It’s always a pleasure to chat with Courtney Walsh & today she’s here to chat about her new novel If For Any Reason!
Courtney Walsh is the author of ten inspirational novels. Her debut, A Sweethaven Summer, was a New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller. Courtney lives with her husband and three children in Illinois, where she is also an artist, theater director, and playwright.
IF FOR ANY REASON
GENRE: Inspirational Contemporary Romance
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: February 3, 2020
Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door–turned–baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.
As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.
Hi Courtney! Welcome back to the blog!
Q: What compelled you to write If for Any Reason?
Courtney: I used to be very involved in the scrapbooking world, and a big part of the reason why was that I loved the whole idea of “leaving a legacy.” I wanted to preserve our family’s stories through words and photos. One idea that has always stuck with me was the idea of writing letters to your child just in case (or if for any reason) you weren’t there to share important lessons along the way. As a mom, there are certain things I want my kids to know, and what better way to make sure they know them (no matter what) than by writing them down in letter form? I’ve always been smitten with the idea of handwritten letters, so here was a chance to meld all the things I love together in one story.
Carrie: I love that! So sweet ❤
Q: What role does faith play in this story?
Courtney: I like to take a look at our raw feelings as we wrestle with our faith. Specifically, I think if we grew up in church, it can be hard to navigate feelings of anger toward God. I will admit that in the aftermath of my daughter’s cancer diagnosis, I settled into a strange funk—Where were you, God? Why did you let this happen? God was pretty blunt with me, reminding me that this really wasn’t about me. This was my daughter’s story—and there was a purpose for it all that I had yet to understand. Still, I’ve had some pretty big feelings to sort through. It was natural then to bring that into this story. Emily, my heroine, lost her mom when she was very young. How hard would it be to wrap your head around that, to grow up believing that God is good? I wanted to show her wrestling with those feelings because I believe God can handle those big questions. He can even handle it when we’re angry with him. I wasn’t taught that in Sunday school—that it was okay to feel upset sometimes. But in his kind and gentle way, God lovingly takes that anger and helps us make sense of it—that is, if we continue asking and seeking. Emily has a journey to go on, and her faith (or lack of faith) is challenged because of her past. I found that journey mirrored my own in some ways . . . and I’m so thankful that God has been so patient with me.
Carrie: Yes! Like in the psalms – David isn’t afraid to express his honest emotions to God in prayer, and sometimes his perspective changes over the course of a few verses. Sometimes it takes longer 😉 God is so kind to us.
Q: If For Any Reason highlights many family relationship dynamics. How have your own familial relationships shaped this story?
Courtney: I think for me, when I was writing the letters from Emily’s mother, I was able to really ask myself what I would want to say to my own daughter. During the writing of this novel, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of seventeen, so it was a difficult thing to actually tackle the mother/daughter dynamic I’d outlined in my synopsis. I went into it with these sort of raw emotions about life and how it can throw you curveballs and all the many things I wanted my daughter to know. Not things I wanted to tell her, but things I wanted her to know for herself. My own family is a little like Hollis’s family, I think. I really wanted him to have a solid family, so I imagined what my husband and I might be like when we were older with grown children and wrote them that way.
Carrie: That’s a lot for life to throw at a 17-year-old but she handled it – and continues to do so – with grace and strength. You raised her well ❤ And i can’t imagine writing a book with that dynamic while going through that as a mother with your own daughter – I can see where your daughter gets her strength and authenticity!
Q: Romance is at the core of this story. What factors come into play when crafting a love
Courtney: I think it’s important to ask why these two should be together and what is keeping them apart. Conflict is key, and it can’t be coincidental and it can’t feel trite. You have to give your hero and heroine legitimate reasons to stay apart; otherwise it all falls flat. I also think there needs to be more than just physical attraction bringing two people together. Why do they actually love each other? Those motivations need to be clear and understandable.
Carrie: But… but… you mean we can’t just have a bunch of swoony kisses with no conflict & call it a romance?? (I’m pouting but only because I know you’re right LOL)
Q: What made you decide to set If For Any Reason in Nantucket?
Courtney: A writer friend actually. She knew I really loved Nantucket (I’ve been there twice) and we were brainstorming a completely different story when she said, “Why don’t you set a story in Nantucket?” I had never set a story in a real place (and there are a lot of challenges that go with that), but I started to entertain the idea. I was driving back from a writing retreat in Branson (about six hours) and I just let my mind wander . . . By the time I got home from that trip, I had envisioned an entirely new story. I knew it meant starting over, but I was so excited about it, and I absolutely loved digging in to all my own Nantucket memories plus researching the island to create a beautiful new setting.
Carrie: Aww how fun!
Q: This book explores loss and personal failure. What made you want to write these
themes into the story?
Courtney: Both of these themes are universal. We’ve all experienced loss (or can imagine the pain of it) and most of us have also had some sort of personal failure. How do you bounce back when the dream you put everything into fails? What now? I love the idea of starting over. I love that God can take a dream and reinvent it, so life may not turn out the way we want it to, but maybe the shift becomes something better. That’s a powerful thing to think of when it feels like everything has gone sideways.
Carrie: He is so faithful to restore and redeem!
Q: Along those lines, then, what lessons can be learned from our failures, or how can our past be redeemed?
Courtney: Failure isn’t the end. That’s so important to keep in mind because in the midst of the hard stuff, it’s easy to forget. It’s so easy to get lost in the sorrow that accompanies the loss of a job or a relationship or any other personal failure. But there’s always, always a second chance. Nothing is ever so far gone it cannot be redeemed. I believe in taking time to grieve a loss, but then moving forward. I believe God is a giver of second chances, and no mistake is too big for him to forgive. There’s such power and hope in knowing that.
Carrie: Amen & amen. I love Him.
Q: Which character in If For Any Reason was your favorite to craft?
Courtney: Jolie. I’ve heard that many authors shy away from writing kids into their stories, but I work with kids, so I love to include them in my books. Jolie is like a bright burst of sunshine. Kids tend to say what they think without hesitation, and that is something we lose as adults. I loved writing this broken father/daughter relationship and finding tender moments between Hollis and his daughter.
Carrie: I always reading a story that features at least one child character rather prominently – for all those reasons you mentioned!
Q: What distinguishes If for Any Reason from other summer love stories?
Courtney: If for Any Reason is definitely a romance, but I think what makes it unique is that it also explores deep family relationships, past hurts, buried secrets, and it does it all on a beautiful Nantucket backdrop.
Carrie: I can’t wait to read it! The perfect beach read – no matter the season 🙂
Q: What do you most want readers to take away from If For Any Reason?
Courtney: My hope is always that a reader will walk away from one of my books feeling like it packed more depth than they expected in a romance novel. And of course, I hope it’s a wonderful escape too.
Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me! 🙂
Tyndale House is offering a print copy of If For Any Reason to one of my readers! (US only) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What interests you most about If For Any Reason and/or Courtney Walsh?