“Take away the discomfort, the loss, the hurt, and take away the love and wonder and inspiration.”
That’s the message author Valerie Kristin hopes to convey in her novelette For Those Led by the Heart (Barnes & Noble Press).
In the story, Taylor’s family is reeling from the recent loss of two members. Her mother can’t even get out of bed to shower some days. Taylor’s hardworking father feels incapable of consoling his family, much less himself, so Taylor must learn to heal by herself. The story, narrated by the spirit of one of the deceased, closely follows Taylor’s journey as she finds comfort and then strength amidst the turmoil. If you’re interested in learning more about the book, read our review here.
The author explained some of the choices she made in writing this book.
Q: For Those Led by the Heart has an unusual narrator. Why did you decide to tell the story from the viewpoint of the family’s deceased child?
A: Ashley was my first miscarriage when I was younger. I had the exact dream about what she would look like. Several years down the road I turned to writing to cope with another miscarriage. The story was centered around Sam, but as it progressed, I only wanted to hear from Ashley. I needed to form an idea of how she fit into their lives even after she was gone.
Q: The death of Taylor’s Uncle Sam is a catalyst to the story, and yet the particulars of the tragic event are only hinted at in bits and pieces as the story unfolds. What made you decide to leave that part of the story to the reader’s imagination?
A: I had to take out most of the details about Sam’s life and the unfortunate end of it. He could be so many people depending on the reader, and it simply did not feel right to specify. From the diverse feedback I have received from readers so far, I am glad I made that choice.
Q: One of the healing forces Taylor experiences is a presence she calls “Cole,” which she later interprets as the Holy Spirit. Have you had similar personal experiences with this presence?
A: My experience was somewhat different. I originally saw God as an imaginary friend I would be excited to sing to when I learned a new song in daycare. I was not always open to Him, but that connected feeling seemed like something found in nature.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: Take away the magic in this book. Any and every stirring feeling, whichever aspect it came from. Take away the discomfort, the loss, the hurt, and take away the love and wonder and inspiration. Address it and know that it is real. How you relate to this book matters.
Q: What’s your next project?
A: My next project will be similarly unique but in different ways. I only write when it feels natural, so I am not promising a timeline. But it will happen.
For Those Led by the Heart is available for purchase.