Ever since I read Heidi Chiavaroli’s debut novel Freedom’s Ring I have been pushing it at people left and right. So I’m delighted today to welcome her to the blog to chat about her new release The Hidden Side!
New York, 2016
Natalie Abbott offers answers for hurting listeners on her popular radio program. But she struggles to connect with her teenagers, with her daughter in an unhealthy relationship and her son uncommunicative and isolated. When one member of the family commits an unspeakable act, Natalie is forced to uncover who she truly is under the façade of her radio persona.
New York, 1776
Mercy Howard is shocked when her fiancé, Nathan Hale, is arrested and hanged as a spy. When she’s asked to join the revolutionary spy ring in Manhattan, she sees an opportunity to avenge Nathan’s death. But keeping her true loyalties hidden grows increasingly harder as the charming Major John Andre of the King’s Army becomes more to her than a target for intelligence.
Mercy’s journals comfort Natalie from across the centuries as both women struggle with their own secrets and shame, wondering how deep God’s mercy extends.
5 Behind-the-Scenes Facts about The Hidden Side
All stories have their own “behind-the-scenes” details—the inspiration that helped birth the story, the research that went into it, the experience of the author as he or she wrote it. It’s my pleasure to share with you five facts behind my newest release, The Hidden Side.
The idea for this story didn’t come easy.
I had a hard time coming up with this second story idea. I think there’s something about a sophomore novel that is automatically intimidating. I knew my publisher liked my first novel—they offered me a contract for it, after all! But now I had to prove that my talent wasn’t simply a fluke. That’s a lot of pressure!
I remember preparing for a scheduled conference call with my editor and agent, and still not having a solid story idea to pitch them. (I knew the historical direction of the story, but was stuck on a suitable contemporary storyline.) Desperate, I got on the phone with my friend and amazing fellow author, Melissa Jagears, for a brainstorming session. As we spoke, she remembered a particularly disturbing headline in the news along with an interview with the perpetrator’s aunt, who had raised this man. The aunt seemed just as shocked as the rest of the country over what her kin had done. Melissa’s “What if . . . ?” sentence that followed sparked an idea. I pitched it to my agent and editor the next day, who were a wonderful help in refining it, and then got to work!
My historical heroine is inspired by a real-life person in history.
I was searching for a true-to-life historical figure from the American Revolution when I stumbled upon Agent 355, a woman who played an important part in General George Washington’s most successful spy ring, a woman whose identity we still don’t know for certain. That was enough to get my imagination going! Before long, I had a historical story about a woman seeking to redeem the wrong done her fiancé, infamous spy Nathan Hale. The story would be about a woman hiding behind a facade that could not only ruin every relationship she has, but could put her life in peril as well. The fact that this woman finds herself caring for a man she must deceive would add to the conflict.
I found memoirs extremely helpful in the writing of this story.
As soon as I’d written the synopsis of this story, I knew it would take me places I had little experience with. You know that saying, “Write what you know”? Well, thankfully, I didn’t know anything about having a son commit such an unspeakable act that it would cause him to be locked away forever. Yet other women did, and I was blessed that they were brave enough to share their stories.
Prolific author and speaker Carol Kent wrote about her heartbreaking experience in When I Lay My Isaac Down. Her honesty and beautiful faith helped me put myself in the shoes of a mother who faced her worst nightmare.
In researching, my attention was brought to a newer book, A Mother’s Reckoning, by Sue Klebold. Sue is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters. Honestly, it scared me to read this. I didn’t want to relate to this woman. I didn’t want to even feel empathy, if I were honest. Maybe that sounds low, but I felt better in my safe little world, thinking that the enormity of such a crime was only the result of bad parenting. If I read this woman’s thoughts, I may be proven wrong. And that scared me.
Both of these books stretched me, and though only one is told from a perspective of faith, both stretched my faith. These things really happen. They are dark, and often they feel without hope . . . yet does that mean they are? And if my empathy could grow from these women’s experiences, perhaps my readers’ empathy could grow from the writing of my novel, in exploring that hidden side of things we don’t often bother to look into.
I wrote this story in three months.
That includes the writing of it and the first round of edits I perform with my critique partner. Yes, I had a deadline, but the intensity of the story dragged me in so much that I couldn’t leave it for long. These characters kept me up at night and destroyed my peace. I couldn’t stop writing until I knew what their fate would be.
Real history provided a pleasant surprise for me at the end.
Though I can’t tell you what this is because it would spoil the story, I was having a bit of trouble tying the faith aspect of a particular historical character into the ending until I found a precious tidbit of knowledge that directly related to the real-life faith of this character. I explain more in the historical note at the end of the book, but for now I will tell you it does involve a poem. (I guess I can’t stay away from including them in my stories!)
Thank you so much for having me, Carrie!
Thank YOU, Heidi! I am so fascinated by Agent 355, and I love seeing a bit more of the process for how The Hidden Side came to be. And now I’m equally intrigued by the real history that ties in to the ending 😀
Heidi Chiavaroli began writing eleven years ago, just after Jesus grabbed hold of her heart. She used her two small boys’ nap times to pursue what she thought at the time was a foolish dream. Despite a long road to publication, she hasn’t stopped writing since! Heidi won the 2014 ACFW Genesis contest in the historical category. Her debut novel, Freedom’s Ring, was a 4½-star Romantic Times Top Pick and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Debut, and her latest novel, The Hidden Side, is scheduled to release in May 2018. Heidi loves exploring places that whisper of historical secrets, especially with her family. She loves running, hiking, baking, and dates with her high-school sweetheart and husband of fourteen years. Heidi makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle. Visit her at heidichiavaroli.com.
Heidi Chiavaroli & Tyndale House are giving away a copy of The Hidden Side (US only) to one of my readers! This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM May 21, 2018. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What interests you most about Heidi’s behind-the-scenes facts?