Well… it’s about two people in places they never chose to be, undergoing trials we can scarcely imagine. But in the end it’s a tale of reckless faith and (spoiler alert!) none of it’s too grim for God.
My book is definitely a work of fiction, but an astonishing true story inspired it. On April 18, 1942, a mere six months after Pearl Harbor, eighty men took flight on a perilous volunteer mission to bomb the Japanese main island. The mission, now known as the Doolittle Raid, was a brilliant military success. But it left most of the airmen stranded in enemy-occupied China.
The Plum Blooms in Winter (Spoiler! That’s my title! 🙂 ) follows one of these men on a harrowing journey through capture, torture, privation and solitary confinement. And it follows a bereaved Japanese woman on her quest for ritual revenge. Their paths collide in 1948 in Osaka, Japan. He is now a missionary and she’s a streetwalker consumed by shame. She’s convinced her only hope of restoring her honor is to bury a knife in his chest. But in Osaka’s treacherous underworld, this huntress soon becomes hunted.
How did a nice girl like me embark on a crazy literary ride like this? Well, you can blame that on my husband. There was this summer my consulting work was slow, you see. And he says to me,
“Why don’t you write that novel you’ve always talked about?”
Which is funny because I don’t actually remember talking about writing a novel! But I sort of shrug and sign myself up for a couple of college classes.
And then that same dear hubby shows me a paragraph in a history book about a World War II hero-turned-missionary and a nameless Japanese woman who pledged to assassinate him. The incident perplexes me and then consumes me. Until ultimately, I sense the Lord’s calling to capture the truths in the story through a different lens so more people can be impacted by it.
After a much greater cost in terms of time, effort and emotion than I could ever have counted, the novel is what you could call ‘finished.’ Finally. (Although I’ve learned that ‘finished’ is a rather ephemeral state in writing.) So… now what?
The manuscript garnered a significant award a few weeks ago, which was a huge adrenaline rush, but afterwards all went eerily silent. I let myself get a bit dejected over it.
Lately the Lord has been speaking to me through Old Testament stories, showing me how I can see myself in them. I’m having a Mount Moriah moment right now—one of several I’ve had on this project. By which I mean that I feel like I’ve laid the manuscript—my “child of promise”—down on a cold stone altar. I’m waiting for Him to show me what He’ll do with it. Will it die there? (Which needs to be OK with me if that’s His will, by the way….) Or does He have a plan and a bigger purpose for it? (Gen 22:1-14)
A week or so ago, I took my burden of dejection to the Lord.
Well, who did you write it for? He said.
For you, Lord.
Really? For Me?
Yes, of course, Lord. All for You.
Then you can trust Me with the outcome.
A couple hours after that conversation, I got an email from a publisher who said he found the story “convincing and powerful” and is recommending it to his publication board.
God: 1. Fear, uncertainty and doubt: 0.
That doesn’t make it a done deal but it sounds promising.
I’ll let you know how we get on from Mount Moriah!