Published novelists in the CBA often get asked about the list of things that a writer can’t put into their books. There seems to be a feeling that supposed restrictions will hobble a writer and make them less creative. To which I say, Hogwash! I never had as much freedom as a writer than I discovered in the Christian market. The thing aspiring writers must remember is that they must write evocative fiction rather than explicit fiction. A writer must grasp hold of the passion they feel for a story and write it for everything their worth. There is wonderful freedom in that.
By 2001, I understood the above more than ever. Maybe I’d known it mentally as I’d written my first CBA books, but by this time, I understood it in a deeper way. The joy of it has never left me.
In the summer of 2001, I received a very special honor. I was presented with the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. RWA members vote on Lifetime Achievement Award recipients based on the length of the nominees’ careers in romance fiction (must have been publishing romances for at least 15 years), and their contributions to the promotion of the genre. It was so humbling to be recognized in this way by my peers.
I took my oldest daughter with me to New Orleans so that I could celebrate the LTA with someone near and dear. Of course, she also wanted a vacation in New Orleans, so it worked out for both of us. I’m including the edited (for length) presentation and acceptance at the end of this post, if you’re interested.
The RWA conference was made all the more special when The Shepherd’s Voice (my firth RITA finalist book) won the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I suffered burn out when writing The Shepherd’s Voice. I always felt like I’d failed to deliver with the story. So readers’ response to the book, and then the RITA judges’ responses, taught me a great lesson — we can’t always trust our feelings about our writing. Sometimes we have to simply trust.
Ribbon of Years was a September 2001 release. It received great advance reviews and I had high hopes for the story. But just after it began reaching stores, the calendar arrived on the 11th of September. On that day, our world changed. And although it pales in comparison to the loss others suffered on 9/11, book sales took a major nose drive and didn’t recover until well into 2002. Ribbon of Years never got the chance to do as well as I or my publisher had expected it to and pre-orders had suggested it would. But on the plus side, because of the theme of Ribbon of Years, readers found great encouragement, comfort and hope in its pages. Some even thought it had been written in response to 9/11. I always take comfort in realizing I hadn’t known our country would be shaken and in need of comfort, but God knew. And He knew who would need a book that would comfort them.