When you start a story you never know where it’s going to go.
The earliest version of my novel, Hope, looks nothing like it does today. Here’s where it started:
I was trying to come up with story ideas, and the thought struck me that it might be interesting to write an unlikable protagonist. Instantly, I imagined a bitter and angry old woman, lying in a sickbed in her daughter’s living room, inching closer to death and reflecting on her miserable life.
Parents who essentially sold her into marriage. A husband who was mean, abusive, cruel. Children who dishonored and disappointed her. Hope was not a “pretty” person. She had no hope, she had nothing but regrets. Hope had put all her trust in God to the point that she ceded control, took no action of her own. And there was her downfall. God had given her brains and common sense that she refused to use.
That initial draft was written twenty years ago and set aside. Hope and the theme were the only two survivors.
When I “re-discovered” writing a few years back I considered which of my stories I should revive. And Know They Love You and Hope vied for my attention.
I chose Hope.
And then something happened: Hope spoke to me.
She didn’t want to be some bitter old woman. She wanted to tell the story her way. And the story she told wasn’t pretty—but it wasn’t bitter either. It wasn’t angry. Hope told her story as she lived it: all the hopes and fears and doubts. Should she listen to God? Should she listen to friends?
Should she—could she—listen to herself?
As I re- wrote Hope’s story, new characters emerged and they spoke to me too. Hattie, meant to make a one-time appearance clamored for more page time. She became Hope’s mentor and has several chapters now.
Emma got the perfect husband she wanted, and showed me her “take-no-shit” attitude when she left him for his philandering.
Blue Sandy showed up in a dream one night. Just his name. No details. But as I contemplated the name a handsome young man appeared. A southern gentleman who would become one of Hope’s strongest supporters.
Some readers have suggested that Hope is a disappointment to them. It takes way too many years—way too many abuses—before she has had enough and takes action. But don’t you know women who are that beaten down? If you are over fifty I bet you do. If you don’t, you are missing a crucial piece of women’s history: It happened. A lot. Don’t get me started on abuse.
So Hope at last got to tell her story. Her way. Is it pretty? No. Is there a happy ending? You’ll have to read it to find out.