Pookie Rabbit, Big Ears, Noddy and The Famous Five glimmer through my childhood memories, but Pookie was the most fascinating story. Belinda was cross with Pookie because she was spring cleaning. How interesting. Flying rabbits, rebellion and spring cleaning were all new concepts to me. They fired my always active imagination to another level.
I loved to read as a child. It inspired me and kept one of my feet in an imaginary world. Unlike my book worm sister, my other foot was always on the ground. If I had to choose between reading, driving a tractor or riding a horse, the farm won every time. Reading was for rainy days or long nights, or for avoiding unwanted tasks. When I read a story, I wanted a good one!
At senior high school I was confronted with Macbeth and Wuthering Heights. I didn't relate. Reading lost its appeal. My English teacher was less than complimentary about my writing efforts. At this time my beloved Father died. Our property and home had to be sold. Life shattered around me. My grief manifested through poetry, so precious it was stored in an apple box of valued mementos. Otherwise writing became the necessary tool one used to complete assignments.
In my early years of marriage I discovered Janette Oke. Wagon trains and adventures in the Wild West reignited my love for stories. I started to search for other Christian novels but many failed to hold my interest.
Then I read Catherine Marshall's saga, Christy. Thereafter, every book was measured against that standard. Most fell short. I read every non-fiction she wrote, but longed for another novel to transport me to that place of the unexpected and the inspiring. I searched for stories that challenged my faith and my destiny, not just allowed me to escape.
It wasn't until we suffered great heartbreak as a family that I pushed past my English teacher’s negativity and started to write again. Poetry flowed as pain and confusion found expression on paper. I yelled at God through my pen. I blasted cowards that wouldn't face wickedness in our midst. I tried to express deep love, pain and passion. After five years of drama our family reached a point of breakthrough. God was proved to be faithful, though many times I had accused Him of the opposite.
After that, I had a story I wanted to tell, evil that needed to be exposed and miracles to be recorded. Jottings and verse were one thing, but now I wanted to write a book, a good book. All original attempts were feeble and boring. Maybe my English teacher was correct. I mustn’t be able to write. I gave up.
Some years later, on holiday, I immersed myself in Francine Rivers’ novels. I reread ‘Redeeming Love’. Inspired, I decided to write my story as a novel. It was a crazy idea but the story flowed when I wasn't tied to historical accuracy, when concepts could come through fictional conversations whilst keeping events true to my memory. Two years later ‘Though the Bud be Bruised’ was published as a Caleb winner.
To my delight, readers learnt from it while being captivated by the story. It brought healing and restoration to some. Others faced the evil of child abuse and argued against my conclusions. Yet they were all challenged and I am content. Yes, the story is sad but the ending is full of the wonder and grace of God. The book is full of little miracles, little God-instances. I wanted the world to know that God is mighty and faithful...if a tad slow. I wanted my readers to be inspired.
So I continue my search for great books. I read a lot of well written stories with interesting plots and unexpected twists, but few reach the ‘Christy’ standard. I want books that grapple with faith and real life issues through a good story. I seek books that show our struggle with God, without a sudden, easy, unrealistic fix. I loved 'Suzannah's Gold' by Carol Preston. Based on a real life story its full of unusual twists and turns instead of following the expected line.
And I continue to write, though life has been challenging since my first book was published. I have written two more novels, but editing is slow. These stories meet my criteria for good books but will publishers and readers agree with me?
What is your idea of a really great book?
Jo Wanmer’s greatest passion is to see people touched by the love of
God. Her life’s purpose is to inspire others to reach their destinies, to go further than they can ask, think or imagine. She is a pastor and preacher, a writer and an encourager. Her God and her family are her two greatest loves.
Following the success of Though the Bud be Bruised, Jo has written El Shaddai and In the Shadow of El Shaddai. She is still editing, sharpening the stories so they will be transported clearly into her reader’s imagination.