I’m excited to tell you about my new book.
Eight years in the making, this novel was not fun to write like my California Rising books. Oh, it started out fun. I thought I was making up a story for my daughters, Cami and Lacy, when they were in high school. Scott wouldn’t let the girls read the Twilight series like all their friends were reading at the time, so I said I would write a story the girls could read. I titled the book: Holding Amy, and imagined a sweet love story between a pregnant girl and the town football hero set in modern day Tennessee.
Why Tennessee? I don’t know. I’d been there once when I was 16 years old and loved it. The mountains. The meadows. The old church steeples.
How the teenage girl in Tennessee got pregnant was a mystery to me. Shawn, the boy she falls in love with after she’s already pregnant, is a pastor’s son, and leads worship at his father’s popular megachurch. He’s a senior at a private Christian high school and the star quarterback of his football team. Everybody loves Shawn.
You know the drill. Shawn falls for Amy, a girl from a trailer park who has about nothing. Their love changes them and everyone lives happily ever after. The problem was, each day that summer in 2009 when I sat down to write, the story didn’t want to be what I wanted it to be. We weren’t farming yet. Scott was out of the school for the summer, so he watched the kids, and I wrote the book in two months. The fastest book I’ve ever written.
But just a few days into writing it, I knew I had a problem, a runaway muse.
I’m a seat-of-my-pants writer, and I find out what happens just like a reader does. Most of the time, I don’t know what’s going to take place in my books until I write them. My nine-year-old son G2 calls it my “brain movie” after I tried to explain to him how I write a book. It doesn’t feel like I’m creating a story. The story is already on a film spool and I’m not the one who starts and stops the projector. I often feel like a typist instead of a writer. Like someone else is telling the tale, and I’m just trying to nail it down. Sometimes I have to type really fast to keep up with my muse.
As Holding Amy formed, I found myself really frustrated with the story. My Christian characters weren’t as good as I’d first thought, and the story wasn’t going where I wanted it to go. I tried to make the characters stay good, but my muse wouldn’t let me off the hook, so I finally gave up and told the tale as it came to me.
And boy, did the story surprise me. I found myself really crying while writing some of the scenes. In other scenes, I got so angry. Poor Amy. She was a good girl, not a Christian, but an admirable person. Yet, all the Christians in the story thought Amy wasn’t good. And my fine Christian characters, what was happening to them? Amy had her secrets, I knew that early on, but Christians with secrets of their own? What was that all about?
What was happening to my sweet teenage love story? Sometimes I would just stop writing and go for a walk. God what are you trying to teach me with this book? I asked. The book, by the time it was nearly finished, made me uncomfortable enough that I went to our pastor, and gave him a one page synopsis. “I’m writing this book,” I said “and I’m here to ask for your blessing to keep going because I’m not sure about it anymore.” Pastor quietly read the synopsis and then looked at me for a solemn moment. I won’t tell you what he said because I don’t want to give away what happens in the story, but basically our pastor felt like I did. Why were the Christians falling apart in this book?
I finished the novel and my literary agent started shopping it around. The book nearly went to a big Christian publisher, but the young editor who wanted it got laid off the same week I discovered I was pregnant at 43 years old with my seventh child. Issues were also arising in our church that reminded me of some of the stuff in my book. It was weird. And made me mad. And sad. I needed a break. So I told my agent I couldn’t write anymore, and didn’t want him trying to sell the book. I just wanted to grow a baby and rest my brain for awhile. Rest my heart for awhile.
After I had our baby, a wildly strong-willed boy, our fourth son born in just eight years with three teenagers in the house already, our church fell apart and so did I. If you follow my blog, you know some of this history. I came down with melanoma and then had a breakdown. When I finally recovered, I wasn’t about to touch Holding Amy, which had turned into The Mother Keeper somewhere along the way. Amy became Ellie because an editor told me readers were sick of the name Amy, which I found kind of harsh. Amy’s a sweet name. Anyway, I tucked the book away in my computer for years and tried to forget about it.
In February, I was working on my third California Rising book, when our teenage son told us his girlfriend was pregnant. All of a sudden, we had a teenage daddy in our family. For several days my emotions were so raw, but then the air began to clear. Suddenly, I wanted to finish The Mother Keeper, which I hadn’t touched since my breakdown. I knew it was the book I was supposed to publish next.
A pregnant teenager can bring a lot of judgement upon a family. When it’s a Christian family, that judgement can feel like the weight of the world. But in our case, mostly, we felt loved by our church, which had recovered from the mess of a few years back. We received a lot of hugs and prayers from people at church when we finally revealed our news.
Our pregnant teenagers, Luke and Alex, are doing great now. Luke is at boot camp and Alex is a beautiful little mama. I am confident God has good plans for these kids who are growing up fast. God is the author of life and children are always a blessing from the Lord, a reward from God, says the Bible. With two grandbabies on the way, our oldest, Cami and her husband, Drew are due in July with their first baby, Scott and I feel very rewarded. Plus, our daughter, Lacy and her guy, Jake, will marry in our front yard June 10th. God is so faithful!
The Mother Keeper is now available on Amazon.