The Promise of Rayne is such a well-written, tightly-woven novel. One of the things that struck me most was how well the themes, faith messages, and character resolutions were integrated in the final chapters. How hard do you work at that and how much comes about through the mysterious process of creation?
Ya know, I often have a theme in mind before I type the words Chapter One. That said, I never fully know how that theme is going to play out until after I near the halfway point of my first draft. In The Promise of Rayne, where one of the major plot themes in the book is love your enemy, I honestly didn’t know (insert the big twist/spoiler here!) when I started writing. Like, I had no clue! So, I think for me it’s about 50/50. I usually start with an idea of what I’d like to see happen during the big climax moment of the book (usually around the 75% mark). But as I write, and as I discover more about my characters and their individual wounds, personality types, and journeys, that little idea will eventually take on a whole new shape.
The setting itself, the Shelby Lodge in Idaho, is akin to its own character in The Promise of Rayne. Lenox too, in your Love in Lenox series, has a unique charm that is integral to the story. What real-life places have inspired you?
Great question! For my Love in Lenox novels, I based the town of Lenox on the sweetest (real life) mountain town of Sisters, Oregon. Since I grew up in Eugene, Oregon, I visited Sisters often (population: 2000) on my way to summer camp. But every time I passed through it, I imagined what it would be like to live there.
Similarly, there is a DARLING little town in Idaho located about forty-five minutes north of me—Sandpoint, Idaho (population: 7000). And seriously, I tell my husband often how I want to put our house on the market and move there. It’s full of fun restaurants and art shops and the best farmer’s market in the world. The population triples every summer because of the gorgeous mountain and water views—much like my fictional town of Shelby Falls.
Your books vary widely, but in each the reader discovers a strong yet vulnerable heroine and an honorable and steadfast hero. How do you continue to develop characters who exhibit such likable qualities yet grow, change, and remain unique?
I think it’s important for characters to exhibit strengths and weaknesses alike, otherwise they won’t feel real to a reader. Which means no connection. For me, the process of characterization starts by understanding who my hero and heroine were before my story begins. If I don’t have a grasp on their personal wounds, struggles, and/or belief systems, then I won’t be able to show a believable path of growth. It’s critical I understand what they came from so I can understand where they are going. Consequently, I believe all of us in the non-fictional world have more than a few likeable qualities—even those of us who are calloused by the hurts and heartaches of life. The start of a new book is not usually the start of a new character. It’s actually just the start of a new journey.
In each of your novels is a faith theme, developed subtly and delivered gently. They are obviously Christian themes, but they have a universal appeal, I think, that non-Christians or at least non-readers of Christian fiction, could readily appreciate. In your mind’s eye, who is your audience?
Thank you, Carolyn. That’s a really sweet compliment. My prayer at the beginning of every new writing endeavor is that God will help me create characters who feel relatable to my reader—no matter where they are on their personal faith journey. It’s truly a joy to receive positive feedback from someone who doesn’t normally gravitate toward the inspirational genre.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on the third book in the Love in Lenox novels. Yep, I’ve headed back to my cute little town in the mountains of Eastern Oregon. This is a sparky love story between an uptight single dad who’s struggling to connect with his son and an artsy free-spirit who charms her way into the center of their lives … and their hearts. <3
My review of The Promise of Rayne.
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