It’s a treat to introduce you to my author friend, Hillary Manton Lodge, who is guest-blogging at Inspired by Life..and Fiction today. Her latest novel, A Table by the Window, has garnered rave reviews. Here’s just a sampling of what readers are saying: “Sumptuous women’s fiction with a foodie twist,” and, “I love reading books about travel, food, and romance. This book was all of that and more.”
It’s wonderful to have you here, Hillary! -Becky
When people ask how I got the idea for my latest novel, A Table by the Window, I usually cite my internship at a food magazine.
And it’s true. But like most books, Table has multiple inspirations. The love story, in particular, I wrote to echo another one, close to my heart.
It’s the story of how I met my husband.
I always thought I’d meet my husband through church somehow, and because I attended one of the largest churches in the city, my assumption seemed reasonable enough. But after a string of terrible post-college dates, I decided to try something different. I decided to try online dating.
That might not seem so unusual now, but this was back in 2006, when online dating was just on the cusp of normal – but not quite. Match.com was the largest dating site, and I spent one long evening writing out my profile and choosing a single photograph to represent myself.
After a couple of weeks of online flirting that went nowhere, I took charge and browsed profiles, sending a “wink” to anyone who sounded remotely interesting. I had nothing to lose – the Internet’s anonymity protected my true name from seeing the light of day. I clicked on tallman77 because he professed a Christian faith and – well, he was tall. As a woman who’s 5’10” in flats, that means something.
He “winked” back.
I emailed him, a short, single-line message: “So, what’s your story?”
It was my standard opener, and tended to separate the men from the boys. Some emailed back confused, some sent short bios, but tallman77?
The email equivalent of pages. He didn’t hold back.
By then I was also corresponding with a second guy, one who tended to email regularly in short snippets. We discussed movies and weekend plans, while tallman77 – whose named turned out to be Danny – and I talked about life and family and music and faith. Also, Star Wars, and I had concerns that my opinions on the prequel had gotten me into trouble. He’d told me that he would be in California for the week visiting family, and since then I’d heard nothing. Which…I mean, they had the internet in California. I grew suspicious when I heard absolutely nothing, especially in light of how I’d lambasted the prequels in our last email.
Meanwhile, the second guy had suggested a phone conversation, and I wondered if he might be better on the phone than in correspondence. Here’s the short version: he wasn’t. So much so that after the second conversation, I began to rethink Match and decided that eHarmony might be better. After all, I still hadn’t heard anything from Danny.
So I drove to my parents’ home, where the good internet was (I had a 56K modem at my place, and achieved connectivity using a very long telephone cord. These were sophisticated times). Using my brother’s computer, I clicked to end my Match subscription, and then their internet went out. It’s amazing we accomplished anything during those years of unreliable internet, but there it was.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I woke up the next morning to find an email from tallman77 in my inbox. He was back. I hadn’t actually ended my subscription.
After that, we wrote nearly every day. I did give eHarmony a try, but none of those matches were as harmonious as the one with Danny. We met in person two months later, at a Starbucks. We were both nervous. I drank tea. My hands shook for an hour.
We went ring shopping eleven weeks later, so – successful date. We married in the summer, at my home church.
As I pieced together Juliette and Neil’s story in Table, I enjoyed retelling that story from a different perspective. I enjoyed finding ways to disrupt Juliette’s internet, to give them an awkward but memorable first date. And of course, there had to be reasons why they couldn’t marry in a rush (there are two more books in the series, after all).
The piece of our story I still love best is how we nearly missed each other, and yet didn’t. To providence and unreliable internet, I owe seven years of marriage – and three books.
At an early age, Hillary decided on royalty as a career path. A storyteller at heart, she admits that publishing is plenty exciting, and marriage to an engineer results in a less complicated in-law situation. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, watching foreign films, and going on motorcycle rides. She and her husband live in Richland, Washington.
She’s the author of Plain Jayne, a Carol Award Finalist, and Simply Sara, an ECPA Bestselling book. A graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Hillary discovered the world of cuisine during her internship at Northwest Palate Magazine. Her latest novel, A Table By the Window, was released by WaterBrook Publishing Group.
Readers can connect with Hillary at: