Do you have a hobby? Do you have something that you really enjoy doing, something at which you work to improve your skill? Something that you feel almost compelled to do?
I like to write.
Doubting my skill, I told very few people that I wrote… until the day a publisher accepted my first book, Chasing Liberty. Only then did I consider myself a writer. Only then was I willing to share my secret.
Why did I keep it a secret? I don’t know. Maybe I was afraid of seeming silly, afraid I’d never be good enough. Or afraid someone would tell me I’m too old to write and that I was wasting my time. Maybe a part of me felt guilty about all the time that goes into writing and rewriting and rewriting a single story. If time were money, I put way more into a singe story than I’ll ever get back.
It is hard work. Just like any hobby or job, if you want to be good at it, you have to continue to learn and work on improving. But I love writing. I find it fulfilling. The stories and characters are a part of me.
I recently found out that the first complete novel I ever wrote (not the first book I published) just won an award from the Catholic Press Association! Click on the link and scroll down to “Books for Teens and Young Adults.”
My baby won!
Like most writers, I’ve been writing for personal enjoyment since grade school. My sister and I used to take turns writing chapters in a crazy story with no real plot. We used characters from our favorite TV shows and movies, and a few that we developed on our own. They were a wild bunch, always getting into trouble. She and I would always leave the characters in a cliffhanger at the end of the chapter. And the other one would have to write them out of danger and into a new ridiculous situation. It was so fun!
My first full-length novel.
I didn’t set out to write a complete story until I was a young adult. Roland West, Loner was the first story I felt compelled to write. I began writing it before I knew much about the art of writing. Over the years, I read dozens of books on the subject, and I received advice and help from other writers. As a result, the story changed and grew. The characters developed. Mysteries and threads came together. Many things changed, including the point of view and the title, but the important things did not change. The message remained the same.
A few years ago, I joined the Catholic Writers Guild fiction critique group. Writers Don Mulcare, Carolyn Astfalk, and Susan Peek critiqued and beta read the story, adding their expert advice and helping this story to become what it is today. I am so incredibly happy with it. Little miracles happened along the way, too, but I can’t share them without spoiling some of the surprises you will find if you decide to read this story.
Behind the scenes:
Roland West, Loner was originally called Peter’s Inheritance. And Peter’s story line, with his autistic brother, was the main focus. Roland’s story line was secondary. A publisher who read the story encouraged me to reexamine this. While Peter is greatly impacted by an inheritance he receives, Roland is impacted even more. This was Roland’s story. After much contemplation, I agreed and I rewrote it!
West family crest.
The West family crest described in chapter 7 of Roland West, Loner is real. At a certain point in writing the story, I decided it would be appropriate for the West family to have a crest. So I searched the internet for “West family crest.” I couldn’t believe what I found: two tiger heads over a single tiger head and a knight’s helmet above them all. This totally fit the West boys. The two tiger heads on top represent the twins, while the loner on the bottom represents Roland. And the knight helmet, well, once you see what type of house the Wests’ live in, it all makes sense!
Why South Dakota? I’ve never lived in or even visited the state. But I needed this story to take place somewhere that had interesting rock formations and waterfalls. All my research pointed to South Dakota, so I set out to learn as much as I could about it. The setting plays a very important part in this story. So I hope it comes to life for my readers.
The Communion of Saints.
A saint comes into this story at some point. And while I never knew of him before writing this book, this saint has truly come into my life. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I chose him for the following reasons:
- I wanted a little-known saint.
- I am a secular Franciscan so I wanted him to be a Franciscan saint.
- My sister was in love with the German language, so I wanted him to be from Germany.
After choosing him, I learned everything I could about him. Several things made him the perfect choice: the details of his life, the similarities to characters in my story, and the miracles that resulted from his intercession. During the final revisions of this story, I discovered that Susan Peek also knew this saint. She hadn’t realized it at first. At some point during our work together, she emailed me: “Hey, I think I know this saint. My daughter visited his shrine and brought back his candle.” This blew me away! Of all the saints from all the countries in the world, she had a candle from the shrine of this particular little-known saint. So we decided to begin a novena to this saint as we completed our work. It was an amazing experience.
I hope I haven’t given away too much. And I hope that I have peaked your interest in this story. Through the intercession of—can’t say—I pray that this story touches many lives and gives a greater appreciation of the doctrine of the Communion of Saints.
Whatever your hobbies or interests, I hope that you will pursue them and find great fulfillment, too!
Congratulations to the other CPA Book Award winners and especially those in the “Books for Teens & Young Adults” category:
3rd place: Liberation by Corinna Turner