Before our trip to St. Simon's Island a few weeks ago, I started reading this series by Eugenia Price. It's three books all set on St. Simon's. When I started reading, I didn't realize it was based on real people, but it is. The series follows the family of James Gould, who built the first St. Simon's lighthouse. The second book is about his son, Horace. And the third is about Horace's daughter Anna, and her husband Anson Dodge, who built Christ Church.
They're beautiful stories, and they pulled me in right away. And so, when we were on the island, I made sure we visited a few of the spots mentioned in the books. We couldn't go visit the plantation because of the days we were there and the times it was open, but I am promising myself that I will next time we go. We did climb the lighthouse, although the one there now isn't the one built by James Gould (his was destroyed in the Civil War), but the museum did have several interesting items about him and his family. We walked on the beach his family played on. We saw the crabs and dolphins and oyster shells at low tide.
And one afternoon, my husband and I snuck away from our napping children (benefit to having Grandpa go with us) and walked around Christ Church. The church building is the same one Anson Dodge built back in the late 1800's, and the wood on the walls is beautiful. According to the helpful man who offered us some history and a tour, they've never had to treat the wood in all these years. Four different presidents had worshiped there, including George Bush, who also chose the island for a honeymoon spot. We found the gravestones of quite a few of the people mentioned in the books, including the Goulds. And we found Eugenia Price's gravestone, too. Because even though she lived so many years later than that family, she was buried nearby in the same cemetery, having fallen in love with the island and its history.
Thus far, my books are written about fictional people in mostly fictional towns. But seeing this, it makes me wonder. Will people ever come visit and take pictures of my graves one day, simply because they read a book I wrote once upon a time? Will my stories impact people as much as Eugenia Price's have over the years, becoming priceless and living on despite the years? I will probably never know, but I hope that my stories touch at least a few souls as hers continue to do.
Have you ever gone exploring around a place where you'd read a story that you loved? Would you love to? Where?
Have you been wondering what's up with me in the world of writing lately? Well, a couple of things have happened this summer.
At the writers' retreat back in June, we were all encouraged to bring an idea with us for a new story. I wanted to rebel because I'm pretty happy with saving most of my writing for November when I participate in Nanowrimo every year. However, the more I thought about it, the more I could see the characters and plot developing in my head. You see, I had read a blog even earlier in the summer about someone who went on a road trip with her sister. And it got me thinking: what would it look like to write a road trip romance? Enter three girlfriends, Katie, Skye and Bree, who are fresh out of college and just want to spend a week soaking up some fun in a couple different places before they go their separate ways to "grow up." For the last month and half, my muse has been relentless, encouraging me to get the story hammered out. One day I wrote almost 4000 words. But I tied up all the loose ends yesterday and am warning my muse to leave me alone for a few months so I can edit something else. Of course, having very little control over the ways of my muse, it has put another idea in my head--to turn my road trip romance into a series, one for each girl. It might happen. But not yet. I need a few days to just BE. Writing takes a lot of emotional energy.
My other news is even more exciting! I have been offered a contract for my book, Saving Grace. Saving Grace unfolds with Michelle Wilson moving back home to Cedar Springs, AR after a life-changing wreck. She plans to be a top reporter at her hometown newspaper, but she has added a complication: she hopes to adopt the baby left behind by the other couple in the accident. When confusing feelings toward her lifelong best friend, Greg Marshall surface, it adds yet another level of confusion to her world. But what if her desire to adopt Grace isn’t what God had in mind for her life after all? This story wilk release April 2021.
What do you think? Are you as excited as I am?
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Michele Chynoweth. She's a northern girl with a heart for writing modern re-tellings of Bible stories. Her latest is based off Cain and Abel. Without further ado, let's chat with her!
Michele, I know you said you were a newspaper reporter before you were a novel writer. Was it hard to transition from one style to the other? Or did it help in any way to have that writing experience?
I believe it helped a great deal to have the experience of being a news reporter for several newspapers (and on air at a local TV station!) because it kept me on my toes when it came to my writing; as a journalist you have to be concise and to the point, do your homework (research), and meet deadlines – all of which helps me in my writing as an author today. It wasn’t really hard to make the transition because good writing is good writing.
I know you said you have always wanted to be a writer. Can you tell us what your motivation was in that? What made you as a ten-year-old sit down and write a book in your spiral notebook?
I guess being an author is what God placed on my heart all along. The dream was just delayed by life (college, jobs, marriage, kids, etc.) but was never really buried. I have always been an over-achiever (first born and driven to succeed by my parents – a bank president and realtor). I remember that first “novel” as clear as anything about a girl and her dog, the cover was light blue, and I drew the cover design! When I talk about following your purpose in some of my inspirational speaking, I often encourage people to look back on what they really wanted to be when they were ten years old.
It's often hard to balance life and writing. On your website, you also mention that you coach other authors, too. Do you have a secret to staying organized and on top of things?
Wow, tough one. Sometimes I get so driven (and passionate about the books I’m coaching/editing) that I do get overwhelmed and have to remember God is steering the ship and I have to just “be still and know” that He will work all things for good according to his purpose (Romans 8:28) - and I just need to take a break once in a while! I make lots of lists and use lots of sticky notes to remind me of the day’s, week’s and month’s goals and plans. I also suggest reading Jack Canfield’s book, “The Success Principles.” I met him at a conference – he’s great! But if you are truly doing what you love to do – for me it’s writing and helping other writers become authors – you don’t mind the long hours and hard work.
Writing re-tellings of Bible stories is becoming more and more popular, right up there with re-tellings of fairy tales. What gave you the idea to take Bible stories and re-imagine them as novels set in modern times?
I was driving along in a very dark place in my life when I heard that still, small voice say “Michele, you should write a modern-day novel based on the Book of Job.” I look back now and see God was tapping me on the shoulder to help me through my own “Job” like stuff. At the time I was losing my marriage through a bitter divorce, my ad agency business through the recession of the 90’s, my kids who were becoming teenagers, and my health through the disease of alcoholism. I’m happy to report that like Job, God helped me through – and today I’m remarried to a great guy, I’m living the dream of being an author, speaker and book coach, we have a great relationship with our kids, and I recently celebrate 15 years in recovery. That book became The Faithful One and I now see God had a plan for me to help others through my books as well. I originally self-published then went with a traditional Christian publisher who was looking for books in this genre and The Jealous Son is now my fourth of my “Modern Day Bible Stories” or contemporary suspense that re-imagines Old Testament stories.
Is it hard to research and balance the Bible stories you use, staying true to the story and meanings behind it, as you transition it to present day? Or does it give it even more meaning to you?
Yes and Yes! It is hard but I do a lot of research and authentication by theologians and clergy and believe I stay very true to the Bible stories. Writing my novels really does make me dive deeper into the Bible stories themselves and really try to realize and impart God’s messages to my readers. For example, The Runaway Prophet, based on the Book of Jonah, is a story about so much more than a guy being swallowed by a whale! It’s about how we can try to run from God’s call but we can’t really hide, and sometimes when we rescue other people, God rescues us in the process.
I always end an interview with this question. Can you tell us one thing about you that very few people know?
I’ve been called “Mrs. Brady” before (remember Carol Brady of the TV show “The Brady Bunch?”) I was giving a Toastmasters speech in a contest and it was about my husband having a blended family of five kids and a dog (three girls, three boys) and all of the challenges that brings To this day a lot of people remember that speech and call me Mrs. Brady!
That is so fun! Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with us!
If you'd like to learn more about Michele and her most recent book, keep reading.
Banned from their home in the Navajo Nation as a result of their disobedience, Eliza and Alex Trellis build a new life for themselves and their two sons. Although life is a daily struggle, the boys grow up happy and healthy—until the oldest son Cameron starts to become envious of his younger brother and bandmate Austin, who gets everything he wants—fame, fortune and everything that goes with it. Jealous that his brother seems to unfairly gain the attention of their parents, the accolades of the world and the love of his girl, Cameron seeks to find justice and get rid of his brother once and for all.
A modern-day murder mystery based on the Bible story of Cain and Abel, The Jealous Son portrays how envy can go too far and begs the questions: What happens when a mother loses both of her sons? How can a family so broken piece itself back together again? And where is God in the midst of it all?
Amazon Kindle version for sale now: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07S7FKL8P/ref
Michele Chynoweth is the best-selling and award-winning author of The Faithful One, The Peace Maker, The Runaway Prophet and The Jealous Son, contemporary suspense novels that re-imagine Bible stories. Michele is also an inspirational speaker who has addressed a variety of writers’ conferences and other organizations across the country, a book coach/editor and a college writing instructor, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and lives with her husband in North East, Maryland.
Check out her website here or follow her on facebook.
Happy Fourth of July! I hope you get to see some fireworks this week. I love watching the amazing colors and patterns burst up in the sky. Maybe that's why I've written several romantic scenes that include them.
To celebrate a little more with you, I wanted to share this excerpt from my latest novel, Faith & Hope. It seemed ideal for the day. Enjoy!
The Fourth of July dawned beautiful and clear. Sam, Faith, and Hope joined Maysie and her husband, Gavin, and Kendra, Maria, and Joe and headed to a local park that evening. Hope ended up crammed in the back seat of Maysie’s Suburban between Maria and Joe. Every time his knee brushed hers, she had to refocus on the conversation going on around her. It was the one day of the summer that camp was
closed, but she didn’t mind getting to spend it with Joe anyway. Once again, this week she had been paired with him and the first-grade boys. Did he bribe Steve to make that happen over and over again?
Since so many people were at the park for the fireworks show that evening, they parked quite a way from the actual entrance and had to walk. Kendra latched on to Maria. Sam and Faith strolled ahead with the blankets and some lawn chairs. Maysie and Gavin pulled the cooler full of waters and sodas. Joe and Hope ended up at the end of their train with a couple more chairs.
Somehow despite the crowd, they managed to find a spot big enough for all of them close enough to the stage to hear the music, but also near enough to the water to have a good view of the fireworks
later that evening. Hope helped Faith spread out the blankets on the ground while the guys set up the chairs around the edge for those who didn’t think the grass was soft enough. Hope found a corner of the blanket and some water. Joe sat in a chair right behind her.
“It’s so hot.” Hope fanned herself with the flyer.
“But at least it’s dry heat instead of that humid heat back east.” Faith held a bottle so that Kendra could take a swig. “I swear you walk out of the house at Mama’s and it feels like you’re walking through a hot tub, it’s so humid.”
“It’s not that bad. I miss the humidity. Here, I feel like I can’t keep my skin from drying out.” Hope pointed to her arms, which didn’t look as dry as she claimed, considering the sheen of perspiration
“I sweat so much I don’t think my skin can dry out.” Maysie laughed. “I didn’t realize there was such a difference in climate between here and Mississippi.”
“Not that extreme. Just different.” Hope shrugged. “The temperatures don’t get quite as high back home.”
“But the 90 percent humidity makes up for the five- to ten-degree difference.” Faith scrunched up her face.
“So, you’re both happy where you normally live.” Joe broke in. “Sounds good. How about that baseball team?”
Hope refused to look over her shoulder at him. She knew exactly what he was trying to do. He had changed the subject to keep her and Faith from beginning one of their sister squabbles. She quit fanning and looked around.
Some band on the stage was playing their version of a patriotic medley. Hope turned her view in their direction to avoid having to continue the conversation. The sky darkened little by little and several kids in the area waved glow sticks. Occasionally there would be a “pop, pop, pop” of firecrackers going off from various boys’ hands around the park. Multiple ice cream vendors walked their carts through the throng of people, hawking fudge bars and rocket pops.
Joe followed one and came back with the red, white, and blue popsicles for everyone. Hope took hers gladly. A gentle breeze lifted her ponytail off her neck and cooled her for a minute before moving
on to the next person. The wind down here took some getting used to. Sometimes it was like that breeze, playful and calm. Other times it almost knocked a person over. Sort of like her relationship
“Here, Mama, you take this chair.” Joe stood and offered his hand to Maria where she had been shifting next to Hope. He pulled her up as if she weighed no more than one of their second-grade boys
and helped her settle in the canvas seat. His tall frame slid down next to Hope as the streaks of pink
turned a shade hotter in the sky. She pretended she didn’t notice, but every inch of her body was aware of just how close his was to her. She slapped at a mosquito and rubbed some more repellent on her legs and arms. The darkening evening brought not only the fireworks show, but also unwanted pests.
After a dramatic musical introduction, the first few rockets shot up in the sky. The crowd grew quieter as all listened to the songs and the explosions. Shivers ran down Hope’s arms as the theatrical lights
display lit up the night.
“Sort of reminds me of the way I felt when I kissed you the other night,” Joe whispered in her ear.
Bigger tremors traversed her spine. Had he really just said that? A quick glance showed him watching her instead of the pyrotechnics. She hurried to turn her attention back to the sky. Why did he have to
play with her heart like that?
He shifted so that his shoulder was slightly behind her and she could lean back against him for a better angle. Her stubbornness made her wait until the next song started before she gave in and took advantage of that. Why did he have to feel so strong and safe and secure? Why did something so good have to have such lousy timing?
Faith leaned against Sam in a similar fashion. Maysie and Gavin had Kendra between them, the toddler vacillating between jumping up and down and covering her eyes. The music crescendoed and moved into the “1812 Overture.” Fireworks larger than before started exploding one right after another, hardly giving their eyes time to adjust to the dark before lighting up the sky again. As the song ended, one final blast made it almost as bright as day, and then all was quiet and dark.
People all over the park cheered. Kids waved their glow sticks and sparklers around. Smoke hovered over the area like a blanket. Slowly, Hope sat up and away from Joe’s arms. She helped the others gather their belongings and then started the trek back to the car. Maria walked right beside Hope and gave her a hug from the side.
“I see the way he looks at you. He’s smitten.” Her voice was quiet, as if she were sharing a secret.
Hope looked at the petite woman. “It doesn’t matter. Our paths will part ways at the end of the summer.”
“Only if you let them,” Maria said.
Hope didn’t even try to pay attention to the conversation going on around her as they drove back to the church building, where everyone had met. She relished the feel of Joe being pressed against her side. And she thought about what Maria had said.
This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
Authors I Love to Read (in no particular order)