Maggie Raines is so angry with her husband, Tom, that she could reach across the sofa and pin him to the floor. Tom is going to be a father again...with his twenty-six-year-old receptionist.
When Maggie rents a cabin for the week between Christmas and New Year's to regain her footing and find a clear path forward as a writer, she hopes the old logs of the ancient structure will give her a story.
And they do...just not in the way Maggie imagines.
I loved it! The book works as thriller; it works as mystery; it works as romance. There is even a supernatural twist. (I’m a writer; we live in a cabin in the woods; I was really glad I was not reading this alone at night with my husband traveling.)
Smith calls this a “hub story” for a prospective series, and she introduces lots of characters that we are dying to find out more about, including four generations of handsome sheriff. The whole town of Marston is full of potential stories, as is any town if you stop to think about it. Smith’s characters will pull at your heartstrings as they struggle with past choices, relationships, and the challenges that life throws at them.
Although this is written from a largely Christian point of view, the book is not preachy or in your face. It got a bit more explicit in places than most Christian fiction without any actual sex, but then she says in the interview below that she sees herself as a Christian writing fiction, not a Christian fiction writer. I loved the quotes Smith put at the beginning of each chapter—some about writing, some from Scripture, some just thoughts. I was delighted to find she expands on the significance of those quotes at the end. I would definitely come back for more of this author even if we didn't share a name.
The book released this week, and Leanne Smith (not Hardy) is here to tell us more.
LeAnne Hardy: What made you start writing in the first place?
Leanne Smith: In junior high I wrote stories in a spiral notebook, then tore them up because I knew they were amateurish and was afraid someone would find them. Later I realized this was an important part of my growth process, the awkward early stages.
For years, as an adult, I actually tried not to write. I felt like Jonah, running from what I know now is my calling. It is a vulnerable proposition to share your most private dreams with strangers. But the love of words is simply in me, and I’ve never been able to go for long without putting thoughts to paper. I could have just written for myself, through journaling, but after earning a second master’s degree in 2009 (an MBA in Leadership; I also have an MS in Mass Communication) I stood at a fork in the road: either pursue a doctorate or finally acknowledge that writing call.
I teach in the College of Business at Lipscomb University in Nashville. While I love being in a college classroom, I’ve had to work hard to excel at it. Writing is different. I was born to be a writer. I’m not saying it’s easy or that I’m especially gifted at it, but God put the love of the craft deep within me. I want to honor Him by doing the best I can with it.
LH: How do you think being a Christian has impacted your writing journey?
LS: My favorite characteristic of God is the first one we know about Him: Creator. Since we are created in His image, I believe each of us is driven on some level to create. We create meals, blueprints, music, furniture, lesson plans, gardens, all kinds of things. But my personal favorite way to create is with words.
When I began to pursue the writing craft in earnest, I had to decide whether I was a Christian fiction writer or a Christian writing fiction. I’m more comfortable claiming the latter. My worldview is Christian. I love being in community with other Christian writers. I love Scripture—the Bible is my favorite book, the one I read over and over—the one so mysterious and revelatory and inspiring that it is impossible to ever tire of or fully absorb. Just like in my speech and teaching, I hope God’s truths are so ingrained in me that they are woven into all that I do, including all that I pen.
Even so, I don’t feel called to write solely for a Christian fiction market. I feel called to tell stories that reflect truths of human nature…and sometimes the mystical and unexplainable, like in Alone in a Cabin. My overall goal is to create a tapestry of stories connected to a common place, following family lines through different time periods. I’m a romantic at heart. I love houses, homesteads, and family histories. I am really a historical fiction writer—all my other stories are in historical settings—but Alone in a Cabin was set in the modern day when the premise got stuck in my head. I didn’t initially know the details. Then one day it snowed.
LH: I’m intrigued by the idea of a “hub story”. What can you tell us about where you are going with that?
LS: Sometimes I think I’ve made it harder on myself as a writer by trying to connect all my stories to a common place. But for some reason I don’t fully even understand, that’s simply what I feel called to do. It seems true to life. If you and I talk long enough, we can often find a common thread—you know someone I know, or we have both visited a common place, or perhaps heard a snippet of a story in that setting. For example, I’ve written a story about a writer in a cabin, and you, LeAnne Hardy (who shares my name, even), are a writer in a cabin! I find connect points like that delightful, and I hope readers do, too.
Years ago, when new to Hickman County, I checked out a small book from the local library written by a man who had lived in Middle Tennessee in the 1800s. I was fascinated by some of the stories he told of local citizens. When I first began trying to write novels, I started with some of these seedling ideas. One was a woman whose husband disappeared then later resurfaced, which is why Abigail’s husband disappeared and resurfaced in Leaving Independence.
At some point I read that if an idea stays with you, as a writer, it has staying power for the reader, too. I’ve nurtured seven story ideas in all, some for as long as thirty years. Three of the seven are now complete, and four are still works in progress. It is as if I am weaving a quilt pattern, and the centerpiece is Alone in a Cabin, about Maggie, a modern-day writer, who finds herself in Marston County unearthing an unexpected story. She realizes that stories are all around her. And they are. If the walls of our homes and the land itself could speak to us, they would have countless stories to tell.
LH: Thank you, Leanne. We will look forward to what God is going to do with you and with your stories. Can't wait to see the next piece in this quilt.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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