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FIRST-PERSON: When a wife is a fiction writer, most anybody may come to dinner

DALLAS (BP)–I knew life was about to change around our house when my wife, Kay, saved the photo of a hunky blond accountant she interviewed for a newspaper story and tacked the picture up to our bulletin board.

Having this Superman, whose muscles seemed to ripple when I merely walked near him, always staring at me from a prominent place was, I admit, a little unsettling. I started wondering whether I should be envious or something.

Before I could decide, however, this blond Hercules was joined on the bulletin board by the photo of an attractive brunette woman that Kay found in a Talbot’s clothing catalog.

Now what? I wondered. Was this some kind of subtle hint for a clothing gift? Kay was always urging me to pay more attention to clothing trends so I’d know what to buy her for Christmas. Perhaps this was her way to help me along.

Thankfully, before I rushed out to purchase the sweater set in the photo, my wife revealed the significance of the duo, who for the next several years became such fixtures in our family that I almost thought we should set regular places for them at the dinner table.

“They’re the perfect prototypes for the main characters in my novel,” Kay explained. “Having these pictures posted like this helps me envision them as I write.”

The ever-present mugs of “Jerry” and “Carol,” as they were now known to our family, represented only one aspect of living with a fictional romance in progress.

Once, on a Christmas trip to visit Kay’s family in Texas, my wife looked out the car window and shrieked, “That’s it! That’s it! We’ve got go back to see it.”

The “it” she insisted that we turn the car around to see was a small, nondescript hill behind a rest stop. Although we were in the middle of Arkansas, Kay thought the hill’s slope made the perfect size for the small Colorado mountain on which the lovebirds, Jerry and Carol, went night skiing in Kay’s fictitious plot.

Another time, as we walked through the lobby of a hotel where our family stayed on a trip, Kay was moved to tears when she found a junk closet door open behind the registration desk.

“It’s meant to be!” she exclaimed gratefully, with that same exultant voice I remembered from the sloped-hill sighting.

“What’s meant to be?” I hazily asked. “The fact that this establishment needs to have spring cleaning?”

“No-o-o-o-o,” she condescended. “Don’t you see? When Jerry was running from Carol by fleeing the ski lodge, he grabbed an old jacket from a closet that the lodge kept near the lobby. It could be a closet just like this!”

Her sigh of relief told me this find would probably go down as her red-letter memory from our family outing.

Kay also found it providential that the International Mission Board in Richmond, Va., where I worked at the time, once assigned me as a liaison to Ohio, the state where her character Carol was “from.”

After my trips to visit churches in the Buckeye State, I endured hours of grilling about the terrain, the geography, about whether Carol’s “hometown” of Wooster had a high-rise office building. (In one scene, Jerry watches the “lights of the city reflected in Carol’s eyes” as they dine overlooking Wooster.)

The fact that Wooster wasn’t on my beaten path was no excuse for her. “I want it to be accurate,” she protested.

I suggested she call the Chamber of Commerce.

Visitors to our home, or anyone with whom she happened to engage in chance conversation, for that matter, were in for the same type of interrogation if they mentioned that they once had ever even as much as had driven through Kansas.

You guessed it. Jerry spent part of his time rehabilitating, while he was estranged from Carol, on a boys’ ranch in Kansas. Kay and some guests once stood in our entry hall for an hour while these Kansas natives politely helped her determine whether someone who lived in Colby, Kansas, would drive to Woodland or Hays if he wanted to make a quick plane trip to points east.

We certainly wouldn’t want to cause Jerry to take the long way out of town, would we?

And do you ever wonder where fiction writers concoct some of their descriptive language? Such as: Turns of a phrase like “eyes the color of fresh summer sage” (what’s wrong with just plain old “green”?) and “snowfall the consistency of bisque” (why use one simple word like “thick” when four will do?).

They find them on fitness walks. One night, I offered to join my wife headed outdoors for the hiking trail.

“Can’t have company,” she replied. “I’m out picking up imagery.”

When she returned, I queried encouragingly, “Pick up any?”

“Ooh, yes,” she gushed. “Just the thing! I stepped on a nut, and it was then I knew.”

“Knew what?”

“The color of Rico’s skin.” (Rico was a new character who had recently surfaced in the story line. I guessed that we’d now be setting a dinner plate for him, too.) “It’s pecan. Great, huh?”

I didn’t see why she couldn’t just state that Rico was Hispanic in origin. But by now, if there’s one thing I had learned to do, it was not to question the creative process of a fiction writer.

Or offer to go along again to help pick up imagery.

Then there was the time when my wife insisted that we determine how her two main characters would stack up on the Myers-Briggs personality inventory scale. “I’m afraid I’ve made them both ENFJs,” she wailed. It would be a major deficit in the plot, she claimed, since we all know opposites attract. Quickly, Jerry had to become more hang-loose, so Kay could at least classify him as a “P” instead of a meticulous “J.”

But the most important character trait that Kay assigned as she wrote the book was that Jerry was not at first a believer in Christ. Today, the lives of her readers are richer for this fact.

While readers get so wrapped up in this compelling love story that they devour it in one sitting, as they report to Kay again and again, they also can’t miss the plan of salvation, ingeniously woven into the plot, as Jerry learns that God must be his first love before he gets the love he goes after first.

That detail, and not the Myers-Briggs typing, almost turned out to be the book’s fatal flaw. A major religious publisher turned down “When the Heart Soars Free,” stating that its overtly Christian perspective would “offend the secular audience.” Kay had to decide whether to let Jerry wimp out on his need for a personal experience with Christ just because some marketing person thought it might limit sales. I was proud of her for taking the stand that salvation is too important to edit out of the story.

My normally cautious wife became a risk-taker. She rounded up 24 prayer warriors, whose written pledges to pray for her novel surrounded her computer screen. She claimed two promises from God’s Word as assurance of its publication. She continued to pound the pavement anywhere she could get a hearing.

Her tenacity paid off. Today, “When the Heart Soars Free” appears under Hannibal Books’ imprint, with the prayer that people who might not otherwise listen to a sermon about needing Christ might get caught up in a gripping love story and discover the greatest love of all.

So today, if readers get so wrapped up in “When the Heart Soars Free” they feel as though they’re setting dinner plates for Jerry and Carol, just as we did, they better lay out one more place setting.

With this book, Jesus comes to dinner, too.
Moore and his wife, Kay, devote full time to their dual ministries, Hannibal Books and Family Matters Seminars. “When the Heart Soars Free” by Kay Moore is available in Christian bookstores or directly from Hannibal Books at www.hannibalbooks.com or 1-800-747-0738.

    About the Author

  • Louis Moore