After publishing that military wives article, the topic wouldn't go away. I had pages and pages of thoughts and feelings and events these five women had poured their souls into. I felt as if they'd let me into a corner of their hearts and lives. It was an honor that a mere 1200 words didn't do justice to.
It just wasn't enough. I had to do more with it. I was driven to do more. Other people needed to understand what deployment was like for those at home. I hadn't had a clue until I interviewed these remarkable women.
Maybe I could write a longer version of the article and sell it to a bigger magazine, I thought. But even that didn't quite sit right. I wasn't sure what I should do, but I had to do something.
About that time, I had difficult moment during a Christmas Enrichment night. I ended up in the lobby feeling a bit sorry for myself, and what happened over the next few minutes turned on my writer brain.
I suddenly had an entire scene about a woman, Brenda, going through a deep depression during the Christmas season while her husband was deployed. The entire scene unfolded in my head and demanded to be written.
Keep in mind, I was still researching the Vernal Temple and fully expecting to write novel about that, although no story was really popping out at me yet. Finding one was sure taking a long time (I had a few elements floating around my brain, but nothing really solid yet), but I wasn't in panic mode. The story would come, I figured. It always does.
But Brenda's scene itched to be written. It wasn't the beginning of a story. If anything, it belonged somewhere in the middle of a book. But I sat down and wrote it.
Since I'd recently submitted Tower, I had nothing else to read at our weekly critique group meetings, so I brought that scene.
In no uncertain terms, they told me, "You have to write this book."
On one hand, I was flattered. But on the other . . . what about the whole temple series thing? Well, maybe I could do both.
I kept researching Vernal and writing this deployment book on the side. I ended up with five different women whose lives come together when their husbands are deployed together. Each has her own stage of life, her own weaknesses and trials. The story went into their friendships and support of one another. The result was something unlike anything I'd written before, something that not only shows a glimpse of deployment but also what real female friendships are about.
But when it was more than half done, I still had no story about Vernal.
It was late spring when my trusty editor Kirk told me that first of all, Tower was accepted for publication. (Yay!) But then he said the committee was asking me to do something else after that . . . something not temple-related. They thought maybe the temple series idea had run its course now that I'd done all four of the old Utah temples.
I was taken aback, because I'd had plans for Mesa, Alberta, Hawaii, Nauvoo . . . but okay, I'll put the Vernal book on the shelf and let it gather dust.
But then Kirk asked if I had any ideas for writing something else.
And I had to smile. Because not only did I have an idea, I almost had another book ready. Something that sort of spilled out of me.
I told him about the deployment manuscript. It's not a romance, I told him. It's not a historical. It's "women's fiction." And it's not remotely like anything I've done before. But I love it.
Kirk thought the idea was great and very timely and asked how quickly I could get it to him.
I bit my lip and wondered just how fast I could get it to him.
I made a leap. "By Halloween?"