My novel Silver Bells was first published by Summerside Press and was a finalist for the ACFW Carol Award. I recently got the rights back to that book and my husband designed a beautiful new cover for it with our Raney Day Press. It’s now available in e-book and print (just in time for Christmas giving!) And today the e-book version is on sale for only 99 cents.
Silver Bells was such a fun book to write, especially since it was set in the 1970s—the years when I was falling in love with my husband, Ken. While my story is completely fictional, many aspects of the novel were inspired by my own life (and Ken’s).
Like Michelle Penn (my heroine in Silver Bells), I grew up the daughter of a Kansas farmer. The oldest of five children, I had the happiest childhood imaginable. Much of that joy came from the fact that I had a mother who read to me-especially after I developed asthma and was unable to play outside during much of the year because the wheat and hay our farm produced were the two things that triggered my asthma attacks. But my mom opened up the whole world to me when she taught me the joy of a wonderful story! I knew the summer I read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books that someday I wanted to write a book.
Like my heroine Michelle from Silver Bells, I attended Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. In fact, my dad and all my siblings attended or graduated from K-State. And like Michelle, I really wasn’t too torn up when I dropped out of college to marry my husband, because the real dream of my life was to have babies—lots and lots of babies.
As Michelle did, I worked as a typesetter and proofreader for several small-town newspapers. I started my first newspaper job back when page layout was done with an X-Acto knife and a waxer, and just before computers revolutionized the process of getting a weekly newspaper put to bed. What fun it was to write the scenes set in the newspaper office!
The “newfangled microwave” incident in Silver Bells was inspired by the fact that my husband’s family owned one of the first microwave ovens in their county. They won the oven as a prize in their small town’s Holiday Lane drawing. This amazing contraption that could boil water in a matter of seconds, and pop popcorn in under two minutes, was quite the attraction! Ken’s friends would often follow him home from school to watch his demonstrations of exploding marshmallows or melted plastic (and some other fiascos I’m not sure his mother knows about to this day, so-to protect the innocent-I’ll save those stories for another day.)
As I wrote the novel, it was sometimes sobering to explore how much we’ve changed as a society in only forty years. Technology has revolutionized every aspect of our lives-some for the good, but others in truly frightening ways. Still, one thing I realized as I wrote the novel is that families have remained the backbone of our culture, and the place where God grows us into the people He wants us to be. All my life, my parents have been such an inspiration to me, and the place I’ve gone for wisdom and advice about life. I was also blessed to have all my grandparents in my life well into my forties. What a wonderful source of wisdom and faith they were in my life—and an example to me now that seven precious little ones call me “Mimi.”
Many readers have commented that they enjoyed turning back the calendar a few decades to a simpler time before technology got such a grip on our world. I admit I love technology. Yet, as much as we’d sometimes like to harken back to simpler times, thankfully, we serve an ever unchanging, ever dependable and steady God, and His goodness and care for us is as certain and strong in these uncertain twenty-first century times as it ever was in the past. It was such fun writing a story set in a recent past that many of my readers remember fondly. But most of all, I hope my story serves as a reminder that Jesus Christ is the same…yesterday and today and forever.