By Niki Turner
For those of you in, er, more populated areas, you might not understand how exciting it is to find other writers (read: other people who think like you do and don't think you're crazy) to fellowship with. That's why it's so exciting for me to introduce a fellow resident of Colorado's Western Slope, Templa Melnick, and her debut novel, Season of Forgiveness.
First, here's an introduction to the story...
A little woman with a big heart, Emma Johnson must juggle family, friends, and pioneer-woman chores, all the while dealing with threats to her own life, those she loves, and the safety of the ranch on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies. The challenges of living in the shadow of gold fever bring opportunities to use the skills she learned from her Indian stepmother, and pray as if everything depends on the Lord. Emma finds herself involved in the rescue and restoration of three abandoned and abused women. As new life, beauty and hope blossom, the four women uncover a nefarious plot and learn the meaning of forgiveness.Now let's find out more about our author...
How did you start writing?
"I actually have NO qualifications to be a writer. None whatsoever. That is, unless you count my ridiculously over-active imagination, my life-long penchant for making things up, and a voracious appetite for reading that began at the age of three. I have always wanted to be a writer. When I was in second grade, my teacher asked if she could submit one of my short stories to a national publication for elementary school teachers. I still remember that story. It was about my neighbor’s cat. She said I had a unique perspective that she wanted to share with others. In that moment, Mrs. Gardner planted a seed in my life. Perhaps someday I could tell stories that other people would want to read. When my children were young, I used to make up stories for them. They enjoyed listening to those stories and I enjoyed creating them. It was then that the seed that had been planted in my childhood germinated. Maybe I could write children’s books! But there were soccer games and parent/teacher conferences and corporate ladders to climb. So, if I ever thought about writing, it was only as a fleeting fancy in the stillness of the night. And then… in a few short months, the foundations of my moderately comfortable life were shaken. I lost my job. I had a scare with the dreaded “C” word, and my kids were leaving the nest. A long list of “what ifs” kept running through my mind. It was time to reach for the childhood dream I had set aside. The past few years have been a steady stream of writer’s conferences, seminars and “how-to” books on fiction writing. It seemed pretty miraculous when publisher Catherine Lawton agreed to read my manuscript at an Estes Park, Colo., writer’s conference in May 2013. It seemed even more miraculous when she sent me a contract for my first novel in October 2013. She and her staff have been incredibly patient with me and very helpful as we've worked towards publication. I’m honored to be among Cladach Publishing’s authors. I still have much to learn. But the most important thing I’ve learned is that… writing makes me happy. Writing stories that other people will want to read? That would make me happier still.
There's no better reason to write than that it makes you happy! So where did the idea for this story (which is going to be a series!) come from?
The idea for this series of books has actually been rattling around in my brain in one form or another for a very long time. A few years ago, my husband and I took the kids to a cabin near Leadville for a short vacation. I was intrigued by the mining history and spent a lot of time wondering what it was like to live in that harsh climate during the gold rush.
At the same time, I was doing some research for one of my clients whose business had been established in Meeker, Colorado in1904. I had the opportunity to read through the actual 1904 archives of the Rio Blanco Herald Times. I was hooked. I was fascinated with that time period of Colorado history. I also have a lineage of really strong, amazing women that I wanted to honor. I’ve incorporated a few actual family stories in Season of Forgiveness.
Since I work (in real-life) for the Rio Blanco Herald Times, that makes me chuckle. I used to read those old archives and pull out tidbits for a weekly column. They are fascinating! How long have you been working on this series?
I started writing the first book in this series in December 2009. I had just lost my job as an account executive at a local media outlet. The economy was tough, and I wasn’t the only casualty. Nevertheless, I was devastated. During that time of emotional upheaval, God spoke to my heart and asked, “What have you always wanted to do?” The answer was immediate. I’d always wanted to write a novel – but there had never been enough time or energy left over at the end of the day. So I set aside all of the reasons that I wasn’t qualified to be a writer, and I wrote. Four months later, I had the first draft of Season of Forgiveness. I attended my first writer’s conference and quickly discovered that I had made virtually every newbie writer mistake possible. So, I went back to the drawing board and rewrote the entire thing. It’s been rewritten so many times I’ve lost track. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I’m hoping the next books will require less editing! I’m about halfway through the second book, and can’t wait to share it.
We can't wait, either! It's wonderful to know that there are more books coming. There are so many strong characters in Seasons whose stories need to be told! Speaking of, which character is your favorite?
Emma is all of my grandmothers and my husband’s grandmothers best characteristics rolled into one tiny woman. She’s tough. She’s virtually unflappable, and yet she’s gracious, kind and full of love. Emma is the woman I hope to be some day.
I love Daisy’s transformation in the story. She starts out incredibly wounded, and ends up as this strong young woman bursting with life and hope. I hope she will bring life and hope to my readers.
Sally started out as a secondary character, and ended up as one of the main characters. I shed more tears at my computer while writing her story than all the others combined. The love quadrangle around her at the end of the book was fun to write. She’s Irish, so I apologize up front if I’ve butchered the brogue. I can hear her talking in my head – but I don’t know if it translated onto paper as well as I had hoped.
|Dee as a young woman|
And Miss Dee. She was the most challenging for me to create, but she’s also the most fun. I never know what she’s going to say or do next. Seriously. I’m just as surprised as you are. I don’t want her to come off as the cliché madam-with-a-heart-of-gold… even though in some ways, she fits that cliché to a tee.
Writing a historical novel demands a lot of research, some of which ends up in the story and a lot of which ends up in a file somewhere. What is the most intriguing thing you learned while researching this book?
The labor wars surrounding the mining areas fascinated me. I got lost for weeks in the books and newspaper articles that were written about these events. I had no idea that Colorado was actually under martial law for awhile in 1904. I doubt it did it justice in the book, but I did include a few details. On a side note, I beg for mercy on any historical errors. I’m sure I made them. Why did I decide to write historical fiction? What was I thinking?
History, and historical characters, are so inspiring, how can we not write about them? And the food, did I mention the food? (Templa has graciously shared a few of her character's favorite recipes on her website, too!)
|Sally's colcannon - Irish peasant fare.|
What do you hope your readers will "get" from this story? What did you get from writing it?
My greatest desire is that my readers will take away a deeper understanding of what it means to BE forgiven, and the miracle of freedom that comes to us through forgiving others. I also hope that through Emma, Daisy, Sally and Dee my readers will see that the same Jesus of the Bible is alive and well today in 2014, just as He was in 1904. He is the same today, yesterday, and forever.
What did I get from writing this story? One person really can make a difference. Women like Daisy and Sally, and Dee are all around us. And if we, like Emma, dare to love the un-loveable, touch the un-touchable, we can change our little corner of the world. And all of our little corners connect. That’s powerful!
That is powerful, and a valuable message we all need to remember, every day. We're all ministers of the Gospel of Christ, no matter where we are or what we do.
So what's next? (We really want to know about book #2!)
Oh, I’m so glad you asked! The working title for book two is Season of Redemption. This book picks up where Season of Forgiveness left off, in the same fictional town of Riverbend, Colorado and with the same characters, plus a few new ones. Dee, Sally and Daisy have left their pasts behind them – but people from their past keep showing up and causing problems. Dee struggles with wanting to manipulate and control everyone and everything around her… that’s how she’s always done things, so it’s hard for her to let go and trust God’s plan. Daisy and Sally are learning how to trust God in their relationships and finding out what it means to truly be loved by the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. Season of Redemption has a little mystery going on with horse thieves, gunfights, and a slippery southern gambler, plus a little romance to keep it interesting. And, since I haven’t finished writing the story, I am not sure of all the details yet!
We'll be looking forward to the next installment! In the meantime, Season of Forgiveness is available on Amazon, on Cladach Publishing, and through Templa's website.
You can "friend" Templa on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/templa.melnick. And don't forget to check our her blog: Templa's Trivia.
Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, and blogger. Her first completed manuscript earned second place in the Touched By Love 2009 contemporary category romance contest. She writes for local newspapers, and won second place for best agriculture story at the 2013 Colorado Press Association annual convention. She also blogs at www.nikiturner.net and is a co-blogger at www.inkwellinspirations.com. Niki is an active member and volunteer for American Christian Fiction Writers and is involved in establishing an ACFW chapter on Colorado's Western Slope, where she resides. Her fiction blends the good news of God's love with come-as-you-are characters in stories that encourage and inspire. Her debut novelette, Santiago Sol, will be released through Pelican Book Group.