Tuesday, November 3, 2009

When your book imitates life

When my agent called last spring to tell me I was being asked to join a new Love Inspired continuity, the only word out of my mouth was, “No.”

I had recently finished my book for the Without a Trace continuity and I was struggling with a looming deadline for my own difficult suspense book, Speed Trap. To my tired, stressed brain it didn’t seem possible to take on a new project.

My agent said, “Pat, wait until you hear what this series is about. It’s the story of a small Kansas town recovering from a tornado.”

Now, how was I going to pass that up? I’m a born and bred Kansas gal. I knew the second I heard the storyline that I had to be in this series.

The terrible tornado at Greensburg, Kansas was still fresh in my mind. I had friends with family there and I knew about the ongoing struggle the town was facing to recover. I’m a nurse and I helped in the ER the night the Andover tornado struck that town just fifteen miles from here. I will never forget the stories of the survivors and the desperate faces of people searching for loved ones.

My daughter’s workplace and my grandson’s school were both heavily damaged in the Haysville tornado. It cut a half-mile wide swath through Haysville, Kansas and into Wichita only four blocks from my daughter’s home. She and my seven-year-old grandson huddled in the basement and listened to the deadly roar passing by them. I get chills just thinking about how bad it could have been.

I knew about tornados. I accepted Steeple Hill’s offer and jumped in with both feet to brainstorm with the great authors in this series. I was the only Kansas author, but not the only one who’d been affected by these violent storms. I have to say kudos to Steeple Hill for assembling such a wonderful group of writers.

Only a few weeks into the project, something happened that almost made me quit the series. A tornado once more hit close to home for me. 60% of the town of Chapman, Kansas was wiped away in five minutes on June 11th, 2008. I attended high school in Chapman and two of my brothers live in the community, although thankfully not in the town itself. The eerie part of this whole terrible scenario was how closely Chapman and the damage there resembled the fictitious town of High Plains in our series.

More than half of Chapman was gone. More than half of High Plains was destroyed.
Chapman is located some thirty miles outside of Manhattan, Kansas, the same as the town in our story. The first settlement was made at Chapman in the 1860’s when a mill was started there. Again, the same as in High Plains. Chapman is built on the north side of the river. The tornado was an EF-3. The church my brother’s attend was spared except for a few broken windows. All the same as the storyline we had been given to write.

I’m telling you it was eerie, but at least no unidenitfied toddler was found wandering alone.

Suddenly, I had a dilemma on my hands. Should I stay in the series and have friends and family think I was profiting from their tragedy or should I step aside and give my place to another writer? It was a small dilemma compared to having your house and all you own blow away, but it was real for me.

In the end, after receiving some wonderful encouragement from my fellow authors and my editor, I agreed to stay in the project. They convinced me it was my job to show everyone how caring and resilient the people of Kansas truly are. My thanks to Val Hanson, Annie Jones, Brenda Minton, Carolyne Aarsen and Kathryn Springer. I’ll never forget working with them.

After that, the book almost wrote itself. It was the easiest and the most fun I’ve ever had writing a story. The characters came alive in my mind and I was sorry when, The End, appeared on my computer screen. What a great journey and what a great blessing this project turned out to be.
A Family for Thanksgiving is available now. It's the 5th book in the After the Storm series. I hope everyone enjoys it and all the books as much as I did.

Please keep the people of Chapman, Kansas in your prayers as they continue to rebuild their town.


Stephanie Newton said...

Pat, what an emotional journey! Storms can be so devastating--but there is joy in rebuilding.

I'm glad you had a great team around you to encourage you!!


Pat Davids said...


You are absolutely right. Rebuilding brings a chance for great change and joy. I know because we lost our home in a fire many years ago. Had that not happened, I would be in a very different place in my life. No pun intended.

Judith Miller said...

Hi Pat,

So glad you decided to remain with the project. You're right about the people of Kansas. I've lived here for many years and they are a resilient people.Like the folks in Greensburg, the people of Chapman have much to accomplish, but there is no doubt that with God's help, they'll succeed.

Blessings, Judy

Reese Mobley said...

Pat, the emotional depth that you bring to these characters is wonderful and a true testament to your skills. You make the town of Chapman proud--as well as all of Kansas!

Pat Davids said...

Thanks for the kind words. You are a sweetheart.

Judith, thanks for stopping by. God has a plan for us all. We just have to have faith.


Project Journal said...

One word comes to mind after reading that: wow!

What an amazing journey you've been on for this story, Pat. I can't even begin to imagine how scary it would be furing a tornado or anything so life threatening. I live in Vermont...we don't see much of that here. It's been decades since our last major hurricane. Now, our school are the Hurricanes! Lol....

Can't wait to pick up your book!

Pat Davids said...

Thanks for stopping in.

I have always wanted to visit Vermont. I lived for several years in Connecticut, (when my husband was in the Navy) but I wasn't wise enough or brave enough to travel.

I will never forget the way people there reacted when they heard I was from Kansas. 99% of the time they said, "Oh, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz."

I hated that movie as a kid and I honestly never realized that's where the little airhead was from.

Project Journal said...

LOL! How funny is that!? Wizard of Oz ^_^ My school did Wizard of Oz as our musical 2 year ago...it was a lot of fun!

Come on up to Vermont anytime...we're pretty friendly(usually)!

Sheila Deeth said...

What an amazing story. I'm sure the book and series are wonderful.