game, I said to Anne, a fellow-mom and also an avid reader, “What do you think of this as a story? Would you want to read something like this?” I pitched the story: a woman in her 50’s who thought that life was all set – long-term marriage, successful teaching career, ambitious daughter – only to discover that everything was falling apart. Her husband strayed, her marriage was ending, her school year was coming to an end, and her daughter accepted an internship out of the country. All that spread out in front of her was a long, empty, lonely summer.
To fight depression, she hits the road. No destination in mind, just follow the path where God leads her. She discovers that as broken and devastated as we are, God can use our unique skillset to help others He places in our path. After following God’s will, the woman realizes that what started out to be the worst summer of her life, turns into the best.
The pitch just flowed off my tongue. Anne stared at me, spellbound as I blabbered the entire premise. When I stopped she said, “YES! I’d love to read that. That’s me. That’s you. That’s every woman our age. Maybe the details aren’t the same for everyone, but the thought that God can use us, flaws and all, makes it very universal and appealing.”
So, a budding excitement in my heart, I took the idea and expanded on it. Leslie Malone was born, as was her ex-husband Tim, her daughter Jasmine, all the characters she met along the way, and of course, eventually, Hank Harrison who turns out to be the love of her life.
Once I’d gotten that far, I prayed. I was going to be writing an inspirational romance. But I couldn’t do it without help and guidance from my Father. I prayed about this story. I prayed about my writing career. I felt like I was on the verge of something big, and God placed enthusiasm in my heart. I made a deal with God (smile). I told Him that if He wanted me writing Christian fiction, He needed to guide the right readers to me. I had spent eleven years becoming the best writer I knew how to be. I’d sharpened my shovel, I’d practiced and perfected my trade. Now, I would be writing for Him. He just needed to put the books in front of those people who needed/wanted to hear the message.
So, we settled on an agreement, God and I. Every day when I sat down to write, I prayed, “God, guide this story. Guide my words. Help me to write the story that You want me to tell. And help this book, and all my others, find the readers. Amen.”
Ten finished inspirational romance novels later, I still pray that prayer every day.
Did it work? Yes. I call this series Pawleys Island Paradise, because it takes place in the coastal South Carolina town where my family vacationed every summer. A little piece of heaven, in my humble opinion. It took off and expanded into seven books before I moved onto my next series, just down the road geographically, Murrells Inlet Miracles. Now I’m firmly settled into my brand: Heartwarming, life-changing Christian fiction. And they all take place at the beach.
God was true to His word. These books reach people every day, and they mean something to people. They help people who are going through similar issues as my characters. Heartfelt reviews and personal messages from readers about my beachy heartwarming reads remind me that God cares about what I’m doing here. And it sure makes me feel good to be right where He wants me to be.
Have you ever made a “deal” with God? What was it about and how did you feel Him working in your life?