Bonus Material: A Dedication Story
God moves in mysterious ways. Chance meetings become blessings that not even an experienced author could dream into existence.
In December 2016, I was already several months into the writing of More Than Meets the Eye when a speaking opportunity took me to Lubbock, TX. After conducting a library workshops that morning, I did a late afternoon book signing at the local Barnes & Noble. A few minutes before our official start time, a man and his family came through the store, saw my name, and stopped. His wife loved my books and couldn't believe that they had just happened to come into the store at the exact time I was there. We chatted, I signed a book, and then we each went our separate ways. The family left to do their shopping, and I carried on with the rest of my signing. It was a lovely encounter, but I didn't think anything special would come from it. Until I received an email from the husband a few days later.
Knowing how much his wife loved my books and seeking some special way to honor her, he asked if there might be any way for me to name a future character after his wife. His story, along with his plea, touched my heart, and I knew at once that I needed to find a way to make this happen. My main character was already named, and I was too deep into the story to change Evangeline, but I had a secondary character, a love interest for the younger Hamilton brother who could be renamed without too much trouble. So after some brainstorming with Jeff about his wife's eye color and hair color, I set about transforming Anne Stokes into Christie Gilliam. Kristie actually spells her name with a K, but since that wasn't historically accurate, I changed the starting letters. In another romantic twist, I had Seth Hamilton revert to using his original surname (instead of the adopted name the orphans all took on when they created their own family) at the end of the book – that surname being Jefferson, in honor of the man who approached me for this sweet tribute to his wife.
As the release date for More Than Meets the Eye approached, Jeff and I exchanged several emails about how to reveal the surprise. In the end, I mailed him an autographed copy of the book along with a letter addressed to Kristie. Jeff printed and bound together all of our email conversations since the beginning of the project 18 months ago, and presented this along with the book to his wife during a romantic evening in their home.
Kristie was delighted, and overwhelmed by her husband's thoughtfulness. I felt just like the fairy godmother from Cinderella!
They've both read the book and I'm relieved to report they enjoyed the way the character of Christie Gilliam turned out in the story. (I have to admit to being a hair nervous about that. The fictional Christie battles disabilities as well as a difficult home life, but she is triumphant in the end.)
Jeff had to wait nearly a year and a half for this surprise to come to fruition, but his patience has been rewarded. It seemed only fitting to mention Jeff and Kristie in the book's dedication, along with the providence of the God who brought this all about.