A novel of human brokenness and God’s still-unfolding drama of redemption.
When two dysfunctional and wounded families wind up unexpectedly at the remote Master’s Inn during a December snowstorm, it’s up to owners Tom and Barb Masters to help—except they’re dealing with their own bitter issues. As the winter snowfall confines them, the three families find themselves coping with their crippled relationships and hard emotions . . . and sometimes tearing one another down in the process.
But when a secret is inadvertently revealed and a rebellious teenage girl takes off into the storm, chaos descends. Will they be tossed into more heartbreak, or will the crisis draw them together against a common enemy?
With a forest in Washington State as the backdrop, join the Masters’ at their B&B as they strive to show Christ’s love to all who cross their threshold . . . even when it threatens their own sanity and safety.
Deb Gorman, owner of Debo Publishing, was born and reared in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She still lives in her hometown with her husband, Alan, and their very smart German Shepherd, Hoka.
Deb is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, cleverly disguised as a wife, mom, grandmom, and author.
Her purpose is to connect with God’s most beautiful and clever creation, the human family, using the literary talent and imagination God gave her.
Her prayer is that as she journeys together with you, we will discover encouragement and redemption in our most important relationships.
Connect with Deb at https://debggorman.comwhere you will find her blog posts and information about her books, both published and forthcoming.
More from Deb
One Sunday morning in 2012, I listened to our pastor give one of his excellent sermons.
I don’t remember what he said to spark this idea, but I grabbed my church bulletin and began scribbling furiously. By the time the service ended I had a rough outline, character sketches, and the opening scene written. And the title—The Master’s Inn. Some details, of course, changed over the years, but the title stayed the same.
The Master’s Inn was first birthed as a ninety minute play, which my church produced over one weekend in December of 2013. I wrote the play and directed it. I had an excellent cast of characters, plenty of folks lending a hand from technical details to the dinner we hosted for our guests. It was truly a team effort.
The Master’s Inn play was the first serious effort I’d ever made at writing. After it’s success, I began thinking about writing a book. Now, ten years later, I’ve written three creative non-fiction, devotional-style books and contributed to a Chicken Soup for the Soul volume.
During the process of publishing those first three books, the characters from The Master’s Inn pestered me day and night to put them in a novel. Who was I to argue?
And so, those characters got what they wanted. They are no longer confined to ninety minutes and one weekend of publicity. They’re now out there for the whole world to see.
The Master’s Inn is a novel of human brokenness and God’s still-unfolding drama of redemption . . .
When two dysfunctional and wounded families wind up unexpectedly at the remote Master’s Inn during a December snowstorm, it’s up to owners Tom and Barb Masters to help—except they’re dealing with their bitter issues. As the winter snowfall confines them, the three families find themselves coping with their crippled relationships and hard emotions . . . and sometimes tearing one another down in the process.
But when a secret is inadvertently revealed and a rebellious teenage girl takes off into the storm, chaos descends. Will they be tossed into more heartbreak, or will the crisis draw them together against a common enemy?
With a forest in Washington State as the backdrop, join the Masters at their B&B as they strive to show Christ’s love to all who cross their threshold—even when it threatens their own sanity and safety.
“Some things just don’t go away . . . they hid in the darkest corners of the mind, waiting for an opportunity.”
If there could be one quote that might sum up the root of the problems the three couples/ families suffer in The Master’s Inn by Deb Gorman, this would be it. That, coupled with Barb’s observation about the Masters’s marriage, but still true about all three families:
“We’ve torn our house down with our own hands and left it in ruins.”
An unexpected blizzard traps three desperately needy families together. Will the storm outside the inn destroy them, or the eruptions within?
This was a difficult read for me. A belligerent, difficult teen; an emotionally unbalanced, failing family; PTSD from war; two other couples whose pasts threaten their ability to live in harmony and peace. This novel is very true-to-life. Will the characters decide to grow from their experiences and to trust God, or will they remain stuck in their bitterness and downward spirals, shaking their fists at God?
What really impressed me was how flawed and imperfect these characters were, yet God used them to chip away at the imperfections of each other and smooth out the way for each to follow Him in a closer way.
I received a copy of the book from Celebrate Lit. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
“We think our children are our own, and then something like this happens and we realize they aren’t—they belong to God.”
“Grandpa said that’s how life is sometimes—the best path is often the hardest.”
“Hope, indeed, was the only thing that could slay fear.”
Magnificent! Pain can be the gateway for growth if we submit to God.
When those experiencing the same fate she endured show up at her doorstep…
Katie determines to be their champion, no matter the fallout.
Will the man who fought for the other side also fight for her?
Unconventional Katie empathizes with the widows and orphans of the Civil War, searching for a place to call home in Shumard Oak Bend. But with no one to help her, she’ll need to do it secretly, a challenge she readily accepts. She’s taken charge before, and she’ll do it again, no matter who she has to outwit to get the job done.
He vowed to be his own man and stop doing everyone else’s bidding. But he follows orders when a pair of emerald green eyes, blazing red hair, and freckles that dance on the bridge of a pert nose conscript him to duty. Be his own man. Who is he kidding? Skunks don’t change their stripes. They leave disasters in their wake wherever they go, just like him.
Overcoming personal obstacles and finding your true self doesn’t mean going it alone. Yet the answer isn’t always in the one you seek.
“You’re seeing your failure. I’m seeing your worth.”
Third in a series Discerning God’s Best, Matters of the Heart by Heidi Gray McGill is easily a standalone novel. Set in 1866 Missouri, with the Civil War barely past, there are situations and a few words that some might find offensive, but which are true to the times.
PTSD, homelessness, caring for widows and orphans, standing up for oneself and one’s friends, and running from God are all themes of this book.
You will enjoy the characters you meet in this story. Sassy, fiery, passionate Katie, with an impossible dream. Hans, “tired of doing everyone else’s bidding. Tired of living under another’s rule. Tired of lying to himself that he could change.” Reverend Jenkins, oh, my! What a character he is!! And Aunt Aideen- so wise, humble, loving, encouraging, and willing to challenge people to be their best. Plus so many more secondary persons you will love as well.
I love that McGill focuses on the fact that though people are different, working together brings the best results. I love the belief not in coincidence, but “God incidence.” Also, there is a lot Truth for living imparted in these pages.
I received a copy of the book from Celebrate Lit, plus bought my own ebook. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
“So far, you’ve told me how you feel but not how God feels.”
“You’ve shared your thoughts, desires, and plans, but you need to listen to what God would have you do. It’s His path that matters.”
“He did not need a woman. He did not need this family, and he did not need God. He’d be just fine on his own.”
“…he wondered if he could ever outrun himself.”
“He’d heard more than once that freedom cost dearly. The war may be over, but there was no freedom for those now enslaved by their scars.”
“Now, he wanted to make something of himself, be his own man, prove to himself he could do more than just follow rules and orders.”
“Don’t make a decision based on a season of life that will alter the rest of your life.”
“He was telling her to live in the ‘yet’—that transitional time where she could grow and learn until He was ready to fulfill His will.”
“Yes, every step forward changes the view, it never remains the same.”
“I trust my God enough to believe He will provide exactly what we need at the moment we need it. Not a second early, nor a minute late.”
“But, scriptures are just phrases until we know God on a deeper level and on more than just paper. I learned God’s Word doesn’t become powerful until it becomes personal.”
Great!! A great post-Civil War novel with many nuggets of truth!!
About the Author
Heidi is an optimist who chooses to find the silver lining in life’s clouds of doubt. This plays out in her writing. Her ability to weave scripture seamlessly into the lives of her characters will uplift and encourage you, while her masterful storytelling will keep you turning page after page and wishing for more.
Heidi lives with her husband of thirty years near Charlotte, NC. When she isn’t writing, you will find her outside playing with her two grandsons, walking, scrapbooking, reading, cooking, traveling, or finding an excuse to have an outing with a girlfriend.
Fusing Faith and Fiction™
True Christian Fiction. Relatable Characters. Life-changing stories.
More from Heidi
Where did the idea for Matters of the Heart originate?
Before I was an author, I was the founder and director of an English as a Second Language ministry. The program touched the lives of students from 35 different countries. Regardless of culture, religion, language, or age, I found a substantial similarity in these students—they all wanted to improve their lot in life and that of their children.
Stories abounded of walks across deserts, financial hardships, desperate attempts to explain emergencies to medical professionals or law enforcement, failed verbal connections with schoolteachers, and an inability to obtain work because of their lack of language skills. Prejudice and distrust blocked them, culture shock took them outside their comfort zones, and the urgent need to survive made them scramble to dig deep inside and find creative ways to secure shelter and put food on their tables.
It wasn’t that these immigrants weren’t capable of achieving success. In their home countries, vocations varied from chemist and biologist with PhDs, to teachers, lawyers, and medical professionals. Others came from poverty and had little education but were not afraid of hard work, long hours, and low pay. They were tenacious, and they worked with relentless determination and a bullheaded resolve to achieve their goals. They relied on each other and soaked in everything around them in their desire to assimilate into the American culture and find a new place to belong.
Immigrants in the late 1800s were not much different. Individuals came to improve their lot in life and be a part of the greatest country in the world. In Matters of the Heart, Hans Korhonen left Finland with his brothers to take advantage of the land grants. Together, they worked to establish a farm large enough to sustain four families and support troops during the Civil War. Yet, in their desire to belong and give back to our great nation, Hans’s idyllic life changed through his service as a Union soldier.
Kathleen Murphy, or Katie, came to the United States to escape a life of extreme poverty and abuse in Ireland. Working in her aunt and uncle’s boarding offered more than a job. It provided the love and support of a family. Katie rose from her previous station and started fresh with hope on the horizon. She found a source of ministry that gave her life a purpose she’d not had before.
My association with my former ESL students helped me develop the characters in this book into individuals with which readers can identify.
Join Katie and Hans as they establish themselves in their new home of Shumard Oak Bend.
Charlotte Anne Mattas longs to turn back the clock. Before her husband, Sam, went to serve his country in the war, he was the man everyone could rely on–responsible, intelligent, and loving. But the person who’s come back to their family farm is very different from the protector Annie remembers. Sam’s experience in the Pacific theater has left him broken in ways no one can understand–but that everyone is learning to fear.
Tongues start wagging after Sam nearly kills his own brother. Now when he claims to have seen men on the mountain when no one else has seen them, Annie isn’t the only one questioning his sanity and her safety. If there were criminals haunting the hills, there should be evidence beyond his claims. Is he really seeing what he says, or is his war-tortured mind conjuring ghosts?
Annie desperately wants to believe her husband. But between his irrational choices and his nightmares leaking into the daytime, she’s terrified he’s going mad. Can she trust God to heal Sam’s mental wounds–or will sticking by him mean keeping her marriage at the cost of her own life?
Debut novelist Janyre Tromp delivers a deliciously eerie, Hitchcockian story filled with love and suspense. Readers of psychological thrillers and historical fiction by Jaime Jo Wright and Sarah Sundin will add Tromp to their favorite authors list.
“Sometimes God uses broken things to save us … Ain’t no light that can get through something solid. It sneaks through the broken places.”
Broken… that is what so many characters are, in Janyre Tromp’s debut novel, Shadows in the Mind’s Eye. WWII is over, but as the surviving men return home, many face the kind of difficulties that own Sam Mattas and his family.
Wives and other family not going to war attempt to keep the family homestead going, waiting their men’s return. When Sam Mattas reappears, his wife and family are left to wonder how to navigate the much less-than-ideal situation God allows. Is God still to be trusted? Does God have a plan for this mess?
This psychological thriller is immersed in the Southern mountain culture, with the heart of truth only revealed after much emotional upheaval (including on the reader’s part!) First person narrative, alternating between Sam and Annie, made me want to choose sides, then switch repeatedly until my head was spinning. Characters are so multi-faceted and fluid that I found myself identifying with even some of the “villains.” I must admit this novel reminded me of some great classics- not easy to enter into for awhile, but once I did, I felt like I had discovered a treasure by the end!
My favorite character is Dovie May. Elderly, life has not been kind to her, yet she remains full of faith, optimism, and encouragement for others to keep pressing forward. Wisdom is certainly on her tongue.
I received a copy of this book from the I Read with Audra Tour via NetGalley. No positive review is required, and all opinions are my own.
So many, but I will give my fave:
“We think everything eventually goes back to what we want it be. That everything’ll be happy and familiar, the good winning. We never want to travel beyond the point where everybody’s happy. But life’s everything after, and the question is, what are you going to do with the truth life drops in your lap?”
Magnificent!! Fabulous Psychological Thriller of WWII Era
About the Author
Janyre Tromp is a historical novelist whose loves spinning tales that, at their core, hunt for beauty, even when it isn’t pretty. She’s the author of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye and coauthor of It’s a Wonderful Christmas.
She’s also a book editor, published children’s book author, and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her family, two crazy cats, and a slightly eccentric Shetland Sheepdog. And if you ever meet in person, you pronounce that first name Jan-ear.
In Shadows in the Mind’s Eye (Kregel Publications),debut novelist Janyre Tromp delivers a deliciously eerie, Hitchcockian story filled with love and suspense as she takes readers back in time to 1940s Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Charlotte Anne Mattas longs to turn back the clock. Before her husband, Sam, went to serve his country in the war, he was the man everyone could rely on—responsible, intelligent, and loving. But the person who came back to their family farm is very different from the protector Annie remembers. Sam’s experience in the Pacific theater has left him broken in ways no one can understand—but that everyone is learning to fear.
When Sam claims to have seen men on the mountain when no one else has, Annie isn’t the only one questioning his sanity and her safety. If there were criminals haunting the hills, there should be evidence. Is he really seeing what he says, or is his war-tortured mind conjuring ghosts?
Annie desperately wants to believe her husband, but between his irrational choices and his nightmares leaking into the daytime, she’s terrified he’s going mad. Can she trust God to heal Sam’s mental wounds—or will sticking by him mean keeping her marriage at the cost of her own life?
Q: The back of the book describes Shadows in the Mind’s Eye as, “A deliciously eerie, Hitchcockian story filled with love and suspense.” In your own words, introduce us to your debut novel.
Charlotte Anne Mattas wants to go back to the way things were before her husband, Sam, left their farm for the war in the Pacific. Sam used to be her protector, but when he arrives home in Spring of 1946, his battle fatigue has everyone questioning his sanity and her safety… especially after he nearly kills his brother, then claims to see men on the mountain where no else has seen them. Are there really dangerous men on the mountain or is his twisted mind conjuring things that aren’t there?
In the tradition of Hitchcock with a hint of psychological thriller, In the Mind’s Eye explores the illness we now call PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and persistent love in a world determined to destroy it.
Q: Sam and Charlotte Anne both expected life to go back to normal when he returned from the war, but that doesn’t exactly happen. How was life post-war different from what they expected? How does each of them respond to those differences?
This story actually began while talking to my grandparents over a glass of lemonade. My U.S. History professor had given us an assignment to talk to family about the Depression and/or World War II. Until that point, I’d had no real concept of what the war was like, either for the soldiers or their families back home. I guess I’d thought that the greatest generation slid back into life and easily became the loving people I knew my grandparents were in their 70s. When I discovered that wasn’t the case, I wondered how they had survived the fear and drastic changes.
Like my grandfather, Sam glorified the home front, anticipating a glorious homecoming, delicious food, a soft bed, and an easier life.Charlotte Anne expected Sam to quickly become part of the teamagain as they worked their peach orchard. Instead, Sam has nightmares and reacts to food he used to love (I even gave Sam a reaction to orange marmalade just like my grandfather). Sam tends to jump to conclusions because he doesn’t understand the context, struggles with the physicality of farm work, and is overwhelmed with the amount of work that has to be done since Charlotte Anne wasn’t able to do a lot of the upkeep.
At first, neither Sam nor Annie knows quite what to do with one another, but they’re determined to understand each other.Eventually they each open up to Sam’s mom, Dovie May, and she becomes a healing balm for each of them. If I had to give Dovie a theme, it would be: “You’d think holding joy right up against sadness would shatter a body. But it don’t. Joy, it sneaks in all around, sticks everything together, and finds a way to make you whole. See, light sneaks through the broken places.”
Q: In our current day, we are very aware of what PTSD is, and that it is very prevalent among men and women who have been in the military and seen war. What was known about PTSD back in the 1940s after World War II?
Although the general population didn’t shame WWII soldiers with PTSD symptoms as much as they did their WWI counterparts, WWII era doctors knew little about how to treat trauma of any kind. Battle fatigue, as it was known then, was treated with electroshock therapy (something that was terrifying and had limited success), and many of the men who suffered from it were often divorced, angry, confused, and quietly addicted to drugs and alcohol. Of course, I didn’t want to leave Sam and Annie here, so I dug for treatment options and talked with a few modern therapists.
In my research, those who fared best were often those who lived a little off the grid, in places where they could be physically active, with people who loved them and gave them the space to remove themselves when necessary. Sam also stumbles on a bit of a modern treatment technique by accident. Most folks have heardthat going for a walk can help with mental stability. What isn’t as familiar is that the rhythm of walking combined with talking can actually replicate bits and pieces of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy which is one of the most successful battlefield PTSD treatments.
Q: What are some struggles Sam deals with upon returning home to Hot Springs? Is he able to hide what is going on from those closest to him or does it become apparent to everyone around him?
Sam’s reactions to “normal” stimulus are off the charts. If he hears a sound or sees a shadow, he immediately jumps into fight/flight/freeze reactions. As is normal for people when they’re first dealing with PTSD, he has no tools to hide his responses and lacks a bit of impulse control. He’s a good, good man with an enormous heart and his reactions cause a horrendous amount of guilt for him. The last thing he wants is to put the people he loves in danger.
As the story progresses and circumstances continue to slide sideways, Sam faces his own mental instability. Imagine watching yourself become more and more unstable and wondering if there’s anything you can do to stop it.
Q: Sam claims to see and hear things going on around him that no one else does. How does Annie deal with what’s going on with her husband?
At first Annie is supportive of her husband and backs him up. She lists all the reasons she believes him: He’s a man she has always trusted. He’s amazing with his daughter. He’s gentle and kind and strong. Unfortunately, circumstances continue to prove that Sam is unstable, and she’s forced to question his sanity. She is rightfully terrified and confused.
To deal with her husband’s instability, she leans on her family—Sam’s mom and brother. They give Annie perspective and help with both the emotional and physical toll of working through unexpected circumstances. One of the things I’m most proud of in Annie is that she doesn’t allow Sam to abuse her even by accident. She holds the line and doesn’t budge from that. It’s something I hope all people do for themselves. That said, Sam is horrified by the fact that he hurt Annie in his sleep and refuses to put her in any further danger. But he also doesn’t give up.
Q: Hot Springs, Arkansas, is an unusual setting for a book. How did you choose the location and how does it play into the story?
Even though the book idea started with wondering how my grandparents’ marriage survived the pressure of war, the book isn’t biographical. So, I needed a setting other than my grandparents’ hometown. For the characters that I was building, I needed a small town. When one of my good friends told me she had an entire book of stories from her family in Arkansas, I jumped at the chance to read first-hand history. Amongst the Hughes family stories, I acquired the basis for Dovie May and Hot Springs, Arkansas—home to the largest illegal gambling racket in the country.
Well, I don’t have to tell you that mobsters and illegal activity are an excellent backdrop for a story with a bit of suspense. The book The Bookmaker’s Daughter by Shirley Abbott confirmed that Hot Springs mobsters operated with full permission of the authorities. In Shirley’s stories, I also discovered the foundation for Charlotte Anne’s father. All of which gave me a location and a cast of characters that could stoke Sam’s fears and make everyone (including the reader) wonder whether or not he was crazy.
Q: What kind of research did you do on the effects of war during that time period? What sparked the inspiration for that part of the story?
As I mentioned, the initial interest came from my grandparents and their stories. But PTSD is also something I’ve struggled with for years. I had some childhood trauma that I worked through back in college. I started writing this book using the nightmares and struggles I had as a kid. Then my daughter became very, very illwhich sparked a new trauma all its own.
That said, battlefield PTSD has different components than the trauma I suffered. To research that, I had several long conversations with a friend who treats battlefield PTSD. She’s the one who reminded me that EMDR is, in essence, any activity thatuses bilateral stimulation to trigger both sides of the brain—thus the positive effects of walking and wide-open spaces. I also read Soldiers from the War Returning by Thomas Childers to get an idea of the authentic story of the men returning from war; The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. for how PTSD affects the brain and body; and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home by Marshele Carter Waddell and Kelly K. Orr, PhD, ABPP to understand the battlefield specific emotional wounds, and how that affects a warrior’s family.
Q: An author often writes part of herself into the story, or at least something she knows about. How have you been affected by PTSD?
There have been long stretches of my life where I was all too familiar with debilitating fear. I still have occasional flashes from my childhood, the rush of adrenaline causing my pulse to pound and hands to shake. I was terrified to have kids, to be the one responsible for their physical/mental/emotional wellbeing. The last thing I wanted was for them to have the same problems I had. But, as Dovie May says, “The best place for miracles is where we don’t fully believe, where our believing has run out.” My husband, Chris, and his family, as well as my good friend, Sarah De Mey,and my mom (who worked hard to get help), have been amazing role models for me as I navigate what it looks like to raise emotionally healthy kids.
All that peace came crashing down when my daughter became ill. She was hospitalized seven times over a few months’ time and the doctors had no idea what caused her illness. After months of visiting doctors to find out why my thirteen-year-old daughter was experiencing increasing abdominal pain, she collapsed at school. What followed was a living nightmare. Doctors found her abdominal cavity full of a fungal infection that quickly went septic. That was the first time we almost lost her. Months later, she’d lost more than forty pounds, and both she and I were wracked with nightmares, an inability to drive anywhere near the hospital, or be in a room with needles. To this day, I can’t smell rubbing alcohol without my body responding with panic.
On paper she should not have survived, and I can’t describe the immense fear that comes from the Pediatric ICU or a parade of doctors. My girl is doing great now, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I didn’t finish the book, and hadn’t found the path to hope until after my daughter had walked out of the hospital for the last time.
I’m enormously grateful for EMDR, my therapist, and the grace of God that much of my fear is gone.
Q: The novel includes a good deal of discussion about the nature of evil and the character of God. The characters acknowledge that God doesn’t stop bad things from happening. How do they reconcile the hurt and pain in their lives with their concept of a loving God?
The problem of pain is one that even the best and brightest theologians and thinkers don’t have a perfect answer for. There are pat answers—God uses hard things to make us better or God walks with us through our pain. But when I was in the hospital, totally overwhelmed and crying in the bathroom so my daughter wouldn’t hear me, the easy answers didn’t help. And so I (and my characters) often sit with C. S. Lewis saying, “I never knew grief felt so much like fear.” Fear is the great consumer. Sam is afraid he’s going crazy and that he can’t protect his family. Annie is afraid she won’t ever be able to cope, and that the Sam she marriedis lost forever. And when they (or we) focus on fear, there are no solutions, no ways to move forward because they cannot solve fear on their own. We aren’t trustworthy enough or strong enough to fix it.
And so what do we do?
In the story, Sam says, “If you pop in the middle of the story, you might just mistake the hero for a failure or worse, a monster. But it’s the scrabbling out of trouble and finding the truth deep inside him that transforms that character into a hero of light and goodness.” In essence, “Remember that it ain’t over until it’s over.” I’m a huge proponent of looking for and celebrating the beautiful even when it isn’t pretty. Gratitude isn’t a pretty bandage to slap on a hemorrhaging wound. It is a way to shift your attention while the master healer does his work.
Annie and Sam find their way to gratitude—for simple joys of a birthday Karo nut pie, collard greens, the sunrise, and mostly the people in their lives. Their determination to be the good in each other’s lives is what slowly, over time, turns their attention away from the shadows and back on the life they have. As Dovie May says, “Sometimes God uses broken things to save us . . . Ain’t no light that can get through something solid. It sneaks through the broken places.” It isn’t immediate. And it isn’t easy. But the sunrise always follows the dark night.
Q: How does the imagery of light and darkness, especially in a spiritual sense, weave throughout the story?
Early in the story, Annie says, “A body can hide where the light was closed out, but the devils can hide there just as easy.” The temptation for both Annie and Sam (and all of us, really) is to either give up (wallow in the darkness) or to run away from it (which only keeps us in the darkness longer). While wallowing or running seem like easier choices, they’re also dangerous and far more painful in the long run. Both Sam and Annie try to fight the darkness alone, each not quite trusting anyone else.
Throughout the book, they both learn that the dark places are really where strength starts. Since Sam and Annie are farmers, they come to think of it in terms of seeds. “There ain’t no growth without darkness. You know that better’n most. If you throw a seed atop the soil, it’ll get snatched away by the wind or the birds. You gottabury it in the good, rich soil, and then it’s gotta split open afore it can grow. . .. We were all made to grow and stretch into the sunlight.”
Q: You’ve been on the publisher’s side of things for many years, both in marketing and as an editor working with authors. Have you always wanted to write as well? Has anything surprised you being on the author side?
I didn’t start writing or really even think about being a writer until a few years into my career as the marketing manager for a publisher. I actually started college as a chemistry major and ended up as an English major by default. There’s a whole story in hereabout me being a sassy know-it-all seventeen-year-old punk, and my mom being right. But suffice it to say, the major change was me heeding my mom’s advice to do what I loved (reading).
Anyway, I was freelancing for our editorial department, and our managing editor asked me if I would consider writing a book. It sounded interesting. I wrote a short novel for the middle schoolers I mentored at my church, then I did a few picture books for my daughter, and then I took a long break to raise my kids. When I found time to write a book again, it was so life-giving, I don’t even have words to describe it. I was hooked.
But let me tell you that being an author has changed drastically in the last decade. There’s a much heavier load to lift for authors now—both in terms of tracking story trends and marketing. But it’s also easier than ever to be in contact with readers. I absolutely adore the opportunity to chat with folks about their lives on Facebook, see their pictures on Instagram, and just talk books with the world. It’s crazy to me that I can chat with friends in California and Australia and South Africa and Brazil just by typing (or speaking) into a little box on a screen. I will forever love technology for that.
The writing community also took me by surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a varied group as welcoming and helpful as this group. They’ve been a tremendous support as I’ve worked through edits and marketing and all the highs and lows that come with publishing. There’s so much love and joy there. Julie Cantrell, Rachel McDaniel, Janine Rosche, Susie Finkbeiner, J’nellCiesielski, and so many more have been absolutely amazing.
Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her at chautona.com and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.
More from Chautona
I was a weird child. While my friends were listening to… whatever 80s kids listened to, the enormous console in my bedroom played The Brothers Four, The Kingston Trio, Roger Miller, Billy Vaughn, Patsy Cline, and Patti Paige. One minute I was a “Rovin’ Gambler” and the next I was “Chug-a-lugging.” Hmmm… In hindsight, one could say I listened to some dubious music. Drinking, gambling… Oh, that reminds me of another one. The Sons of the Pioneers. “Cigarettes, Whiskey, and Wild, Wild Women. (Hint: they’ll drive you crazy. They’ll drive you insane. The song says so).
But there were other songs—beautiful ones. “Greenfields.” “Little Green Apples.” “You Belong to Me.” And of course… “Go on with the Wedding.”
If you’ve never heard it, you should listen. HERE.
That one used to tear me apart. I never could decide which man she should have chosen. I’m a sucker for the underdog—for a hero. So, I always said Fred. And I meant it. Right up to the moment I thought about Jim being away, fighting, finally making it home to his girl only to see her marry someone else. How horrible is that?
Well, one of the tropes I chose for my books in the Independence Islands was going to be a “second chance romance.” I also wanted a “seasoned romance,” so this song came to mind. And then I had my story. It’s not the one my twelve-year-old self would have wanted. Truthfully, it’s not the story I wanted to write today, but it’s the right one. It’s probably my favorite of all of the ones I’ve done in this series. I hope you’ll love Frank and Patti as much as I do.
All that’s left now is for me to write one more story—the one that has been forming through each book. It’s time for Mallory and Benjamin to both learn and write their story’s end (which of course, is only a beginning).
Chautona Havig has gotten me loving contemporary romance (not my fave genre), loving a song too old for me to like, and one I don’t even know! Oh, wait! I do remember looking it up and listening to it. The things a great author can do to you against your will!!
Finding a Memory by Chautona Havig first appealed to me because it was clear it featured older characters in a second-chance relationship. Part of the Independence Islands series, I enjoyed the book more because I was familiar with the other main couple who have been mentioned in past books.
Much of the book is presented as a mystery, as Mallory Barrows, owner of The Book Barrow, reads an old diary she finds. If you like The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, you will enjoy this novel. As the diary progresses, Mallory gets very emotionally involved in the lives of the people described. I couldn’t help myself. I was just as emotionally involved, but also in the lives of Mallory and her slow-moving boyfriend, Benjamin.
Ms. Havig always finds a way and the perfect time to insert truth. One time when the diarist was at her lowest, she writes, “This is what I learned. * God knows everything. * I don’t know everything. * I can trust God. * I have to seek Him first. * People will fail me. * God never will. * My job is to love God and others. * I must teach my child about God. * Jesus is my rock. Not …” Another favorite quote, so appropriate for what the character was going through: “The Lord had other plans that I don’t understand, but I do trust Him.”
One last (but these are not all) reason why I love this novel and all of Ms. Havig’s books- her sense of humor and ability to turn a phrase that never fails to make me smile. Which she does often! My fave example here? “That machine makes enough noise to make mummies in sarcophaguses plead for earplugs.”
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. I also bought my own copy. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
When Ivy Rose returns to her hometown to oversee an estate sale, she soon discovers that her grandmother left behind more than trinkets and photo frames–she provided a path to the truth behind Ivy’s adoption. Shocked, Ivy seeks clues to her past, but a key piece to the mystery is missing.
Twenty-four years earlier, Harvey James finds an abandoned newborn who gives him a sense of human connection for the first time in his life. His desire to care for the baby runs up against the stark fact that he is homeless. When he becomes entwined with two people seeking to help him find his way, Harvey knows he must keep the baby a secret or risk losing the only person he’s ever loved.
In this dual-time story from debut novelist Amanda Cox, the truth–both the search for it and the desire to keep it from others–takes center stage as Ivy and Harvey grapple with love, loss, and letting go.
The Edge of Belonging is such a spellbinding, dual-time novel from Amanda Cox. I foresee Edge of Belonging winning an award for debut novels. For myself, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page. Heart-rending themes such as foster homes, homelessness, human trafficking, depression, and PTSD are dealt with from both the sufferer’s and a loving helper’s POV. The raw loneliness hurt, and need that several of the characters experience is portrayed so poignantly. It seems each character in the earlier story (Harvey, Pearl, Thom, and Miriam) feels they are on the edge of belonging to some degree.
In the later story, Ivy is the focal point who feels like she doesn’t quite belong, but her best friend Reese has often struggled with those same sentiments. I was thrilled to see how the book’s title applied to so many. I also loved seeing the hope and mercy that certain characters, especially Pearl and Reese, generously dole out to others. Again, so many of Ms. Cox’s characters show significant growth by the end of the story. While it is easy to see early on where the stories will connect, there remains the fascination of just how Ms. Cox is going to work it all out.
I usually like to pick a favorite character, but they were all faves. I love Reese for his steadiness and undying care. Harvey, for the way he supersedes his own fears to love another. And Pearl, for her radar to find and genuinely love lost souls. Get your own copy of this must-read debut! I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher through Revell Reads via NetGalley. All opinions are my own and no positive review was required.