When the world around you falls apart, could it be that God is giving you a second chance? This is just one of the questions on Charlotte Stevenson’s mind as she brings her three grandchildren to live on the family farm in Guidepost Books’ Home to Heather Creek series. Following the death of their daughter in a tragic accident, Charlotte and her husband, Bob, become guardians of the three grandchildren they hardly know. Not only is it a major adjustment for the couple nearing retirement, but also a huge shock for the orphaned children to go from life as they know it in San Diego to a small farming community in Nebraska. Readers will meet the Stevensons in Before the Dawn (ISBN: 978-0824934248/$14.99) and follow their journeys in Sweet September (ISBN: 978-0824934255/$14.99) when the first two books of the series hit stores this fall.
The Home to Heather Creek series is written by a talented team of authors writing under the name Kathleen Bauer. Throughout the series, readers will grow to feel as though they are part of the Stevenson family and the Bedford community as relationships are forged, faith is grown and the challenges and changes of life are faced as a family.
Carolyne Aarsen, the author of Before the Dawn, shares more about the series in the interview below.
Q: How does the series fit together, especially with different authors involved in writing the various books in the series?
The editors of these books were point people throughout this series. They came up with the basic story concept for each book, as well as the main “Bible” for the entire series, and kept it updated as each new book was written. It was a phenomenal task of organization, and they did an amazing job. As each author added elements to their books they were added to the master document. As authors, we formed a Yahoo! group where we could post pictures and updates and emailed one another as a group about whatever we were doing in our particular story. Because we were all working with the same characters, we needed to know how some elements of the storylines were being dealt with by each author. We connected with one another very well. Bob, Charlotte, the kids and the community became very real to us. I missed them when we finished the series.
Q: Is there one main spiritual theme that runs throughout the series? Does each book carry a lesson as well?
Because the series ran over so many books and covered a span of a number of years, it becomes difficult to pin down any one theme that ran throughout the series. In our own lives, as we move through new experiences and changes, we deal with new challenges and learn new lessons, and I believe the same went on with these stories.
Each story, however, did deal with some specific aspect of personal and spiritual growth. Before the Dawn dealt with reconciliation with the present and forgiving oneself, on the part of Bob and Charlotte, for what they presumed to be mistakes they made in their past. I think one reviewer said it very well, “…one of the lesson’s Charlotte learns: that she will always find a way to second-guess herself, but the fact that different choices could have been made in the past can’t paralyze you now in the present or the future”.
Charlotte and Bob had to find how to create a new “normal” for themselves and the children in their care and trust that God will guide their decisions and their choices.
Q: In Before the Dawn, Charlotte is torn between making things as normal as possible for the children by letting them ease into their new life and her husband’s pressure to push them into a routine like they did with their own kids. Her main fear is making the same mistakes she did before. What is the best way to deal with this kind of fear?
I think regret is one of the hardest things to live with, and I believe Bob and Charlotte have a lot of regret over things they have done. I know I’ve looked back on decisions I’ve made and wished I could have a do-over, especially when it comes to my children. However, I know I’ve had to let go of that fear because even if I could have a do over, I would probably make an entirely new set of mistakes.
My husband helped me learn to accept that we made those decisions for a reason and to respect the people we were at that time (but also recognize we were flawed and struggling). And when you are dealing with children, I know I’ve had to respect the fact that I love my kids, and yes I’ve made mistakes, but none of the mistakes has been out of malice. All of the mistakes have been made by a sinful person dealing with a sinful person. Also, what is helpful to one child might be detrimental to another. My husband and I have daily prayed for all our children, and some of those prayers have been sent up on the fly as we deal with one thing or another. We have had to trust and still have to trust that God loves our children more than we do and will work in their lives as He can.
Q: Have you ever had to start your life over in a new location? What are some of the things that helped you adapt to change?
I moved from the city to a farm, so I understood some of the squeamishness Emily, Sam and Christopher had to deal with. I remember the first time I stepped into a chicken barn and inhaled that acrid, ammonia odor. I thought I was going to faint. And then, even worse, sticking my hand under a chicken to retrieve an egg and a chicken about one-twentieth my size pecked at me. Trauma! But I wanted to move to the country, so overall it wasn’t a difficult transition.
However, I do remember the four months we moved to central British Columbia, a two-hour drive to the nearest town, smack in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains and swarmed by bugs and crammed, with five children in a cabin the size of my former living room. We made the move with an eye to working into the outfitting business possibly. The second night I was there, listening to my children swatting at mosquitoes and hearing wolves howling in the distance, I wondered if I had made the worst decision of my life. But I am a stubborn person and was determined to give this a decent try. The next day, I stuffed the cracks in the chinking of the cabin, rearranged our living space and found a way to seek the positives. I went for a lot of walks and prayed a lot. Looking back, I’m glad we did it for many reasons. Our children remember that summer as one of the most adventurous of their lives. It was also that summer I started a writing correspondence course as a way of retreating from the realities I had to deal with every day. This course started me on my writing career, which has been an amazing adventure.
Q: Have you experienced the loss of a family member like the Stevenson/Slater family? How did God help you in your grief?
When we became foster parents, our first foster child was a one-year-old child who had multiple handicaps. He was a loving, precious boy who stole our hearts and anyone else’s he was in contact with. Though he was a foster child, he became completely and totally our child, especially when his mother gave up any rights she had to him and he became a permanent ward of the province. He lived with us for four years. Over those years, his health improved and he began — against all odds — to move around, to feed himself and — even more exciting — to speak. We had high hopes for a surgery that would improve his life. However, a week after the surgery, he passed away in the hospital at age five-and-a-half from a seizure. The loss was devastating to our family and has become one of those major waypoints in our lives. The darkness we went through was difficult, but I know for a fact that though grief held us in its grip, God’s hold on us was greater. There were moments of anger, but even more important moments of comfort and peace. Knowing our only comfort in life and death was that we belong to Christ brought us through this. Our community supported us and prayed for us, and we are forever thankful for that.
Carolyne Aarsen is available for interviews to talk about the launch of the Home to Heather Creek series. To request a review copy, schedule an interview or for more information, please contact Audra Jennings, firstname.lastname@example.org.