Every so often someone asks what my novel is about. But recently someone asked me why I wrote it. That was a new question for me. I needed to give it some thought since I, too, was curious why I wrote it. For me, the best way to figure out what I think about something is to write about it. So here goes.
At the risk of sounding a bit unhinged, I typed “Chapter One” when I started hearing the characters in my head, and I knew they wouldn’t leave me alone until I told their story. But of course there’s more to it than that.
In middle school I had a friend who was fascinated by the American Civil War (or the War Between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression, depending on where you sit. In middle school I sat in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, so connect the dots.). Anyway, my friend couldn’t get enough of reading about the war, watching movies about it, and talking about it (at least to me, her similarly nerdy friend. Let’s just say an obsession with the Civil War doesn’t win popularity points in middle school.) She knew the names of generals, the dates of battles, the words to marching songs. But when I’d ask her why she had such a deep interest in the Civil War in particular, she didn’t know why.
For reasons I don’t fully understand, I’ve long been fascinated by the early 20th century, from 1900 through World War II. I think there’s something about people of faith banding together and pulling through hard times–wars, the Great Depression–that inspires me. I’m also attracted to eras that were in many ways much harder than our own, but in other ways simpler and slower-paced. Yet at the same time, not boring.
The Roaring Twenties in particular is rich territory for fiction. The era crackled with excitement. The aftereffects of a world war and enactment of women’s suffrage shook things up like never before. The automobile gave dating couples more freedom—and subjected them to more temptation—than they’d ever experienced in their parents’ front parlor. The highly publicized Scopes trial forced many people to examine their faith: some clung more tightly to it while others abandoned it. And of course there was the inherent drama of Prohibition, the tension between the “drys” and the “wets,” and the rise of the criminal underworld. Chicago, the setting of You’re the Cream in My Coffee, was at the epicenter of it all.
Further, the era had much in common with our own. It was a time of great upheaval between the older Victorian values and way of life—largely damaged if not shattered by World War I—and the rebellious, freethinking youth culture. In You’re the Cream in My Coffee, the protagonist, Marjorie, finds herself torn between the glittering world of the “flapper” and the traditional conservative values she grew up with. This is, of course, a universal theme that resonates with Christian women today—how to live in the world but not be consumed by it, and where to draw the line.
There’s also a spiritual thread to the story. You’re the Cream in My Coffee is in no way autobiographical. Even so, like Marjorie, I’ve known heartache and have blamed God when things didn’t turn out the way I wanted. At times I’ve made poor choices, headed down thorny paths, chosen questionable companions, and just generally been my own worst enemy. But our God is a God of second chances. And third, fourth, and fifth chances. As different as we are, Marjorie and I share a story of healing and hope, and faith in the One who gives them to us.
So that, in a nutshell, is why I wrote this story. If you’re reading this post in August 2015, then know that you’ve popped in at an early stage of the journey. Recently I contracted with a publisher. I’m currently scribbling away on a revision due this fall, fixing some timeline and pacing issues and the occasional anachronistic detail (gasp! and here I tried to be so careful…). This winter we’ll be finalizing the title, planning the cover, and doing all manner of furious underwater paddling to prepare to launch in about a year.
Would you please consider coming along for the journey and being part of my crew? I’ll be putting together a sort of inner circle, a team of a limited number of people I’m calling the “Cream Team,” to help brainstorm ideas, offer feedback at various points, spread the word about the book on blogs and social media as the publication date nears, and–above all–support the whole project in prayer. In return, Cream Team members will receive sneak peeks, yet-to-be-decided (but cool! definitely cool!) gifts and perks, not to mention my undying gratitude. It’s still early days, but if you’re interested in being part of the Cream Team, e-mail me privately at jenny @ jenniferlamontleo.com (without the spaces) and let me know you’d like to help.
All I ask is that Cream Team members be active on social media in some capacity (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, your own blog, whatever) and enjoy reading fiction. If you want to be supportive but you’d rather chew tinfoil than read fiction, there will be other ways to get involved. 🙂
Have a question about the novel, the writing process, the Cream Team, or anything else? Leave a comment here or e-mail me at the address above. I’d love to hear from you.