Landers, California. 1984. I can still see the grass green shag carpeting as Dad said it. “If I ever write a book, I’ll use the name A.J. Josephs.”
I’m not sure why pseudonyms hadn’t really clicked with me. After all, I knew how Samuel Clemens chose his. John Wayne was really Marion Morrison, and Judy Garland, Frances Gumm. Even Deanna Durbin (where I sorta-round-about-ish got my middle name) wasn’t really Deanna. She was Edna Mae Durbin.
Still, for whatever reason, that day stands out as the day that I really understood that I wouldn’t have to be Chautona Avants when I became a writer. I could be anything I wanted—anyone I wanted. If you promise not to tell Dad, I’ll even confess that I considered stealing his name (which was a mash-up of his names and initials).
After all, doesn’t A.J. Josephs sound cool?
Fast-forward twenty-five years, and it was time for me to decide what name to put on the cover of my very first book. I wasn’t an Avants anymore. That was the first thing different from my childhood imagination. For those who don’t remember, I wasn’t getting married.
The second deviation from my childhood decisions was that if for some ridiculous reason I did get married, it would be to a Jones or a Smith. Something normal for this girl who never had anything normal in her life. But whatever name it would be, it would not have a V in it.
Yes, I was sick to death of saying, “V as in Victor” every time I spelled my name.
Can you blame me?
We all know how that turned out. I wish someone had told my younger self not to make decisions. The opposite always happened. No kids? I had nine? No marriage? My name isn’t Avants anymore!
At least Havig is easier to spell. I just tell people, “It’s Having without the N.”
Yes, I’m Mrs. Having to quite a few people. Shocker.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Pseudonyms.
I tried everything. C.D. Havig. Deanne Havig. C.H. Deanne. Clearly, Dad’s idea for mixing stuff up wasn’t working, and I no longer ached to be A.J. Josephs.
Still, I wanted the name to have some meaning. Both of my grandmothers have Eliza in their names. My grandfather and my father-in-law had Eugene. Eliza Eugene? Yeah. I don’t think so. E.E. Williamson?
I’m not sure how long it took me, but I distinctly remember the moment I said, “Forget it. I’ll just be Chautona. Mom always wanted me to be just Chautona. Like Cher.”
Except I couldn’t quite do that. I didn’t want Avants (that’s even harder to manage than Havig), so I gave up and decided to use my name—my legal name. After all, Havig is a good, solid, honorable, Norwegian name.
A week after my book was published I came up with the perfect pseudonym, of course. Deanne Keithe. My middle name and my husband’s.
I even considered changing everything. We all know how that worked out. For better or worse, I’m just me. Chautona Havig. And I’m okay with that.
Still, I have that luxury today.
Not all authors do—something I was reminded of in a book I read recently.
When I requested a review copy of The Secrets of Paper and Ink, I had no idea just how blessed I was to have options—to do it or not. I also had no idea that Dad’s naming system was such a common way of doing things. But that’s not all there is to this book…
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The Best Kept Secrets of the Mighty Sword
I’ve never read anything by Lindsay Harrel, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when The Secrets of Paper and Ink arrived. It hinted at women’s fiction, romance, historical mystery… so many things. Could an author really meld such diverse topics and ideas into something I’d love?
In a word, yes.
Lindsay Harrel takes the reader on an emotional journey of rejection, self-discovery, brokenness, surrender, and healing. She does all this with a skillful pen that not only weaves a light mystery through the pages but keeps you guessing even as she’s given you everything.
When each major (and some minor) character appears on the page, you already know his or her story. You’re aware of how their pasts play into their presents, and what the outcome will be—sort of.
You know who this woman from the past is. In fact, you even know what’ll happen—for the most part.
Sophie, Ginny, William, Garret, Steven, even Hugh (?)… we know the journey each must take, and we suspect who will and won’t. Ms. Harrel doesn’t stop with the inevitable. After all, we each have volition, and she gives her characters that as well. As each character’s life plays out on the page, surprises emerge… Just like in real life.
The plot and subplots of The Secrets of Paper and Ink—compelling.
Ms. Harrel wove the different plots and time periods together so beautifully, that by the end of the story, I felt as if I’d read just one story instead of several. Everything had meaning to the entire book, and when I finished, my heart ached. I didn’t want to say goodbye.
Add to that, beautiful writing, and you’ve got a winner.
Only once or twice did I see something I wondered if it was Britishly correct. For the most part, the Brits felt British to this American reader, and the Americans seemed perfectly American. Ginny was the only one who didn’t fit in either world exactly, and that’s just as it should be.
Beautiful prose that never turned purple at all, lovely descriptions that didn’t weigh down the story, and authentic dialogue that made each individual character come alive—what’s not to love?
When I requested a review copy of The Secrets of Paper and Ink, I really didn’t know what to expect. However, I like to try new authors and see what they have to offer.
As I said, this was my first book by Lindsay Harrel. It won’t be my last. And it’s been plopped on my top ten list for 2019.
I should throw out a caveat, however.
Ms. Harrel writes of realistic people who make really stupid decisions sometimes. Not once is sin ever glorified, but these very human characters make wrong decisions—even the Christian ones. They repent, yes, but not with overly grandiose protestations and prostrations. It’s real repentance that says, “I’m turning away and going this way.” Except with actions instead of words.
The way Ms. Harrel resolves these messes couldn’t be more beautiful, and I loved reading it, but there’s the warning if that bothers you.
Recommended for both contemporary and historical fiction lovers as well as people who like a light mystery with no murder or gruesomeness. If you love Doc Martin, you’ll likely want to grab this book.
The Secrets of Paper and Ink
Title: The Secrets of Paper and Ink
Author: Lindsay Harrel
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release date: February 26, 2019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Lindsay Harrel presents a powerful story of healing, forgiveness, and finding the courage to write your own story.
A year after the death of her abusive fiancé, domestic violence counselor Sophia Barrett finds returning to work too painful. She escapes to Cornwall, England—a place she’s learned to love through the words of her favorite author—and finds a place to stay with the requirement that she help out in the bookstore underneath the room she’s renting. Given her love of all things literary, it seems like the perfect place to find peace.
Ginny Rose is an American living in Cornwall, sure that if she saves the bookstore she co-owns with her husband then she can save her marriage as well. Fighting to keep the first place she feels like she belongs, she brainstorms with her brother-in-law, William, and Sophia to try to keep the charming bookstore afloat.
More than 150 years before, governess Emily Fairfax knew two things for certain: she wanted to be a published author, and she was in love with her childhood best friend. But he was a wealthy heir and well out of her league. Sophia discovers Emily’s journals, and she and William embark on a mission to find out more about this mysterious and determined woman, all the while getting closer to each other as they get closer to the truth.
The lives of the three women intertwine as each learns the power she has over the story of her life.