Background for Past Forward: Most of my books begin with a premise–a “what if” question of sorts. Past Forward is different in that I “discovered” Willow as a person first. I knew who she was, how she was different, how she was interesting. I just didn’t know her history until I thought about who she was. Then it all made sense.
I originally wrote the story and posted it on a blog for friends to read. So, some days I’d post more than one chapter and then it might be a week or a month before I’d post the next. I loved exploring the life that my father might have lived if he had been given the chance. I can absolutely see him living very much as Kari did and teaching me in the same way. During the first few weeks of Kindle releases, I did an “interview” with Willow HERE. I thought that was relevant to this post, so I’m including it.
Characters: Willow’s life and Kari’s influence both made great impacts on me, but Chad definitely taught me different lessons as well. I’d say the biggest surprise was seeing David and learning from him. I think there’s a lot of my father in David–not in personality but in “tone.”
Willow: I think the first lesson I learned from Willow (and it is definitely the one that people comment on the most) is to infuse beauty into everything you do. The way they decorated envelopes, while not necessarily how I would choose to infuse beauty into my world, is a fine example of the mindset that says, “I will create beauty in my life and I will bask in that.” In that sense, they are very much as their Creator. God could have created this world in grays, browns, blacks, and whites, but he gave us rich, vivid colors in a variety of hues and shades. He could have created a few necessary animals for our benefit (food wise and work wise) and left the rest off the planet, but He didn’t. He created such a huge variety of plants, animals, geographical areas–the variety and the beauty of it all is amazing!
But as I wrote, her work ethic spoke to me more than anything else. I remember writing and thinking, “She’d be disappointed in the way I’m avoiding mopping the kitchen floor. She’d tell me, ‘Just do it and make it a work of art. Imagine how beautiful it’ll look once it sparkles and shines after you remove the dirt and grime.’ ” I can’t tell you how many times I made a great meal after working on an episode rather than tossing together anything I could find. Why? Because I was inspired to give my family my BEST… not whatever was fastest or easiest.
Kari: I’d never realized the paralyzing effect of fear on a person until I saw it in Kari. This woman was strong–confident. She wasn’t led by emotions as a general rule, but one fear–for someone other than herself even–drove her to make decisions that were irrational. I remember when my mother moved from California. She’d worked in some rough areas of Fresno without a bit of trouble, but when she moved to a little town south of there, her house was robbed multiple times and then she was held at gunpoint at her workplace. She packed up and left California. She hasn’t been back in twenty years. It’s an irrational fear that has controlled Mom’s life in that area. One small area, but still. And Mom, like Kari, is an extremely level-headed woman with a strong, confident personality. I didn’t even notice the comparison until near the end of the series.
Additionally, from Kari I learned to find a vision for my life and embrace it–live it. Choose a deliberate path and walk it rather than be dragged here and there or pushed by the winds of change into whatever direction change forces you. I love that idea. In fact, I felt very much a part of my imaginary world today as I smocked Lorna’s dress for my niece’s wedding. I sat on the couch, wearing my “Embracing every day as a gift, I am living my life Past Forward” shirt, and hand-smocking the bodice of her dress. I tried to force myself to relax and enjoy the process–not rush. Lorna is almost nine. She’s almost out of the age for smocked dresses. I need to enjoy these last few times rather than let the pressure of time (we leave on Thursday!!!) stress me out.
Chad: I think the first thing I learned from Chad is to serve people even when you don’t feel like it–when it “costs” you something. Then, the same strength of character that caused him to befriend Willow against his initial inclination also showed itself in how he refused to give up on her–even when she balked changes in her life. Many men would have taken her lack of interest in marriage personally–as an affront. He didn’t. He managed to hold off his pride and do what was best for her. That’s just so hard to do.
David: There is such a gentleness–a tenderness–to David. The man was wounded so deeply by his daughter, but he works to forgive and move on with his life. It’s almost as if the pain he endured made him even more tender–more compassionate. This made me desire to let the difficult times in my life sweeten and gentle me while making me stronger rather than hardening me.
Theme: Thoreau’s words, “Live deliberately and suck out the marrow of life” are the core of this series. Kari took those words to heart and created a world for them that had a profound effect on more than just the Finley women. Chad, Becca, and even the town of Fairbury were all influenced by this lesson
Response: I was astounded by the response to the Willow series. I never imagined that people would be so drawn to her and her life. A few reviews caught my eye and I thought I’d share them.
This is one of my favorite reads of all time. I have really enjoyed getting into Willow’s life. When I was younger I would read to escape into another place and it is something I remember fondly of my childhood. I feel the same way when I read Past Forward: relaxed and swept away. I am looking forward to future episodes! ~Cheri Cyr
Wow! (That’s also kind of a theme in the book…) I am LOVING this serial novel!
I “saved up” most of the episodes before I started reading and I’m so glad I did.
I know that if I had to stop and start, waiting for each new episode, I would be extremely frustrated because it is THAT good!
As it is, I read the entire Volume 1 in almost one sitting. And I’m moving fast through Volume 2 late into every evening even though I seriously need some shut-eye! What a great story/concept! So refreshing, inspiring, and be warned, addictive! I want a life just like Willow’s (ok, but maybe just with the exception of a dishwasher and air conditioning…)!
Even after only Volume 1, I already know deep down that it is going to be very difficult to accept getting to the end of this series. Maybe I should slow down in my reading…but no, that’s impossible!
It’s too good – like delicious home-made ice cream you just can’t get enough of!
And by the way, it is SO worth signing up for Chautona Havig’s newsletter. She’s constantly got great competitions and giveaways and always notifies you when there is a free book available for download for just 24 hours. Such a generous author, I wish I could meet her but alas, I live on a different continent!
However, I will forever be a faithful follower and collect all her books for as long as she writes! ~Cands
Beautifully written, brilliant storyline and theme. The characters pull you in relentlessly until you cannot put the book down. Well done! ~dlblanch
Past Forward is obviously my longest series–well, until I get Valle de Morado completed. I can’t wait to work on that one some more. It stretched me both as a writer and as a person. And, I was only able to finish it once I promised myself I could explore her life from the opposite end in HearthLand. Additionally, I’ve written one and am in progress with several other books–a series for children based upon the life of Willow as a little girl. There will be four books per year of age from five to seven and then a chapter book for each year from ages 8-11. So, a total of sixteen books. The illustrator is working on the first book now! I can’t wait. And, I’ve considered a series based upon Kari’s first years. I can’t decide. Is it crazy to continue the saga from the beginning… open that up and show the raw pain she went through, the lessons she had to learn, etc. or is it time to let it rest? I can’t decide.
Next time: I think maybe I’ll consider Argosy Junction.