Here's Emily with the "story behind the story"...
I started the very first draft of Justice over fifteen years ago. Fresh out of high school, I’m not sure I ever envisioned publishing the story. At the time, I couldn’t even come up with a satisfying ending for poor Jake and Brooklyn.
I gave up and wrote other manuscripts, including a YA novel that interested my first literary agent. When the novel didn’t sell, the agent and I parted ways—but amicably, and not before she supplied the idea of writing A) for adults, and B) based on a classic storyline.
As I gravitated toward picking up Justice again, a group of women from my church invited me to hear Liz Curtis Higgs speak. That was when I learned Higgs has a way of taking Biblical storylines and using them as inspiration for stories set in different time periods.
Justice deals with the aftermath of a sexual assault, but also with an unwed couple facing with the scandal of an unplanned pregnancy. Though their circumstances were different, couldn’t I borrow inspiration from Mary and Joseph’s account to rewrite Justice?
The short answer is, Yes. The more honest answer involves multiple drafts, cuts, rewrites, and edits to fashion Justice into my debut novel.
So, in one sense, Mary and Joseph are the story behind the story, but I didn’t start studying their account for ideas until over ten years after starting that first draft.
The true story behind the story is this: the journey from A to B is longer for some of us than for others, but through it all, God is faithful. He patiently, lovingly, plays the long game, and He’s more interested in our relationship with Him than in one dream come true or another. As His children, we can always rest assured that wherever this sometimes very long road leads, it’ll be for good.
Jake thought he was meant to marry Brooklyn, but now she's pregnant, and he had nothing to do with it. Brooklyn can’t bring herself to name the father as she wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means and how it will affect her relationship with Jake. If Harold Keen, the man who owns the bookstore across from Jake's coffee shop, has anything to do with it, the baby will ruin them both. Can Jake and Brooklyn overcome the obstacles thrown in their path and finally find the truth in God's love and in each other?
Even wrapped in privacy, she stared toward the wall and picked at her fingernails. “I planned what to say to you.” Her voice quieted. “But I don’t think I can do it.”
His relief morphed into dread. What could be this bad? Father, don’t let me mess this up. “Just tell me the script. What’d you plan to say?”
“I need a ride to a doctor’s appointment.” She spoke in a flat tone.
He wanted to play along and say his lines, too, but all this over an illness? If she’d been sick since her mood froze over in January and couldn’t drive herself, it was serious. His dad’s problems had started this way—an appointment followed by a cancer diagnosis, months of treatment and supposed remission, and, finally, a funeral.
Brooklyn searched his eyes, tense sadness weighing down her features.
He kept his gaze trained on her beautiful, worried face. Maybe this appointment was something simple. He had to believe it, or he couldn’t ask. “What kind of appointment?”
Brooklyn swallowed, neck ridged. “I’m three weeks late.”
“To the appointment?”
“My body. My body is three weeks late.”
“Your body…” Then it hit him. She thinks she’s pregnant. How had he not understood sooner?
“I took a test, but maybe it was wrong.”
She’d changed on that business trip. An image thundered to mind, and he willed it away. But the question remained. “You and Caleb?”
“It’s not like you think, Jake.”
She taught Sunday school. She had worn a promise ring for years, but her finger was bare now. Caleb went on the New Wilshire trip knowing how Jake felt about Brooklyn, knowing he’d ended his last relationship to pursue her. Would Caleb have slept with her anyway?
“I can explain. There’s not enough time right now, but I will explain.”
He clenched his fist under the table. “I’m sure you could summarize.” After all those years of pushing him away with the claim she’d never marry, never fall in love, she’d let someone else in. If it was just Jake she hadn’t wanted all this time, she could’ve saved him years of trouble by being honest. “It’s none of my business.” He started away.
He turned back.
“I can’t face this alone anymore.” Her grip on the table turned her fingertips white.
The day Dad had died, when Jake reached home from the hospital, he’d found her waiting in the driveway. He and his mom had been together the whole time, but as soon as he held Brooklyn in his arms, he felt a million times less alone. Later, when losing Dad prompted him to question God, it had been Brooklyn who stood by him, her unshakable faith drawing him back to faith of his own. She may have brought this on herself, but he owed her company in her darkest hour. “Fine. When’s the appointment?”
“I sat in the parking lot for half an hour before I worked up the nerve to come in.”
He crossed his arms.
He checked his watch. “Fifteen minutes?”
She nodded, sighed, and stood. “I was going to talk to you sooner.”
He trusted his managers, and he could leave with little to no warning. As he led the way to the door, he braced for snowflakes. Since he lived in the apartment above the shop and had no plans to go out, he’d worn short sleeves, and there wasn’t time to run up for something warmer.
As they walked to the car, his peripheral vision caught the line of Brooklyn’s dipped chin and the slant of her downcast eyes. He was failing her. He put an arm around her shoulders but felt no warmth when she leaned into him.
Emily Conrad lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two rescue dogs. She loves Jesus and enjoys road trips to the mountains, crafting stories, and drinking coffee. (It’s no coincidence her debut novel is set mostly in a coffee shop!) She offers free short stories on her website and loves to connect with readers on social media.
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