Do I Make This Stuff Up?
One of the perks of being an author is that I get to attend book club discussions with readers. There’s one question that I can count on being asked at every meeting. And that’s “Are any parts of the story true?” The reader is usually wide-eyed and excited, nearly sitting at the edge of their seat in anticipation of my answer. Surely, they want it to be yes and I almost want to say it is so they can be satisfied with my answer, but that would be a lie, not fiction. I shrug and give the disappointing answer, “No, I make this stuff up.”
When I write, my goal is to “touch the heart of women” through my stories. My characters are on a journey. By the end, they find God’s truth for their life. Finding God’s truth…there’s nothing fictional about that. There’s nothing fictional about the hurt or the hope or the love or the prayer or the sacrifice or any of the other actions my characters experience. I don’t really make that stuff up. I’ll use my 2016 Emma Award nominee, Live A Little, as an example. Live A Little is the story of Raine Still and Gage Jordan. Raine and Gage have something in common. They’re both struggling with a major life change. Raine is grieving the death of both her parents. Having lived a sheltered life with them, she now has to exist in a world that was filtered through their experiences and she’s completely unprepared for life without them. Having no other relatives, she finds herself alone in the world. Gage’s family situation is the opposite of Raine’s. He has a large family of siblings, both his parents, and a host of extended family members that love him. But he’s returned home after fourteen years of military service, most of them spent in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Injured, he’s been discharged and forced to return to a world he’s only been connected to through emails, letters, and short visits. Gage left a piece of his soul overseas and he’s not sure how to get it back. These two people meet on cold winter night and their spirits connect in places that are much deeper than physical, for they are two halves that need something to happen in their lives to make them feel whole. They both need a reason to live. They need hope.
Have you known anyone with a similar situation? Maybe they aren’t grieving or a recently returned from war, but someone struggling with depression or even in the grips of a deep depression? Have you ever known someone who wanted to end their life, and you couldn’t love them enough to convince them to live? Maybe I’m describing you and you’re thinking, “Rhonda, there’s nothing fictional about any of this. Depression is real.” Trust me, I know that it is. I have people in my circle that struggle with depression and even thoughts of suicide every day. I wrote this story for them and because of them. Their struggles are a very real part of my life. So, you see I made up Gage and Raine, but I didn’t make up the heart of their story. I didn’t make up their struggles with pain and sorrow or their fear of not knowing what tomorrow will bring or even the voice of the enemy that whispers, “Give up. Life is not worth living.” I make this stuff up, but I also live a little between the pages. I hope you’ll read Raine and Gage’s story and live a little with them.
An excerpt from Live A Little
Raine Still and Gage Jordan run into each other on a cold winter night. Will the chance meeting save one of their lives?
Raine passed a large black Hummer with an Army bumper sticker. The license plate read Gage J. It was a sexy car. Just like him, she thought. Gage Jordan. Nothing about him had changed except for the better. He still had dark eyes, smooth skin, deliciously long dimples, perfect teeth, and impressively broad shoulders.
Raine knew Gage was in Charlotte. She’s read it in the local newspaper. He’d been awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart and they were pinned on him by the Vice President himself at a reception at the V.A. hospital. The article stated he was discharged and had plans for a second career in the public sector. Raine knew a Purple Heart meant he’d been injured. She figured he must have post-traumatic stress disorder or something you couldn’t see, because with the way that suit and wool coat hung on him, no one could tell her there was something wrong with his body.
She sighed and pulled her own coat tighter. The last thing person on earth she needed to be thinking about was Gage Jordan, but she couldn’t help it. He was the jock she’d had a crush on in high school, the soldier she’d shared her first dance with and the only man she’d ever had a date with.
She smiled at the memory of that dance. His mother, whom she’d been talking to when he made his approach from across the room, had thrown them together. Raine remembered he’d had a determined look on his face, no doubt on a mission to convey some message. He whispered in is mother’s ear and then before Evelyn Jordan left she handed her off to him and said firmly, “This pretty young woman has been holding up the wall for too long. Dance with her, son.” Gage didn’t hesitate to invite her to the floor. After all, the disc jockey was playing Brown Sugar. Even a confirmed gospel music only addict like Raine knew that song. Less than sixty seconds after they moved onto the dance floor, the tempo of the music slowed down and If Only For One Night by Luther Vandross reverberated through the speakers.
“You don’t mind this song, do you?” he asked. She surmised the question was a mere courtesy, because Gage took liberties before she could respond. He placed his hand on the small of her back and pulled her closer to him. Raine saw her life flash before her, but not in a way that scared one to death. Her own wedding, marriage, and children came to her in flashes of light. In those five minutes, she lived every dream she had ever had. And then Gage disappeared into the cabin of a military flight to a war thousands of miles away.
Raine Still has never had much of an identity outside of being the daughter of the old hippie couple that own Hope House, a transitional housing facility in the worse part of Charlotte, North Carolina, and that had been okay with her until her parents died and left her alone in world.
Gage Jordan is a decorated solider discharged from the army after fourteen years due to a physical injury, but the emotional scars are far worse than anything he’s rehabbed from. He has a great job lined up and a mass of support from his family, but something is missing and he’s starting to feel like it’s Raine.
Gage thought his wounded heart had issues, but Raine’s pain is much deeper. If something doesn’t give soon they will never have a chance at love. Can he convince her to see that “hope” and faith are the balm she needs to heal her hurting soul?
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About the Author
Even as she pursued degrees in Textile Technology, Organizational Leadership and finally, Adult Education, Rhonda McKnight’s love for books and desire to write stories was always in the back of her mind and in the forefront of her heart. Rhonda loves reading and writing stories that touch the heart of women through complex plots and interesting characters in crisis. She writes from the comfort of her Atlanta home with black tea, Lays potato chips and chocolate on hand. At her feet sits a snappy mixed breed toy dog. She can be reached at her website at www.rhondamcknight and on social media at www.facebook.com/booksbyrhonda and www.twitter.com/rhondamcknight and www.blackchristianreads.com where she has joined with nine other Christian fiction authors to introduce her stories to the world.