I’m so excited to have Heidi Chiavaroli here today to share what writing fiction – including her new book The Orchard House – teaches her about redemption!
THE ORCHARD HOUSE
GENRE: Inspirational Dual Timeline Fiction
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: February 9, 2021
Award-winning author Heidi Chiavaroli transports readers across time and place in this time-slip novel that will appeal to fans of Little Women.
Two women, one living in present day Massachusetts and another in Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House soon after the Civil War, overcome their own personal demons and search for a place to belong.
Abandoned by her own family, Taylor is determined not to mess up her chance at joining the home of her best friend, Victoria Bennett. But despite attending summer camp at Louisa May Alcott’s historic Orchard House with Victoria and sharing dreams of becoming famous authors, Taylor struggles to fit in. As she enters college and begins dating, it feels like Taylor is finally finding her place and some stability . . . until Victoria’s betrayal changes everything.
While Louisa May Alcott is off traveling the world, Johanna Suhre accepts a job tending Louisa’s aging parents and their home in Concord. Soon after arriving at Orchard House, Johanna meets Nathan Bancroft and, ignoring Louisa’s words of caution, falls in love and accepts Nathan’s proposal. But before long, Johanna experiences her husband’s dark side, and she can’t hide the bruises that appear.
After receiving news of Lorraine Bennett’s cancer diagnosis, Taylor knows she must return home to see her adoptive mother again. Now a successful author, Taylor is determined to spend little time in Concord. Yet she becomes drawn into the story of a woman who lived there centuries before. And through her story, Taylor may just find forgiveness and a place to belong.
What writing fiction teaches me about redemption
by Heidi Chiavaroli, author of The Orchard House
As a little girl, I was always drawn to the power of story, to characters who broke free from some haunting secret or terrible event. To characters who found hope.
I wrote often during childhood but cast it off as foolish during my teen years, seeking the sciences instead. It wasn’t until I was a stay-at-home-mom with two toddlers during my early twenties that I discovered a new kind of genre—a genre that wove faith with fiction, a genre that satisfied that deep need in me to see characters redeemed in every sense of the word. I gobbled up books by Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury and Catherine Palmer, hardly coming up for breath.
I could not get enough of this type of story. I knew spiritual redemption in my own faith walk, and yet as I read these stories, they seemed to reveal deeper avenues and truths to what I already knew. They peeled back layers and allowed me to marinate not only in the awesomeness of God, but what it means to be human and what it means to hope.
With these stories came a need in me to revisit writing, to give breath and life to characters who would walk this road of redemption and who would, hopefully, touch readers’ hearts. The power of story never ceases to teach me something new about redemption. Here’s just a sampling of what I’ve learned.
We’re never too far gone.
I love digging my characters into holes so deep I don’t even know how they’re going to get out of them. But get out of them they do. And while, in my stories, the end might not always be wrapped with a neatly tied happily-ever-after bow, there is redemption waiting. No matter how far gone my character is, grimy with their own bad choices and motivations, at the end, there is hope. And that speaks to the truth of our own stories, especially when we are trusting in God to redeem us.
I’m not alone.
I don’t plot my stories. Rather, I allow my characters to reveal their stories to me. This can be fun, but it can also be a little risky. Because inevitably, I will come about three-quarters of the way into writing a book and hit a dead end. And then another. And another. I will leave my computer for many hikes in the woods or baking in the kitchen, both including a lot of prayer time. I will beseech God for help and every time, He delivers, reminding me that like my characters, I am not alone on this journey.
Fiction demonstrates my reality and my redemption.
Fiction helps me navigate the unanswered questions. It reflects the reality of my struggle to relate to others, to find my place in the world, and to be secure in it. Even when I feel I’m making progress, inevitably I will be tripped up by another challenge not too far in the future. Writing fiction allows me to work out my struggles on the page. To grow through my characters, whether it be in empathy, forgiveness, or love.
Fiction can be a bridge to healing.
When I put myself in the shoes of my character, some part of me is quite literally them. Seriously. The same is true when I’m reading a book. So when I wrote about the tension of the estranged relationship of two sisters in The Orchard House, I felt the emotional pain behind their actions. And when that relationship is restored, I am taking part in that redemption. Suddenly I have grown in my experiences. In a way, I have walked this journey. In a way, I have been through these struggles. And now I have a bridge to understanding others. I have another tool to repairing damaged relationships, understanding another’s struggle, realizing that I don’t always know the story of those on the other side.
Fiction can capture the unconditional love and restoration we all long for.
At our core, this is our longing. And fiction, particularly Christian fiction, can remind us of what real, true love looks like. A laying down of self. A love that knows no bounds. A freedom from bondage. A journey from old to new, from hopeless to restored. A journey to redemption.
That is the gift I receive when I dive between the pages of a good book. And when I pick up my pen to write, that is the gift I’m seeking to give the reader on the other end.
What is one reason you love fiction?
Heidi Chiavaroli writes women’s fiction, combining her love of history and literature to write split-time stories. Her latest book, The Orchard House (February 2021), follows the lives of two estranged sisters who find forgiveness and reconciliation through the little-known story of author Louisa May Alcott’s time as a Civil War nurse. Visit Heidi online at heidichiavaroli.com.
Tyndale House is offering a print copy of The Orchard House to one of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) 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 makes you want to read The Orchard House by Heidi Chiavaroli? What is one reason you love fiction?