Readers often ask what inspired me to write The Amen Sisters and where the idea for the book originated. The Amen Sisters has a long and, I hope, interesting history. The idea for this book came to me around 1990, about the time that I was able to start talking about an abusive church situation I had experienced a few years earlier. I had a story I wanted to tell, but I had no idea I’d tell it in a novel. I wasn’t even a published author at the time!
Sometime in 1998, I think, after publishing seven romance novels, I signed a contract to do a three-book, Christian romance series with Tyndale House Publishers. The first book in what became The Genesis House series was Awakening Mercy, my first Christian romance, which was published in 2000. The second was Abiding Hope, published in 2001. The third, Enduring Love, has never been published. Enduring Love was the first incarnation of The Amen Sisters.
Tyndale loved Awakening Mercy and thought I had perfectly hit the tone they wanted in a Christian romance novel, so I had very few revisions. Their response to Abiding Hope was not as positive. They sent it back to me with the recommendation that I make it more romance-y, more like Awakening Mercy. That’s when I began to wonder whether I had another Christian romance in me. Thankfully, I was able to revise Abiding Hope enough to make it the Christian romance that my publisher and readers expected. When I turned in Enduring Love a year later, my publisher and I knew we were at the end of our road together. The book had a romantic element but it was definitely not a romance along the lines of Awakening Mercy and Abiding Hope.
Since Tyndale didn’t think they could successfully market me as a Christian women’s fiction author at that point in my career and since I was pretty sure I didn’t have another Christian romance in me, we parted ways. Since they’d already paid me half of the advance for the book, I had to repay it. The good news is that my contract gave me six months to do so.
So here I was with a book that my publisher didn’t want and that really wasn’t ready for women’s fiction land. The good news is that the publisher at Walk Worthy Press was interested in having me do women’s fiction for her new publishing venture with Warner Books. Seemed like at perfect match!
Almost. When I went to contract with Walk Worthy, I had this finished book, Enduring Love, which not quite a romance and not quite women’s fiction, on my hands. I decided my best option was to try to make it a “big” romance and sell it to a romance publisher. Well, even though I wasn’t contracted to do romance for Walk Worthy, there was a clause in my contract that gave them the right to see the romance before I shopped it to another publisher.
Guess what? Walk Worthy wanted to publish the story as women’s fiction. Good news, right? Well, sorta. Though my new publisher and I talked about what a women’s fiction version of Enduring Love would look like, it became apparent after about a year of revisions that we were miles apart in our visions for the book. At the end of my rope and exhausted of all hope, I made a fateful call to my new publisher, fully prepared to terminate the contract and, once again, pay back an advance. Imagine my surprise when my publisher said, “Write your book, Angela,” or some words to that effect.
Those words freed me up and seven months later, I turned in The Amen Sisters. That wasn’t my original title though. I can’t even remember if I had a title, since Enduring Love had long since fallen by the wayside. The Amen Sisters, as a title, was my publisher’s idea. All I had to do was change the last name of my main characters from Thompson to Amen and a book title was born.
So that’s the story of The Amen Sisters. You never would have guessed, would you?
For those of you who are wondering, I do still have a few romances left in me. I realized over time that what I needed in my writing was balance. In case you didn’t know it, most romance writers are married women. As a single woman, I found it difficult to continually turn out stories of women who ended up happily ever after with the mate God had chosen especially for them. I needed to also tell stories of godly women whose lives were not headed towards holy matrimony. In other words, I needed to write stories about women like myself.
That’s it for now. Enjoy your weekend and be blessed!