I chose the title, Home at Last, for this post because it’s about the path I took to find my place in this wide world of publishing. Of course, I continue to evolve, but this is the story of my journey to Christian fiction.
As many of you know, I wrote traditional romance before entering the Christian fiction genre. When I wrote my first romance, I was working full-time as a systems engineer for a major telecommunications company. Well, after working as an engineer for more than 10 years, I decided that I would rather be a teacher than an engineer. So I found myself back in graduate school studying Human Resource Education, working full-time in engineering, and trying to write two books a year. Well, it soon became too much and I decided something had to go. Guess what went? If you said full-time engineering job, you’re right. I took one of those buy-out packages that provided paid benefits for three years.
Thoughts of becoming a full-time writer had lingered in the back of my mind, but I never really indulged them. It just seem too far-fetched. Well, the buy-out package from my job gave me the opportunity to test the waters. Back in those days, the generally accepted wisdom was that you could quit your job if you had at least five books in print that were generating royalties, wrote for two publishers and were putting out two-to-four books a year. At the time that I left my job I had one publisher, Kensington (Arabesque Books), and three books, if I remember correctly. Before the three years were up, I had seven books and two publishers, with Harlequin (Silhouette Books) as my second publisher. I was on my way, right?
Well, I was on my way until I hit a very big road block. You see, the key to being a full-time writer is that you actually have to write. Well, I had my two contracts, a planned three-book series for Arabesque and another one for Silhouette, and I was ready to go. Until I couldn’t write the books. Yes, you read it correctly. I couldn’t write the books.
I had never dealt with writer’s block before so I figured that was what was going on. To fix it, I took a break from the writing for a while to clear my head. Well, after my head was clear, I still couldn’t write. Pretty soon panic set in.
In my panic, I called an old high school girlfriend and told her my troubles. My advice: Never call a high school friend for advice unless you want the truth. Well, I called her and her response was simple. She said, “I don’t know why you’re writing that anyway. I thought you were going to write Christian stories.” Well, I hate to say this but I was torn between the desire to slam the phone down in her ear and the desire to reach through the phone and choke her. Of course, I did neither.
Instead, I prayerfully considered the words she’d spoken. You see, I had envisioned my first book being a cross between Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale and Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love. Redeeming Love was a re-telling of biblical story of Hosea and Gomer, the prostitute, set in the American West. Bands of Gold, my first book, turned out to be more Waiting to Exhale than Redeeming Love.
Well, my prayers led to tears and pleas for a chance to write the book I had initially planned to write. Awakening Mercy, my first Christian romance, became that book. Believe it or not, it took a while for Awakening Mercy to find a publisher. It was turned down by several Christian publishers before Tyndale bought it. The heroine, CeCe Williams, had a bunch of unpaid parking tickets, which was a big problem for one publisher, who basically said that real Christians paid their parking tickets. Oh, well.
Interestingly, my contract with Tyndale came three months after the three-year time period I’d given myself to make it as a full-time writer ended. By that time, I was back in graduate school, this time to get a doctorate. I often wonder what I would have done had the contract come before I enrolled in the doctoral program. Would I have become a full-time writer and not become a university professor? Would I have several more published novels instead of doctorate? I have no idea.
Even though I wonder if I would have made different decisions under different circumstances, I’m happy with my Christian fiction journey. The path may not have been straight, but God has been gracious and I have blossomed and grown. I believe my life and my writing are the better for it.
Home at Last! How about you? Are you in that place that you know God wants you to be?
Until next month,