I guess you could say I was born a dreamer.
I read that even babies dream, so perhaps my dreams to write stories began way back then. Who knows? But stories became real to me when people began to read to me from books. And even more when my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Coalbucket (real name, not kidding), taught me to read. Since then, I have devoured books.
After my mother died, in her special box of treasures, I found a story I had written in the fourth grade, written in cursive, in pencil. In high school English classes, when given assignments to write stories and read them aloud, other students would sidle up next to me to ask, “What happened next?” The dream to write horse books for girls took up part of my heart.
Skip ahead to a bunch of years being married, raising children, farming, and living in reality, including writing letters, articles for church newsletters, and poems—writing I took for granted. All those experiences led to attending a writers conference at Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon, when my three children were teenagers.
Inspired by the conference, I stepped into a new world with definite dreams of being published. That year, Mount St. Helens erupted, and I asked myself, What if a young girl lived in the Toutle Valley and her horse was swept away in the flood? At the next year’s conference, I gathered every bit of my courage together and showed chapter one to my fiction instructor. She suggested I send a query letter to a publisher of middle-reader adventure stories. I followed the process taught at the conference, and my dream came true: a novel titled Tragedy on the Toutle with a horse and Mount St. Helens on the cover. And my name. The thrill of holding a published book in your hands that you wrote is worth all the effort, learning, and dreaming it takes.
I hoped to write novels that would make readers laugh and cry and be sorry to reach the end of my books. My dreams kept growing bigger and expanded into other areas of publishing, but sometimes life gets in the way. Experiences that would later become the basis for other stories weren’t what I planned, but everything that goes on in a writer’s life makes for richer and better stories, and there is always a story behind the story. My daughter, Marie, died of cancer just before her twenty-first birthday, and an editor-friend told me that when I was ready to write the story, she wanted to look at it. It took a few years and several starts, but eventually we came up with The Healing Quilt. Grief is one of the harder things in life, no matter how you tell or live the story.
During my early years of writing, I published four nonfiction books, which made me even more sure that fiction is my field. After firmly deciding contemporary fiction was my sweet spot, I sold a short historical romance because the editor who purchased my first adult contemporary asked if I could write a historical. Of course I said yes—in total panic. The research! I didn’t care much for intensive research. Dakota Dawn became a four-book-plus-novella series. Did I say I loved historicals?
Wise folks say, “Write what you know.” I think the flip side of that is to write what fascinates you. For me, books start with a question. I am a second-generation Norwegian American. The question? What was life like for the emigrants from Norway to Dakota Territory in 1880? And thus began the Red River of the North series, starring Ingeborg Bjorklund.
Ingeborg is a combination of my mother, Thelma, and her older sister, Inga. Through the years, I’ve often told groups of readers that I want to be like Ingeborg when I grow up. For those who know me, their return comment is, “Lauraine, you are Ingeborg.” That warms my heart for sure.
“Pictured: Lauraine in Norwegian dress with a shawl (a hand-made gift from a Norwegian friend). The apron and jewelry belonged to Lauraine’s mother.”
Ingeborg’s story continued with Return to Red River, Daughters of Blessing, Home to Blessing, and Song of Blessing. As book followed book in this story, more people moved into the Red River area to homestead, and together they founded a church and school. When the railroad came through, they built a boardinghouse, mercantile, bank, and post office, but what was becoming a town needed a name. In a meeting at the church, Reverend Solberg declared that the women should be allowed to vote, and in spite of grumbling men, the new town’s name became Blessing. The saga of Blessing climaxed in A Blessing to Cherish. Saying goodbye to Ingeborg, who had become a member of my family, was a heart tugger.
Blessing is a fictional town located on the western bank of the Red River, south of the real-life town Drayton. The modern-day folks of Drayton adopted Blessing as part of their history and formed Blessing Square, where local men built an authentic sod house by a historical museum in an old church they’d moved to the block. Other donations they received include a one-and-a-half-story log house, deteriorating on the Minnesota side of the river, and an outhouse that had floated down the river in a flood. The Ox Cart Trails Historical Society produced a play based on the first three books in my series that they performed for two years. A real community event. What a thrill to see my stories in action.
After years of writing historical fiction, some of the story ideas bubbling in my brain needed to be contemporary. I was advised that would be like starting an entirely new career, since so many readers swing either historical or contemporary—not both. I went for it anyway. It took a few years, but today I am steadily writing both, and all is well.
A bit of comedic wisdom from Carol Johnson at Bethany House Publishers suggested I put a Norwegian in every book I write. And I have, both historical and contemporary. I write historical fiction in series and contemporary novels as standalones. Have I mentioned how much I love stories? Reading is still my favorite hobby. A fresh book is always with me. During and after what has come to be called “The Blessing series” by readers, I’ve written other series, including Wild West Wind set in South Dakota; Dakota Treasures set in Medora, North Dakota; Under Northern Skies set in northern Minnesota; and now Leah’s Garden set in Nebraska.
For this series, I dreamed of stories involving my love of gardening. When the four sisters, all named after flowers by their mother, who was renowned for her lovely gardens back in Ohio, walked into my mind, I was thrilled. Larkspur is the eldest, followed by Delphinium, Forsythia, and Lilac. Book one, Seeds of Change, stars Forsythia, who inherited their mother’s interest in herbal healing. She assists the doctor on a western-bound wagon train on the Oregon Trail. Lark assumes the name Clark and becomes a “brother” to her three sisters to get them safely to their new home.
Instead of continuing over the mountains, they decide to homestead in southeast Nebraska. They find a parcel of land to homestead with a sod house and some fields already under cultivation. They move in and get to work, breaking new fields, planting others, and starting a garden that they dream of developing into a flower-seed company in memory of their mother. Since all four are musically accomplished, they quickly become popular in the community. Ah yes, I am looking forward to writing the rest of this new series.
Have all my dreams come to be? No, some were replaced by others, and some are still in incubation. Now that it is spring, I’ll go work in my garden and yard. Digging in the dirt releases all kinds of creative ideas. I love the glorious colors that start with bright yellow forsythia, tiny purple violets, golden daffodils, red peonies, a variety of roses—that must smell good to have a place in my yard, plus tomatoes, cucumbers, zinnias—food for the soul and body. Many might even get painted. Watercolors are my favorite—another dream that has become reality. I encourage you to put feet on your dreams and see where they lead you.
And as always, happy reading.
Leah's Garden #2
Will their dreams fall apart when confronted with all that is stacked against them?
Delphinium Nielsen and her sisters have accomplished much in the past year, traveling west and settling in Nebraska. They are on their way to building a garden in dedication to their mother and working against the forces of nature to make their farm thrive. However, none of that can mask their concern that they are quickly running out of money. Del's work teaching in their booming town offers hope, not only to support her sisters financially, but also to better her students' lives. Not all of the town sees it that way, though, with the rebuilding of the schoolhouse continually neglected and her brightest student's father demanding he work the farm instead of attend class.
When their brother Anders arrives with his war-wounded and heartbroken friend RJ, Anders sees the strength of the sisters' idea to start a boardinghouse and decides to invest in it. Del finds RJ barely polite and wants nothing to do with him. But despite Del and her sisters' best-laid plans, the future--and RJ--might surprise them all.
Inspirational Romance | Inspirational Historical [Bethany House Publishers, On Sale: June 7, 2022, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780764235726 / ]
Lauraine Snelling is the bestselling author of over fifty books, both fiction and nonfiction, historical and contemporary, for adults and young readers. Lauraine and her husband, Wayne, live in California and have two grown sons.
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