The Wishing Garden
The basic premise of this book combined a few things I’d had swimming around in the back of my head for a long time. One of them was the idea of a reformed gang member and ex-convict to fully embrace the gospel and start his life over. I’ve certainly heard of it happening, but unfortunately it comes with a lot of judgment from some people, and it’s a difficult path. It would certainly take a great deal of faith and humility. Whit is a hero with much of both.
In my historical novels I have often addressed the challenges of crossing social barriers—titles, wealth, education, etc. Social barriers might have been different historically, but they are certainly far from extinct. In this book, Whit is Hispanic, and Mary is white. He is poor and she came from a wealthy upbringing. Wanting to delve deeply into the issues of prejudice and judgment, I felt strongly about adding one more that I had wanted to write about for years. Whit is much younger than Mary. Ironically, this was the issue that gave me the most flack as I went through the evaluation process for publication.
I know a couple, active in the Church and happily married for several years, who have a twenty-two year age difference—and she’s the older one. I believe there are certain elements of compatibility that should be carefully considered in marriage. I don’t believe that the color of skin or age should be an issue as long as values and priorities are united enough to make a successful marriage. Originally I had their age difference seventeen years. I had the characters struggle with it and trying to come to terms with it. But I felt very good about how it was written. However, when it was submitted I got hit with a firestorm. I told the powers that be who control my publications that this was not a doctrinal issue, a moral issue, a spiritual issue—it was an issue of bigotry and prejudice which had been validated by the negative response. Ironically, I had written a book previously where the man was more than twenty years older than the woman he married and no one batted an eye.
In the end I had to change the age difference to a little over ten years, and I had to adjust the tone in the book to make certain my readers would know this was not ideal. Seriously? I believe it’s a good story nevertheless, but I still feel a little irked over having to change Mary’s age. Don’t tell anybody.