Hope Arrives in a Book

When creativity nudges a book idea, strange things can happen.

Writers usually begin with the germ of an idea, maybe a “What if” question such as: “What if a young girl from Kansas ends up in the land of Oz?”

Sometimes these creative nudges become a puff of wind. They fly away, and the writer forgets about them.

But as we learn to nurture our creativity and pay closer attention to ideas, the nudging sprouts and begins to take root. Then we water it with more ideas, nurture it with the fertilizer of brainstorming and honor it with structure.

After some time of thinking, planning, or wondering through various tunnels of ideas — we begin to actually write.

All this setup can take from days to years, sometimes even decades.

My novel No Visible Scars was 15 years in the making. A long time before I held that book in my hand.

My latest book began as an idea in 2017. I knew a novel was begging to be born, but I had only the scarcest of ideas.

Then I remembered the maxim so many of us follow, “Write what you know.” So I made a list of what I knew at that time:

  • Loss
  • Ministry
  • Kansas, specifically Johnson County
  • Church politics
  • Old houses and DIY projects
  • Gardening
  • Eating gluten free

Then I found my “What if” question. What if a woman who lives in an old house loses a child and seeks help from a minister? What if the minister in Johnson County has also suffered a loss?

From that point, my idea thread wound all over the place and ended up in several knots. Brainstorming sessions with my critique group helped eliminate the unnecessary and solidify the important. And I took long walks where I talked myself through the kinks.

So when I took my creative writing retreat in Santa Fe, circa September, 2018 — I had my skeleton of ideas and a basic structure. I knew the names of my characters and was ready to begin.

I also had a Bible verse that haunted me. “The year of my redemption has come” (Isaiah 63:4). That verse would become my title.

But when I flipped open my new writing pad to begin the first chapter, something entirely different happened. A quirky change. Instead of telling the story from the female protagonist’s viewpoint, the minister jumped out and said, “Let me tell it.”

I have learned not to argue with my characters — or with the God who inspires them.

Pastor Tanner told his story about a tragic loss that led him to his year of redemption. In the process, he learned to care about the woman in my notes who had also suffered a loss. Together these two hurting characters lived out the story and became the book that is now published.

So that is how The Year of my Redemption happened. One of the fun things about books is when we find a surprise waiting in the words.

When writers are also surprised, it germinates hope that the next project will be just as much fun.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out The Year of My Redemption, available on Amazon. And follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads and YouTube.

Hope Brews in a Local Coffee Shop

As research for my current WIP, I spent a Friday morning at a local coffee shop. Kansas Coffee Company sits on the corner of Park and Cherry in downtown Olathe, Kansas – across from the Johnson County Courthouse.kansas coffee cafe

I like this place because the owners support local artists and keep my Reverend G books stocked on the shelf under the counter.

But I also like the peaceful ambiance of this local establishment where I can write alone, sip my chai latte and smile at the customers who rings the bell when they pull open the door.

The smell of mocha and espresso provides a comforting backdrop to the sounds of a thriving business. Still, this place breathes the atmosphere of small town America and reminds me that hope resides within the characters and temperaments of small towns.

I appreciate the healthy menu of hummus and almonds, cottage cheese and toasted ciabatta, but I am tempted by the muffins that perch on the top of the bakery case. Giving in would put me a day behind on my after-the-holidays-try-to-be-good-diet. So I resist and gripe inwardly about my abstinence-imposed misery.

The tables and chairs, an eclectic mix of glass-covered art invite customers to sit and chat a while. No booths isolate us from each other. We temporarily connect, virtual strangers who have nothing in common other than our need for a hot drink on a cold January day.

For me, the writer in the corner, I find escape from the chores at home, the electronic buzz of machines that rule my world and try to stifle my creativity.

Somehow, being the writer at the cafe and persisting in my craft while in a public place somehow gives me credibility. Like Hemingway and his tromp through Paris with journal in hand, I find a peaceful momentary existence among strangers who somehow relate by giving our business to this place of connectivity.

And because two of the major characters in my WIP plan and dream at their fictional coffee shop, I find new relationship with my characters. For a few hours on a Friday morning, I share reality with fictional people.

Hope brews in this setting, hope that more customers will support this coffee shop and buy my books while they’re here. Hope beats within me that my new novel will encourage readers and because I do research here, my words will retain their honesty and authenticity.

In this place, anything seems possible.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh