I just finished an amazing novel. Marlo Schalesky is a new author for me...this is the first one of her books I've read, but I know I'll be going back for more. I loved this book, and I know you will, too. I'm going to...yes, GIVE IT AWAY. Hooray! Just leave a comment on this post, and I'll enter you in the drawing. And watch for two more book giveaways this week.
And, AND, I have something I'm particularly excited about trying--and giving away--a new game to exercise my brain. And you KNOW that my brain is in need of serious help. So more about that later. On to the book.
The storyline from Beyond the Night took me on this rollercoaster ride of emotion and had me alternating between holding my breath and trying to read faster so I could find out what happened next.
Maddie Foster is going blind, and it isn't a pretty picture as she tries to avoid facing it. Paul Tilden is best friends with her, but when he falls in love with her, it seems like everyone is against him having a relationship with her. But the most fascinating part of the story for me was being able to eavesdrop on Maddie's on-again off-again relationship with God.
She goes through the entire gamut of emotions, alternately blaming God and then begging Him for a miracle. But once she comes to grips with her fear of being blind, then her life starts to open up.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book. Paul is thinking about hope and Maddie. He says he used to think that hope came in comfort, and that if you just lived well, God would spare you from heartache and fear. A good life was one free of trouble. But then he realizes that Maddie is teaching him that God is in the sorrow, and He works in the pain.
Love that quote! It's so simple and so profound that it takes a minute for it to soak in. It makes me want to weep just thinking about it again. He's right there. Right there with us when it aches so badly we can't bear it. And that's just the beginning of the book. By the time you read the ending, you'll have gone through the better part of a box of Kleenex, and you'll be sitting on the edge of your chair, waiting for her next novel.
If you head over to the Multnomah Publishing site, you can also read the official publicity piece about this book there.
When she was asked about this book, Schalesky said:
It was all God’s fault. And it started with a dream. Not one of those 'I have a dream' kind of dreams, but a real, honest-to-goodness, it’s-3am-and-I’m-asleep kind of dreams. I dreamt Paul and Maddie’s love story. And when I woke up, I couldn’t get the two of them out of my head. I thought about them in the shower, on the way to seminary classes, in the grocery store. Everywhere! For weeks, I found myself replaying tidbits of their story in my mind, until I finally figured out that maybe God wanted me to write their story.
“But,” said I to God, “there’s not enough here. It’s not compelling enough.”
“Yes,” said God to me, “but Maddie’s going blind.” (Well, maybe it wasn’t so much in those words, but just in the revelation of what was going on with Maddie.)
“Oh,” said I, “That’s very interesting. But it’s still not enough. Not quite.”
Two more days went by, and Paul and Maddie’s story still kept teasing my mind. “It’s not enough,” I kept saying to God. “There’s got to be more.”
And then I saw it – the big twist. The incredible truth that I had no idea about before. It took my breath away. So, after I finished picking my jaw up off the floor, I sat down and starting working on the proposal for Beyond the Night.
As I fleshed out the story, I realized that this is exactly the type of book I’d like to keep writing – something with the poignancy of a Nicolas Sparks love story (without the sap!) matched with the knock-your-socks-off twist of a M. Night Shymalan movie (without the horror!). That kind of story excited me, spiritually, emotionally, mentally.
And I figured that there had to be more people like me out there – people who want to be both moved emotionally and surprised and delighted intellectually. People who want to be changed, challenged, and caught with wonder by a story. People who just want something more in their stories, because the typical story is just not quite enough.
Happily, Multnomah agreed. When my agent sent them the proposal for Beyond the Night, they asked for two more ideas in one week. But how could I come up with two more stories like that in such a short time? It usually took months, even years, for me to find the right story. But God was faithful again.
On the first day of that week, the storyline for Book 2, Faces in the Sand, came to me. And on the last day of the week, I got the idea for Book 3 (with five very nervous days in between). Multnomah contracted all three, and now I’m pressing forward, writing these books that God has given me to write, and praying every day that I’ll see the story as He has dreamed it. And I’m hanging on to the belief that He who gave me this mission will be faithful not only at its inception, but in the execution and beyond.
Schalesky talks about her experiences as an author. She says:
You’ll find that most of my books include a theme about life not turning out the way you plan or expect. That’s because God has given me the equivalent of a PhD in “My plans are not your plans, saith the Lord . . .” And my publishing experience has been a significant course in that learning process.
Nothing in my experience with publishing has gone according to expectation. At first, that was just because I was naïve. I thought I just had to write some good stuff, and I’d get a contract for my first books, which, at the time, was an end times series (this was before the Left Behind craze). So, I went to conferences with my proposal and heard from all the editors, “We aren’t interested in this type of futuristic fiction.” What they meant, of course, was they weren’t interested in that type of story from a newbie like me.
So, I tried historical fiction. And got a contract just as expected. Except the contract was canceled . . .that was unexpected. And it hurt.
Eventually, another publisher contracted that book and it became my first published novel. I received a few other contracts, had those books published, and then came another rude awakening in the form of sales figures. I expected to write a good book and have it do well.
But that’s not how it worked for my third novel. Because of internal publishing house changes, sales went badly. And there wasn’t anything I could do about it. That was hard because I’d written the story as an act of faithfulness to God’s call, I felt He was pleased with it, I’d done everything I could in promotion and marketing, and still it “failed.” Ouch!
At that time, I was told to expect the numbers for that book to prevent other publishers from wanting to publish future books of mine. “It would have been better for you if that book hadn’t even been published,” they said. But God was about to crush that expectation as well.
A publisher contracted my next historical novel, I wrote it, and then just before it was scheduled for release, the company went through a large restructuring – they cut fiction, most of the members of the PR department left, the fiction editor left, and my book was stranded. I hadn’t expected that either.
But God was up to something in the meantime – a new story idea that I simply had to write. A story that so moved the Multnomah team, even in its synopsis form, that they wanted to publish it despite my previous sales numbers. They wanted that story, plus two more. The story was Beyond the Night. It came as an unexpected gift from God.
And just like everything else in my publishing experience, it has taken me by surprise. Pre-readers are calling me and emailing saying how the story has moved them, impacted them. But it’s not because of my great planning. It’s because God has again done something that I didn’t foresee, didn’t expect. And I thank Him for it.
So go ahead. What've you got to lose? Post a comment, get a chance to win. Easy peasy. You know you wanna.