Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Guest Blog with Laurie Alice Eakes

New Jersey seems to get few breaks in the realm of literature. TV shows and certain books about a female bounty hunter convince the public that New Jersey is full of swindlers, murderers, and gamblers. So how could such a place inspire me?

Because New Jersey has always been a rather special place for me. My first job out of college landed me in New Jersey, where I worked for Send the Light, the American headquarters of Operation Mobilization, an international mission. Other opportunities took me elsewhere in the country, and I never forgot the place that introduced me to public transportation, New York City within an hour, and the myriad cultures that make up America.

Yes, I’d been a bit sheltered before this.

Several years later—we don’t need to say how many—I was again in New Jersey, this time for some training in the western part of the state, a land of magnificent trees and rolling hills, towns as old as they get in the U.S. and farms. While working on this training, I was also writing Better than Gold, the first Heartsong I sold and which has just been re-released in large print by Thorndike Press. That, too, made NJ special to me.

So when I wrote another proposed book series for Heartsong, choosing New Jersey seemed natural. Not knowing much about its history, other than it was one of the original thirteen colonies and heavily Dutch, I got some books from the library and started to read. When I got to the chapter on the glassmaking industry in the state, I stopped reading and started plotting.

What if a man from Scotland, one of the biggest producers of glass in the early 1800's, comes to America to work in the glass industry to make a better life for himself and his family. He will fall in love with. . . And run into trouble when. . . And have to make choices because. . .

The Glassblower was born.

Wanting a thread to tie the books together, I had Colin create a perfume bottle for his lady. It’s shaped like the state bird, the goldfinch, and will be a symbol of love and constancy to the family for generations. So what if a grandson loses that bauble and it contains a family secret?

Thus The Heiress was born, when Daire Grassick sells the goldfinch bottle to a young lady, who has recently inherited money , and then has to get it back to save the family from ruin. Except Susan can’t find it in her chaotic household. They set out on an adventure to find the goldfinch.

The climax of that adventure leads to the third book, The Newcomer, which will be out later this year.

But the New Jersey awesomeness hasn’t ended for me.

In the autumn of 2008, I was once again in NJ for some training and at a crossroads in my writing career. I hadn’t sold a book in a while and was questioning God’s will in my continuing to write. But two days after I arrived in New Jersey, my agent called to say that Heartsong was buying my New Jersey books. And a couple of fun facts stem from that. A man in my class was from Scotland and his name was Colin just like my hero’s. I spent a lot of time talking to him to get the cadence of the speech right.

The sale of the New Jersey books became the first of thirteen books I ended up selling over the next thirteen months.

So when you think of New Jersey, don’t think of mobsters and gangsters and inept bounty hunter females. Think of how God can use the most unlikely places and circumstances to give His guidance in life.

Do you have any preconceived ideas about New Jersey? Have you ever been there?


  1. New Jersey does have kind of a toxic reputation. Glad to hear some of the good things about it.

    The books really sound good. I like how the special gold finch and wraps the stories together.

  2. I remember years ago, I was conducting business with a woman from NJ. She was harsh and gave me a negative impression of the people, but not the place. My daughter spent a summer in Camden, during her college years, with a ministry to inner city kids. That was a great positive. Someday I'd like to visit.

  3. I've never been east of Pennsylvania. I have friends and relatives who lived for a time in Budd Lake, NJ, but they've since moved west.

    The goldfinch perfume bottle sounds intriguing.

  4. Laurie Alice --
    Thanks for helping to give New Jersey a better reputation. I lived there for a long time (like you, I won't divulge exactly how many years were involved), and I enjoyed the Garden State. It was also fun to debunk others' misconceptions.

  5. AnonymousMay 17, 2010

    I have been to New Jersey and there is a great glass museum in Millville. I read The Glassblower and loved it. I chose it from the list of Heartsongs books because of my love for Scotland and glass - especially paperweights. Many have been made in Scotland.