Because I am a writer who doesn’t use an outline and usually just lets the story go where it may, I often have trouble remembering exactly how each story is formed. I truly believe the Holy Spirit guides my work and I love seeing the twists and turns a story makes along the way. I always have a starting idea and some rough thoughts of where the story should go and maybe even a scene or two that I want to include but getting to those points is often a fun and unexpected journey.
The idea of my YA novel, Where You Lead, started as a momentary incident that happened years ago when my husband and I were first married. We had recently moved to Washington DC from Colorado and one afternoon we were eating at a Pizza Hut restaurant. I was returning to our table from the restroom and saw my husband sitting at our table. His back was to me so I only saw his dark hair. For some reason I thought about other Pizza Hut’s I had been in throughout my life and how they all looked the same. And I thought, wouldn’t it be crazy if I sat down and instead of looking up and seeing my husband’s face it was actually someone from my past, and all the amazing memories I had of us dating, getting married, and moving to DC, had never happened.
This, I thought, was the beginning of a great novel. I pictured it more as a novel for adults – the leading character abandoning her life and searching for this mysterious stranger that she was sure existed. But since I wasn’t a writer back then, I just stored this thought away.
Fast-forward many years to after my first novel, The Perfect Blindside, was published. This story idea was still rattling around in my head, but I couldn’t figure out how it could possibly be made into a YA novel because there was no way a teenager could drop everything and search the country or world for a mysterious stranger. I again put the idea on the back burner and began writing my second novel, An Unexpected Role. But that little spark wouldn’t leave me alone.
Finally, a few ideas on how to change it up and make it work for YA began percolating in my mind. I decided to set the story in Washington DC, since that is where I first had this idea. I began jotting things down in one of my daughter’s old notebooks. (I’ve kept this notebook and it has been fun to look back on my notes and thoughts.)
The notebook includes lists of places that I had loved when we lived in DC. As I began thinking about those years when we lived inside the beltway, so many memories came flooding back. I still could remember those feelings as young newlyweds when living on the east coast, and especially DC, felt like a different world from out west. But we loved our time there. The history, the old buildings, the civil war battlefields, it was all so fascinating. In this book I’ve not only included our favorite places but also some of the quirky things and incidents that we encountered.
This story has been a labor of love but also required quite a bit more research than any of my other books. In a way, Where You Lead, is part history lesson, city tour, and mystery all combined with a message of listening for God’s call in your life. I hope readers enjoy this fun adventure.