The Cumberland Bride
Behind the Story
By Shannon McNear
Thank you so much, Peg, for hosting me today! I’ve been asked to do the “story behind the story” of my new release, The Cumberland Bride, #5 in the Daughters of the Mayflower series, but I’m choosing a slightly different telling than I’ve done elsewhere.
This part of the story begins, oh, several decades ago, with a bright-eyed, story-obsessed fifteen-year-old who, at the encouragement of her mother, launched into writing her first novel. She worked hard at it, finished a draft, started right in on revising it, was encouraged to enter a contest by one of her mother’s close friends. After being blessed with an honorable mention, the young writer wondered what next? Submission to various book publishers, of course. So she applied herself to yet more editing and revising, then submitting her work, and … waiting.
Back then, a writer had to send the entire manuscript by mail (REAL mail, carried by actual people) and wait for several months for a reply, oftentimes upward of a year, depending upon the publisher. But I was reconciled to the wait. It was hard, of course—and anytime I walked into a bookstore, the longing to see my name up on there on the shelves with everyone else would grab me by the throat.
Months of waiting stretched into years. I grew up, married, kept writing, started having babies, still kept writing. When my oldest children were all very little, conviction led me to set my fiction writing aside, but the writing came out in other ways, and just after my next-to-youngest was born, I felt the nudging to pick up my fiction again. Was God finally opening the door for me to be published, after all this time? I hardly dared hope, but applied myself afresh to editing, revising, and learning the writing craft. God provided the way for me to attend my first writer’s conference, where I received some extremely encouraging feedback from a highly respected and well-known author.
But the waiting would continue. And even though we’d officially entered the digital age by this time, once again months stretched into years.
Understand, during this time I continued to get a lot of positive feedback. Did I think I had nothing more to learn? No, I knew that even bestselling authors never really “arrive” craft-wise, and I’m so grateful to those who, while they encouraged me, didn’t hesitate to call me on what they saw I could improve. Among other things, I learned that I had huge issues with what we writers call GMC—goals, motivation, and conflict—basically, why our characters do what they do, and what gets in their way. I could see it, but somehow failed to translate that to the reader. So I worked hard to learn how to do that. Set aside my first, reworked-to-death novel, started new ones.
Years stretched into a decade, and about that time God opened the door for my first contract, a historical romance novella. A second novella contract followed shortly after. And then, more waiting. I was doing my best to come up with new story ideas, but life was still crushingly busy—more so than ever, especially while I devoted several months to caring for my mother in the middle of managing my own household.
But when the time was right, God opened the door again … and this time in a way I could never have dreamed, as a close friend recommended me for a particular project.
During all those waiting years, though, I struggled hugely with having to watch so many people in the writing industry get their first contract way before me. Some of those were my own close friends—and while I desperately treasured getting to share that journey with them, it was hard. Hard not to ask why, what I was doing wrong. Hard not to feel “left behind.” Hard not to feel just plain—let’s say the ugly word, here—jealous.
I had to take that struggle back to the Lord so many times. Had to trust, over and over, that He really is God, and if I believed He was the one leading me on this road, then He had a plan and purpose. Even in the long, long waiting.
Along the way, I learned to focus more on the privilege of sharing my friends’ joy as God opened doors for them. Learned to choose gratitude for all my other blessings. To not dismiss the encouragement people might offer as just “being nice” because they knew I was struggling. To simply appreciate the friendships God had surrounded me with, and the unique perspective He was giving me of that phase of the writing journey, so I might learn it wasn’t all sunshine and roses after publication, either.
Being published is amazing, but it’s also a higher level of responsibility. There’s an increased visibility that a fragile soul can find terrifying. And it’s distressed me to discover that for all those years I struggled with envy, I’m now the focus of other people’s envy. I want to tell them … don’t! Don’t be jealous of me. You don’t want the wait I’ve endured!
But of course they can’t see that. They only see the blessings—and aren’t we all guilty of that at some point or another? We can only see the end result of something in other people’s lives, or something God has blessed them with … we can’t see the trials they suffered, getting there. And suffering is something nobody enjoys, but God often uses it to prepare us for what He has for us—or simply to conform us more to the image of Christ.
So my encouragement to you, the reader, is this: trust God with your journey, whatever that might look like. Your journey isn’t mine. God only gives you the grace you need for the trials He calls you to endure—not for my trials, and vice versa. In the same way, embrace the joy in whatever blessings He offers, even if they aren’t the particular blessings you think you want at the moment.
Just—trust Him. He’s worthy of your trust!
About the story:
In 1794, when Kate Gruener’s father is ready to move the family farther west into the wilderness to farm untouched land, Kate is eager to live out her own story of adventure like he did during the War for Independence, and to see untamed lands. And she sets her sights on learning more about their scout, Thomas Bledsoe. Thomas’s job is to get settlers safely across the Kentucky Wilderness Road to their destination while keeping an ear open for news of Shawnee unrest. But naïve Kate’s inquisitive nature could put them both in the middle of a rising tide of conflict. Is there more to Thomas’s story than he is willing to tell? Is there an untapped courage in Kate that can thwart a coming disaster?
(both paperback and Kindle)
(both paperback and ebook)
(both paperback and Nook)
(both paperback and ebook)
(both paperback and Nook)
After more than two decades in the South, Shannon McNear now makes her home on the windy northern plains with her husband, four of their eight children, two German Shepherds, three cats, several chickens, and a noisy flock of guinea fowl. She serves in worship and youth ministry, and has been writing novel-length fiction since age 15. Her first novella, Defending Truth, from A Pioneer Christmas Collection, was a 2014 RITA® nominee. She’s a member of ACFW and RWA and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. When not sewing, researching, or leaking story from her fingertips, she enjoys being outdoors, basking in the beauty of the Dakota prairies.
Social media links:
Shannon is offering a free copy of The Cumberland Bride to one of my readers. To enter, just leave your name and contact information in the comment section below. Giveaway will run for one week, ending Thursday, October 11, at Midnight, Central Time. Thank you.