Writing and publishing a novel was not on my radar for most of my life. When I left my corporate job in finance in 2010, writing was an interest, but the world of make-believe was about as far away from my mind as Seaside, Oregon, is from Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
But God had different plans. And I couldn't have begun to fulfill them without His help and that of other people.
Over the years, I've enjoyed creating solutions at work and strategizing over the chessboard with enough success that I don't lack confidence in those arenas. But crafting fiction that would engage readers? I had spent virtually no time in that realm since high school. And I entered that arena with a sizeable lack of confidence.
In fact, God used book awards on Wheels of Wisdom to bolster my flagging confidence. But that book was nonfiction. It had a unique premise and a coauthor -my wife, Debbie - who brought to the project attributes I can be in short supply of, such as effervescence and levity.
But on my solo project, The Persistent Road, which found no traction with the traditional publishing industry, I didn't really know what I had - if anyone would see value in it. Had I accomplished what I set out to do? And would anyone embrace it?
Enter Katie Shands. Her Instagram bio reads as follows:
Christ follower. Wifey. Mommy to 👩🏼👦🏻👧🏼👶🏻. Writer.
Take note of the order. Therein reveals why I have so much respect for her. She's also an award-winning novelist. Her debut, Finding Franklin, is about as delightful and wholesome as a book can get, especially for anyone with ties to Franklin, Tennessee.
Katie has a background in journalism and writes routinely about local history. And I know she has more work squirreled away that she's not telling us about yet. For Katie, her family priorities trump her writing aspirations.
I asked her if she would read an early draft of The Persistent Road to consider it for an endorsement, but more importantly to write a professional, third-party review of the book that I could use in early marketing pitches. And wow did she deliver.
Her review told me I had accomplished what I set out to do. Some observers, and even reviewers, have labeled my novel as a cycling book. I've never looked at it that way. Katie's review calls it much more than that too.
The writing quality of her review as well as what it said about my book lent instant credibility to my project. It gave me early social proof plus a few blurbs I could use in marketing. I'm certain it opened doors as I reached out to other reviewers and endorsement prospects.
Other people along the way have also encouraged me, as you'll note in the book's acknowledgments. But Katie's contribution was unique because of both timing and fit. It kicked off a process with just the right words. It was a gift that resonates with me to this day.