Wednesday, June 30, 2010

To Dream the Impossible Dream

While Joy is off reading The Highlander's Sword, Edgy Inspirational Romance has a special guest blogger...

Hi! Amanda Forester here, thanks for inviting me! I’ve been enjoying your blog – edgy inspirationals sounds about right to me!

I am thrilled to say that my dream of publishing a book recently came true with the release of my first novel, THE HIGHLANDER’S SWORD. This Scottish adventure romance is my first manuscript… and one I was utterly convinced would never be published.

Let me take you back to how my rather odd path to publication started. The year was 2006, I was the extremely tired mother of two little ones (ages one and two) and I was holding down two part time jobs on the side. Then we get THE CALL. My husband had been called up from the Army Reserves to serve active duty… in Iraq.

My world, my hopes, my dreams… well, they all pretty much fell apart. My husband was gone for 14 months and I went from tired to neurotically stressed out. Have you ever been to the point where you can’t go any more, but there’s no one else there, so you press on beyond what you thought possible? That was my world. Frankly, it sucked.

On the advice of a friend I started reading romance novels, particularly historical romance novels. Now I was not one to read romance novels before this time, but while my husband was gone these books gave me a needed escape. They entertained me, they swept me away to glittering balls and wind-swept moors, and they always had a happy ending (so important when my own happy ending was in serious doubt). Essentially, those books kept me at least a little bit sane and gave me hope.

Reading romance novels did something else too. I had always had stories floating around in my head. I thought it was just silly nonsense. For years I tried not to think about the stories, fearing they were a distraction from “serious matters”. Reading novels made me realize that these stories in my head had a place – they were romance stories. I’m not weird or odd—ok, maybe I am, but at least I’m not alone. What I am is a romance novelist!

With this brilliant insight and my husband’s encouragement (first when he was in Iraq and then after he returned home – praise God!) I wrote my first novel. Unfortunately, I wrote this novel before I had any idea what I was doing (not that I know much more now). I didn’t know the unwritten “rules” of writing romance. I didn’t even understand the difference between inspirational and secular romance. I just sat down and wrote the story that was in my mind and on my heart.

Set in 14th century Scotland, my heroine, Aila, expects to become a nun and prepares for life in the convent. After her brother’s death leaves her a substantial heiress, she finds herself wed to a Highland laird instead. Yet many desire to claim her fortune as their own and she is swept up in a world of treachery and intrigue.

Throughout the story, Aila turns to the scriptures for guidance and she is often given a particular verse which helps her to discern her way. She uses prayer to guide her and encourage her in difficult times. I wrote this because it just flowed naturally as part of the character and it made sense to me. I think when people face difficult times in life they do turn to their faith for support and pray to God for guidance. I do. Why not my characters?

My hero, MacLaren, is a battle-hardened knight whose faith has been challenged by betrayal. He comes to marriage with Aila distrusting of women and even of God. As the story progresses, he grows to trust Aila and he is able to move from a place of questioning to a place of faith.

I was quite pleased with my story, yet as I learned more about publishing I realized the terrible fact that I had written a story that didn’t fit neatly into the preselected categories. They had triangles and squares… I wrote in octagons. Where did I fit?

I figured that all the talk of faith in my book would probably disqualify me for publication with a mainstream publisher. My characters also swore, drank whiskey (they’re medieval Scots after all) and even shared some sensual scenes (they are married in the book). Put that together and I figured my manuscript had zippo chance of ever getting published.

Well, like many other times in life, I was wrong. I pitched the book to Sourcebooks at a conference and was asked for a full manuscript. A few months later I got THE CALL. This time it was the good kind of call. I was going to be published! Despite my expectations, I was published by a mainstream publisher, and yes I got me one hunky dude on my cover!

So what’s the take home message here? For me, I can only say that I feel the hand of God at work in my life. I feel that God turned something bad (my husband going to war) into a blessing to me. Do I think God purposely gave me hard times so I could find my passion for writing? No, I honestly don’t think God has anything to do with war – that’s the result of our fallen world. Do I think God can use the yucky stuff in our life and turn it into a blessing? Yes, I truly believe this is the miracle of God.

Have you ever experienced a difficult time in your life that God turned into a blessing for you? Do you like sexy Highlanders? (Sure those questions are related – at least in my world!!) Comment on this blog to be eligible to win a copy of my book, THE HIGHLANDER’S SWORD (U.S. and Canadian residents only).

Thanks so much for letting me join you today! Please visit me at www.AmandaForester.com or come find me on Facebook.

Amanda Forester holds a PhD in psychology and worked for many years in academia before discovering that writing historical romance novels was way more fun. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two energetic children, and one lazy dog. Her first novel, THE HIGHLANDER’S SWORD was published March of 2010, and her second, THE HIGHLANDER’S HEART will be released spring of 2011. You can visit her at www.amandaforester.com.


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