Welcome, Readers! And Welcome, Author Kelly Irvin!
**Kelly is offering a print copy of Beneath the Summer Sun to someone who joins our chat below. **
When a Character Has a Mind of Her Own by Author Kelly Irvin
Jennie Troyer, the heroine in my new release, Beneath the Summer Sun, took me by surprise. She had the audacity to have a mind of her own. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, so it’s not unusual for me not to know what happens between the beginning and the end of my stories. That’s part of the fun. But Beneath the Summer Sun is different. I thought I knew how Jennie’s life would go. She’s a thirty-seven-year-old widow raising seven children on her own. I thought I knew what was best for her, but Jennie had other plans.
The Birth of Author Kelly Irvin’s Every Amish Season series
First, here’s a little backstory. This series, Every Amish Season, will encompass four books, one for each season—of the year and of life. The series had its birth in a blurb in The Budget newspaper in which an Amish scribe listed the annual statistics for her district: births, deaths, baptisms, graduations, weddings, etc. She included the number of widows and widowers with these other important statistics. She singled them out.
Author Kelly Irvin Imagines
This made me try to imagine what life would be like as a widow in a community built around husband-wife-family. (Click to Tweet!) So from my fevered imagination came Every Amish Season. The series focuses on four widows in Jamesport, Missouri, who become close friends and support each other in this unexpected season in their lives.
Same with Jennie in Beneath the Summer Sun. She would have her second chance at love. At first, she wants no part of it. That’s understandable. She harbors a terrible secret from her first marriage. (Click to Tweet!) Snake-bitten, she’s afraid and feels guilty. Jennie wants to make it on her own, even though the district elders and her family want her to marry again. She’s still young. Her children need a father. Although she understands these facts, her heart is dead-set against it.
I knew all this when I started writing. But I didn’t know how much her story would affect me. The choice she has to make is as hard for me as it is her. Both men who profess to love her have good hearts. I also see a lot of myself in Jennie. I didn’t have good role models growing up and distrusted love. As a child, I watched difficult relationships limp along on the verge of shattering, but never quite exploding. (Click to Tweet!) I didn’t want to live like that. As I wrote Beneath the Summer Sun, I found small details from my childhood slipping onto the page. They’re woven into the tapestry as Jennie’s troubled marriage is revealed.
From Beneath a Summer Sky by Author Kelly Irvin
“The kinner were afraid of him. They were always tiptoeing around him. They never knew what might set him off. A rip in their clothes, a kapp not properly starched, a chore not done to his satisfaction.” Jennie’s stomach lurched just as it used to do when the thunderclouds gathered, dark and fierce, in Atlee’s face. She put her hand to her mouth, willing her stomach to settle. She breathed and let it drop. “Too much noise at the supper table. The clicking of the fork on the plate when they cut the skin on the sliced tomatoes bothered him. I started peeling them before I served them. Chewing too loud bothered him. Cold food and food too hot or meat too tough set him off. Crumbs on the floor that didn’t get swept up.”
Author Kelly Irvin’s Own Love Story
Early memories of not so blissful matrimony colored my view of love and married life. (Click to Tweet!) I wanted both, but I made terrible choices and they never worked out. When I turned thirty, I decided God didn’t intend for to me to marry. I should be happy in my single status. God had other plans for me. That year, 1988, I met the love of my life. Next month we’ll celebrate thirty years of marriage. The things I learned as a child about the complicated dance between men and women, I’ve applied to my marriage, to parenting, to loving, and to my stories.
Jennie Troyer’s Time of Suffering
Jennie can’t understand why she had to suffer. Likewise, I often felt the same way. God could have given me a “normal” childhood. However, the question is whether we believe God is good. I do. Also, do we believe Scripture that says in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him? (Romans 8:28) I do. As hard as it is to go through these experiences, they give us character, empathy, and compassion.
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48:10
As Jennie learns, God knows what He’s doing. I’m reminded often of the saying, “God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.” Because of life experiences, I know He is the God of all comfort. I’m able to give comfort to others through Jennie’s story. (Click to Tweet!) In the end Jennie makes her choice. It’s not the choice I thought she would make, but maybe she’s even more like me than I realized.
Final Thoughts from Author Kelly Irvin
Finally, I hope Jennie’s story will resonate with readers. It wasn’t an easy one to write. But Beneath the Summer Sun is a story of second chances and hope. We can use both.
Lord, You invite us to taste and see that You are good. Only You can blend the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and tart that makes us Your unique creations. As readers and writers, we ask You to utilize the avenue of Christian fiction to communicate Yourself in myriad ways and to make You sweet on our tongues.
Bless each word Kelly writes for You. ~ For Jesus’ sake