This is a reblog, with much gratitude to Grace Johnson!
Welcome back to Of Blades and Thorns, folks! I’m back after an accidental week-long sabbatical to bring you another inspiring guest post! This one’s by Colleen Scheid, a Christian indie author who just recently published her first novel, Someone They Can Trust!
I was instantly intrigued by the premise of Someone They Can Trust and the content of Colleen’s latest blog posts, so naturally I was excited to feature her after she reached out to me recently. I know y’all will find her post encouraging and inspiring as fellow writers!
writing with our hearts open to God
~ by Colleen Scheid ~
Writing a book is a great way to experience God’s presence. I’m sure God works differently with everyone, but here’s how it happened for me with “Someone They Can Trust”:
I started off with a vague longing to write a beautiful and true novel that would renew readers, give them a break from their own struggles, help them experience the nearness and love of God, and model a church dealing honestly with its brokenness. My first novel had been largely autobiographical (Drug Free Actors); this time I wanted to stretch myself to create characters who weren’t me.
I tinkered with a few ideas, under a cloud of self-doubt and a sense that writing long was just too hard. I drank too much coffee. I stared out my window at the tall trees, daydreaming. I told myself that Amazon was publishing a million books a year; who would ever want to read mine?
Then I recalled that I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six, and that things I’ve written in the past have blessed people and given them strength. A strong memory emerged of a time I was walking along a beach and I’m pretty sure I heard God speak into my thoughts, “I commission you to write.”
So I journaled through the barriers until I experienced a sense of God’s love and affirmation. I wrote about writing until I had the clarity and courage to start the book.
As I persisted, I began to sense guidance. My background, interests, causes and passions stirred themselves into a story. It felt like ideas were being gifted to me, like gems, and a higher intelligence was helping to place them in a complex pattern.
In “Someone They Can Trust”, I knew I wanted to depict a thriving, diverse church in an urban setting, the setting where I live. I knew I wasn’t finished with writing about this beautiful and ugly neighborhood where grand mansions stand across from cramped public housing. It was the setting for a book of Christmas short stories I published a few years ago, and I knew it would be the setting for this novel.
Characters emerged out of my imagination’s fog: I knew certain things about them. Maya had been in my head for years, heroine of a failed short story – a talented, enigmatic painter, beautiful and gifted but broken in a way that left her aloof and sometimes unaware of her own motives. I brought Matt back from the last story in the Christmas book; he was too fun to leave back there, and I could imagine him being wildly drawn to Maya. I retrieved Janice from another of those stories as a third protagonist, a generation older than the other two. I wanted to show her experiencing the healing that comes from being in a good church and having a good therapist!
At the same time as these people were showing up in my head, certain themes stood out to me.
I knew I needed to address abusive church leaders and model how to deal with them. The number of news stories about pastors and priests being exposed after years of sexually exploiting people in their congregations was burdening me. How had they been allowed to get away with this stuff for so long? I realized that the American church had real difficulty with recognizing and confronting sexual brokenness and I had a sense of urgency about tackling that.
The urgency increased when an agent I greatly admire told me she didn’t want to publish a book that attacked a pastor. She remained resistant even after I pointed out that in this book, other pastors hold the offender accountable and model how a church should deal with abuse. I understand that sexual abuse isn’t a marketable theme in a genre where people are looking for clean reads, but if we don’t deal with our own brokenness, it will only get worse and be exposed more widely. I longed to write a book that would help book clubs, women’s groups, and church leadership address abuse issues head-on.
Another theme that emerged was healing. I’ve been on a journey of moving from a natural skepticism to being open to all the gifts of God’s Spirit, especially those related to healing. I’ve seen remarkable incidents where praying in Jesus’ name led to outcomes such as a crooked spine being straightened, a child being healed from spina bifida, and a brain tumor disappearing. I knew that to write a true book, I needed to show people praying for healing and experiencing healing. I’ve seen God do so much, but I haven’t read much fiction where healing prayer is part of the story.
The strong healing theme, as well as the humor that naturally came out in dialog, kept the book from being too heavy, even though it has some heavy themes.
It wasn’t until I was almost finished with the novel that I realized its overarching theme was trust – each of the characters had a story arc of figuring out who could and couldn’t be trusted, and the need to trust God more than anyone else. Hence the name.
I have no illusions about “Someone They Can Trust” being the great American Christian novel, but I do know that I had God’s company to help me write the best book I’m able to turn out at this stage of my career.
As I think back on the experience of writing this book, I wonder if God doesn’t value the process of working with us as much as the final outcome. When we work with our hearts open to God, we get to experience God’s creative power in an intimate way. What an honor.
~ the book ~
Three devoted staff of a thriving, creative church are derailed when a corrupt leader breaks their trust
When art school graduate Maya Devin moves to Pleasant Hill, she’s warmly welcomed into its thriving, diverse church. Music minister, Matt Schuller, who is more than a little attracted by Maya’s faith, talent, and beauty, invites her to be a part of his creative arts ministry. Janice Williams, also on staff, befriends Maya too, supporting her as she learns to be a caregiver to her grandmother with Alzheimer’s. Janice is healing from a wrenching divorce and draws strength from the welcoming community.
The church is a haven for all three until a new pastor puts their faith, hope, and love to a severe test. Not only is their happiness at stake – so is the survival of the church.
Their courage to stand against evil will hinge on one thing – how willing are they to deal with their own brokenness?
~ the author ~
Colleen Scheid was born in California and moved to Australia at the age of ten, where she learned to subdue her American accent to avoid gales of laughter when she said words like, ‘aluminum’ and ‘oregano’. Experiences like this tend to bake-in a useful cross-cultural sensitivity. She converted to Christianity at the age of sixteen, after discovering that she was not, in fact, smarter than all Christians who had ever lived. She is a believer with deep empathy for the cynical.
She moved back to the States when she was twenty-one and has lived in Cincinnati ever since, where she divides her time between freelance writing, acting with Friends of the Groom Theater Company, doing ministry with her urban church, and enjoying life with her husband and three sons.
Colleen has a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in Counseling. She has published a book of short stories, a novel, and several collections of drama. When her husband asks her what kind of movie she wants to watch, she says, “Aesthetically pleasing, positive character development, happy ending”.
Learn more about Colleen and her work at her website!