On Monday, we met Serenity McClaren, the heroine from JoAnn Durgin’s novel, Catching Serenity, which will be released in September. Today, we meet the author. Catching Serenity is JoAnn Durgin’s fifth full-length novel. The author of The Lewis Legacy Series: Awakening, Second Time Around, Twin Hearts and Daydreams (Torn Veil Books), and a Christmas novella, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe (Pelican Book Group/White Rose Publishing), she’s an estate administration paralegal in a Louisville, Kentucky law firm and lives with her family in southern Indiana. A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (national and Indiana chapter) and the Louisville Christian Writers, JoAnn’s prayer is that her contemporary romantic adventures will touch hearts and lives with the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. She’d love to hear from you at www.joanndurgin.com or via her Author JoAnn Durgin page on Facebook.
JoAnn, when you began your story, did you have any idea of the issue or issues your characters would face?
I had ideas, yes, but as it always seems to do, the story evolved as I began the actual writing. I’ve never written a character as emotionally stretched as my heroine, Serenity McClaren. The lowest point in her life was five years before the story begins. As fragile as she can be, she’s also one of the strongest characters I’ve ever written. She survives circumstances that would send many into a downward spiral of depression and then has the strength to return to the scene of the crime, so to speak. As you might imagine, trust and forgiveness are major issues with Serenity, and she’s hesitant to invite a man to share her life. Because of her past, she’s afraid she’ll taint everyone and everything she loves. By keeping the hero, Jackson Ross, at arm’s length, she believes it’ll somehow protect him from harm. Likewise, her faith is new and fragile, and she clings to the promises of God and seeks His love as a refuge from the past.
Jackson finds himself falling in love with the beautiful but haunted Serenity. He’s been guilty of falling for a troubled woman in the past because he wanted to “fix” the problems she faced. Drawn to Serenity as they work together to decorate his office, he finds reasons to be near her as a friend. He wants to build her trust in him but knows she won’t be able to commit to a relationship until she finds out what really happened five years ago. In wanting to help her find answers, Jackson faces a daunting situation which pits his professional life against the personal. As a child psychologist, when he figures out one of his young patients holds the key to unlocking Serenity’s past—thereby setting her free—he can’t tell her or else he’s in breach of his ethical standards. And once she discovers the truth and finds out that Jackson already knows, will he lose her forever?
Okay, you have me interested. This sounds like a story tailor-made for issue-oriented conflict. As God brought the issues to light to you in the writing, did you, as the author, have a lesson to learn? If so, would you mind sharing a little bit about the issue you faced personally and what you learned through the writing process?
If anything, the events depicted in Catching Serenity forced me to realize that I—like Serenity—tend to blame myself when things go wrong, even if they’re beyond my control. For instance, I will apologize to a wall and say “Excuse me” if I hit it while rounding a corner (I assure you, this doesn’t happen often and I don’t imbibe). I’m overly sensitive—always have been and probably always will be. I’ve often said I suffer from what I call “the Sally Field Syndrome.” In accepting her Academy Award, the Oscar winner famously said, “You like me, you really like me!” I, too, want everyone to like me and my books, but I’ve learned it’s simply not possible. In personal situations, I certainly need to do my part to make peace with others, including being willing to change what I can, apologize when needed and ask forgiveness if it’s warranted. Otherwise, I need to let it go, something I find very difficult. It’s not my job to make people like me. It’s my responsibility, privilege and honor to spread the hope and love to be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Ah, a fellow wall-apologizer. It’s a great club to be in. We’d rather be mannerly than rude. But I know exactly what you mean by wanting everyone to like you and to like what you produce. It is hard to overcome that feeling of always wanting to be worthy of what others think of us and wanting them to think well of us. We don’t always overcome our issues right away. Some issues, like Paul’s thorn in the flesh, continue to plague us. Would you mind telling the readers whether or not you’ve overcome this issue in your life and why it continues to be a problem for you? I know this is a very personal question, and we don’t need to go into details, but sometimes when we’re in the midst of trials, we tend to forget that others also struggle. Seeing that someone continues to battle to overcome or that someone has overcome gives us courage to keep up the good fight.
In some ways I believe my sensitivity makes me a much better writer. As I discussed with an editor over dinner the other night, I think most writers consider themselves “armchair” psychologists. Call it discernment, call it intuitiveness, but I have a pretty decent “handle” on what someone else might be thinking based on their tone of voice, body language and other physical clues. Even in e-mail messages or Facebook exchanges, I can usually “sense” when something is wrong or if someone’s bothered, no matter the reason. I can be there for them as a friend; however, I can’t control the perceptions, thoughts or actions of anyone else.
I’m a straight shooter, always have been, and that’s not always well-received, leaving me to back-pedal and do some serious groveling. Or again, to finally just let it go. As much as possible, I generally try to be the “bigger” person through the grace and mercy of our dear Lord in all situations. A key verse I repeat to myself on a daily basis is this one: Philippians 4:6: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (NASB)
That’s a great verse for me to memorize as well. In your novel is there another key scripture or biblical concept that you explore? If so, what scripture or concept do you hope to bring to the light for your readers?
Psalm 18:2 says: The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (NASB)
Serenity takes heart and hope in this particular scripture verse. Before the tragedy in her life, she adores sitting on her beloved beach and walking along the shore. It was there she felt closest to the Lord even though she didn’t understand that’s what it was. Now, coming back home as a new believer, she clings to the Lord and that verse as her stronghold to sustain her through the trials of life. Even when things seem insurmountable or impossible, He is a God of everyday miracles and can give us the desires of our heart if we place our trust in Him. In Serenity’s case, things are not at all as they seem, and she finds that with the Lord, even the unimaginable are indeed possible.
JoAnn, thank you for sharing Serenity’s story and the issues you have dealt with during the writing of this novel. Now, can you tell us? Do you have any future projects in the works, and if so, what issues do your characters deal with?
Next up is Moonbeams, Book #5 in The Lewis Legacy Series (Torn Veil Books). It’s written but needs serious editing. My lead characters, Cassie and Mitch, struggle with personal issues familiar to my other characters in this series: forgiveness, trust and redemption among them. Although the underlying issues might be familiar, their story is unique and deeply personal. Mitch and Cassie come from vastly different backgrounds but both have been wounded by the past and find a common ground in their compassion and desire to help others. When the other TeamWork volunteers relentlessly keep pushing them together, they turn the tables on them, so to speak. And, oh what fun ensues! Stay tuned.
As a fan of your writing, you know I will be watching for Catching Serenity in September, and for all of your releases.
A woman torn apart by secrets.
A man held prisoner by the truth.
Can the greatest love of all
set them both free?
Serenity McClaren had it all before her life crumbled around her like the sand castles on her beloved beach, causing her to flee Croisette Shores and the only home she’d ever known. Nearly five years later and living in Atlanta, she receives a mysterious, unsigned note: Come home, Serenity. Things aren’t as they seem. Time to find your answers. Returning to South Carolina, she prepares to face her demons and the ailing father she left behind, hoping to make peace with both. Child psychologist Jackson Ross is a man with a surprising past. He’s ready for the quiet life and eager to establish his practice in the quaint, coastal village. After he hires Serenity to decorate his new office, he’s drawn to the beautiful and enigmatic woman yet sees she’s haunted by a past she can’t escape. Wanting to help her, he begins to suspect one of his young patients may hold the key to unlocking Serenity’s secrets. Jackson follows his instincts and discovers the shocking truth, but how can he tell the woman he’s grown to love what he knows—and set her free—without compromising his professional ethics and losing her forever?
Catching Serenity, a poignant story of faith, hope and love, and discovering the everyday miracles from an all-powerful God.
Be sure to leave a comment on either of the posts for JoAnn this week. She’s giving away a free copy of Catching Serenity, and join us on Friday for a special blog post from JoAnn.