My path to publication is unconventional. Although I grew up surrounded by books, I rarely considered a writing career. Instead, I studied chemistry and received my doctorate in pharmacy. After graduation, I chose to work one day a week as a hospital pharmacist so I could stay home with our three children. On January 6, 2000, when our youngest was a toddler, I had a dream with such intriguing characters that I felt compelled to write their story. Before that date, I’d never had an idea for a book, and after that, ideas flowed. It was as if God turned on a writing switch in my brain. The novel that came from that dream will never be published, nor should it, but it got me started.
Since God had called me to write and since our children were young, I decided if I was going to dedicate time to writing, I needed to be serious and pursue publication. I went to my first writers’ conference in September 2000 with a perfect 750-page manuscript and one question—how to find a publisher. That one-day conference showed me everything I was doing wrong. I came home with several books on writing craft and slashed my manuscript in half. I still had a lot to learn.
In 2001, I joined Diablo Valley Christian Writers’ Group. My writers’ group has taught me three main things: 1) how to write 2) how to handle critique, and 3) a writer needs other writers. Later that year I attended another conference taught by Lauraine Snelling. She taught me so much about plotting, characterization, and research. At that point I was playing with the idea for A Distant Melody, and Lauraine’s teaching got me off to a great start.
The concept for A Distant Melody came out of a “what if” question—what if a man and woman met at an event, truly clicked, and parted before exchanging contact info? Wouldn’t it be romantic if he went through great effort to track her down? It wouldn’t work in a contemporary setting—he’d “Google” her—but it made a sweet premise for a historical. My husband and I watched a History Channel special on the US Eighth Air Force based in England which flew over Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, and I was hooked.
But a historical? Historicals require research! And I’d never flown a plane—how could I put myself in my hero’s seat behind the wheel of a four-engined bomber?
So for the next year I immersed myself in research. I read basic texts on World War II, the home front, and the Eighth Air Force. I checked out a “How to Fly” book to get the basics, purchased copies of the B-17 pilot’s manual and the Army Air Force training film (pure gold!), and ran the flying scenes past a pilot friend. For home front information, I used everything from Top Ten lists, to fashion style guides, to the Time Capsule series with extracts from Time Magazine. I loved my research so much that the story expanded to become a trilogy, with each book focusing on one of three brothers.
In 2003, my writers’ group encouraged me (pushed me?) to show my work to professionals, so I submitted at Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. I received good feedback from published authors, editors, and agents—and began accumulating a stack of “good” rejection letters. They liked my writing, my story, and my characters—however, historicals weren’t selling. They wanted chick lit. This continued for years.
I never wanted to give up on the series, because I loved my characters. However, in 2005 all doors to publication seemed closed and padlocked, and I wondered whether I had heard God correctly. Was I truly meant to write? Was I wasting my time when I could be doing something more productive?
That year at Mount Hermon I went for a walk under the redwoods and stopped to admire a little white flower. I praised God for the flower and felt touched—had He made that flower just so I would praise Him? Then I looked around me. Hundreds of redwoods covered the hills, and thousands more out of my vision, all surrounded by white blossoms. How many of those flowers would ever cause someone to stop and praise God? Were they created in vain? Did the Lord waste His time creating them? Of course not. God is a creative Being, and He made us in His creative image. In His mercy, the Lord showed me that even if my writing was never seen by another human being and never caused anyone to praise Him, I did the right thing obeying His call to write. I was not wasting my time.
So I kept writing. I kept submitting. I kept praying. Then at Mount Hermon in March 2008, I heard, “We don’t want chick lit. We need historicals.” And there I was with my trilogy close to complete. I submitted to Vicki Crumpton at Revell, and in September I was offered a three-book contract. A Distant Melody was published in March 2010, ten years and two months after that first dream. The second book in the Wings of Glory series, A Memory Between Us, comes out in September 2010, and the third book in August 2011.
Mother Teresa said, “God doesn’t require us to succeed; He only requires that you try.” If God has called you to do something for Him, measure your success through His eyes. Did you obey? Were you faithful? Did you persevere?
Stubbornness can be a serious fault, but when it’s applied to following God’s will, it’s a very good thing.