A few years ago I wrote a young adult novel that I really loved. I had every intention of making it into a trilogy. I loved my idea, loved the concept, but the problem was every time I sat down to write the second book I lost my enthusiasm. I didn’t want to write young adult fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I love teenagers. I have lived in what I call a house of hormones for more than fifteen years, meaning that I’ve parented teenagers for more than fifteen years.
And what have I learned?
I’m not hip.
I don’t want to be hip and I don’t want to try and be hip. Oh sure, I sometimes wear my daughter’s clothes, but that’s strictly a vanity thing, or a laundry thing. So, I was in a quandary. Since this was before I had decided to self-publish, I thought I had to brand myself as genre specific author and I knew I didn’t want to write Romance, Mystery, Fantasy, Young Adult or Literary. What to do? I knew I wanted to write and that’s about all I knew. So I did what all Mormons have been taught to do.
I went to the temple fasting (want to know more about this? You can read about it in the Bible) while there I got the distinct impression I needed to write like Debbie Macomber. A very clear answer to my prayer, but I wasn’t very happy.
I’ve heard Debbie Macomber speak twice. She’s an amazing, inspiring speaker, but I hadn’t read one of her bazillion books since high school. Debbie was one of the Harlequin authors that my mother read. Before my mother’s death when I was fifteen, my mom kept a large box of romance novels beside her bed and although she didn’t know it, I read all the books in that box, including Debbie Macomber’s. I hadn’t picked up a Debbie Macomber novel in years, but on my way home from the temple I stopped by Walmart and picked up two of her books. After reading them I decided that maybe God really had heard and answered my prayer.
So, like Debbie Macomber’s Blossom Street or Cedar Cover series, I created a small Pacific Northwestern series that I patterned after my own home town of Arlington, Washington. I named my series and the town Rose Arbor. Although my contemporary character Bette in STEALING MERCY (published July 2011) lived in Rose Arbor, my first official Rose Arbor book is A GHOST OF A SECOND CHANCE (published March 2012) because the bulk of STEALING MERCY takes place in 1889 Seattle, about 30 years before the town of Rose Arbor, AKA Arlington, was established. While I was drafting A GHOST OF A SECOND CHANCE I was simultaneously rewriting a novel I began in 2004, THE RHYME’S LIBRARY, my soon to be second Rose Arbor book. I threw in some of my Rose Arbor characters and life was good. I began drafting my third Rose Arbor novel LOSING PENNY shortly after I published A GHOST OF A SECOND CHANCE and I loved it because I got to reform bad boyfriend Drake. And since THE RHYME’S LIBRARY has a sequel, Love at the Apple Blossom, I have five finished or nearly finished Rose Arbor books.
And writing-wise, everything was beyond peachy until I read the Debbie Macomber newsletter announcing her new Rose Harbor series. Her first Rose Harbor book was published August, 2012. The difference in our series titles is one letter. Literally shaking, I called my husband with the devastating news.
Well, it’s not like her stories take place in a small Washington town, he said.
Oh, but they do. They do, I told him.
The thought of rewriting and making new covers for my books overwhelmed me so I didn’t to do it. If I hadn’t been so far along in my series I would have, but my simple goal became to have three Rose Arbor books published before Debbie Macomber had even published one.
So, what happened? My teenage daughter stumbled across my teenage book, Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent and she loved it. This boosted my confidence and reaffirmed my belief that I don’t have to try and be hip to write young adult books. (I now have four—almost five, including the three award winning Beyond books, and Witch Ways, a Kindle Scout winner that will be released tomorrow.)
Witch Ways, a 2015 Kindle Scout winner
Why do I think that my writing prayer answered the way it was? I really believe it was God’s way of saying, I know you. I’m listening. And look, here’s a miracle to show you that I’m paying attention.
FAST FORWARD TO TODAY
Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend Literary Orange, a fundraiser for Orange County public library. Debbie Macomber was the keynote speaker and I had the opportunity to meet her and have her sign my book. Of course, I had to tell her about the Rose Arbor, Rose Harbor connection. She listened with eyes as round as teacups. Then she said in a faint whisper, “I have to read you books.”
I have no way of knowing if she will or not, but I do know that of the hundreds who attended, I might possibly be the most memorable–because I have the most incredible story. And as a storyteller–that’s always the most enviable person to be.