Evolution of a Writer & Book Giveaway

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Henry McLaughlin

Western Suspense with Heart

As a kid growing up in Rhode Island, the West fascinated me. When you live in the smallest state, the bigness of the West was fascinating. TV, movies, comic books, novels, toy pistols and holsters all captured my imagination. Favorite subject in school? Yep, history, especially the expansion westward. There’s a story in the family of how I broke a side table pretending it was a horse. Thankfully, there are no pictures.

Fast-forward many years (okay—many, many years) and two things happen. One, the long-suppressed desire to write novel blossoms. Two, my wife and I move to Texas. The Lord’s hand was in both. When things get tough, I look to heaven and pray, “Remember—this was your idea.”

Many of my story ideas come from images. I’ll see something in my mind and the questions start. My first novel, Journey to Riverbend, began with an image of a man standing on a ridge looking down into a valley. Stabbing the sky from among the trees was a church steeple.

The questions came: Why is he there? Who is he? Is the church significant?

I toyed with the idea of making the story science fiction (my other favorite genre) but it needed to be a Western. As I worked through the outline, I saw why. The Western setting would capture elements of soul-searching and physical searching, of time passing slowly, of man against the world in ways science fiction couldn’t.

Journey to Riverbend
To Order Henry’s book click on cover.

One of my favorite parts of writing the story was the research, seeking answers to the question how did people do things back then? Things we take for granted now. I explored travel by horseback, train, and stagecoach. Learned new things about the telegraph. Busted myths that had lingered since childhood. Such as there were no twelve-shot pistols despite the fact nobody in the movies ever seemed to run out of bullets.

The most fascinating part was discovering the characters as they came alive on the page. The outline and the character sketches helped create an idea of the person. The writing brought them to life, especially when they didn’t act as I expected.

The man on the ridge was the hero, Michael. A man with a scarred past asked to complete a prodigal’s return by proxy. (I killed the prodigal in the first chapter.) He was there to meet the prodigal’s father to attempt the reconciliation.

The church proved significant. Through it, Michael would meet Rachel and, for the first time, experience the possibility of real love. Even though Rachel was a former prostitute who vowed never to let another man have any sway or control over her or take away her hard-won independence.

Through this first novel, I discovered and explored the themes that flow through all my stories—redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. I’ve written other Westerns, a contemporary novel, and I’m now working on a fantasy series. These themes appear in one form or another in all of them. And the Western is where my heart beats strongest.

Through this first novel, I experienced my first taste of the power of our words. One of my first readers asked me to never delete a scene from an early draft because it brought her closer to God. And, in my spirit, I heard God say, “If this book never gets published, it still served my purpose because it brought her closer to me.”

And that’s why, even when my doubts are the strongest, and I’m ready to give this up and go to the movies, he responds to my reminder this was his idea, “Yes, it is. And I haven’t changed my mind.”

About Henry

Henry’s novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the Operation First Novel award sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild and was published by Tyndale House in January, 2011.

He is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. He serves as Associate Director of North Texas Christian Writers. He regularly teaches at conferences and workshops, leads writing groups, edits, and mentors and coaches.

Besides his writing, Henry treasures working with other writers and helping them on their own writing journeys.

Visit him at http://www.henrymclaughlin.org.

Please welcome Henry with your comments and you might even win his book!


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36 thoughts on “Evolution of a Writer & Book Giveaway”

    • Thank you, Debra. It was a pleasure to be here today. I always enjoy the opportunity to meet new readers.

  1. I do enjoy a good western! The book cover is beautiful.. I’d pick it up just because I know a great cover leads to great thing inside!

    • Thanks, Deanna. Tyndale did do a good job with the cover. Let me know what you think of the story.

  2. Hi Henry, I always enjoy reading about other writing journeys! Thanks for sharing. We don’t often get cowpokes here in the corral, so a big howdy and welcome to Wildflower Junction.

    • Thanks, Tanya.
      It did feel a little strange to be the cowpoke in the corral. I’m grateful for the opportunity.

  3. Welcome to the Junction, Henry. Your story sounds like it was made for me…I love prodigal son stories. Could be, because I have three sons! Your twist–that it was by proxy–makes it even more interesting. Congratulations on your success with your debut novel and on listening to God’s calling for your life. I really enjoyed your post!

  4. Hi Henry, nice to meet you. I have not read your work before but I do enjoy a good western. I love the cover of your book and would love to read it. Thanks for sharing it with us today.

  5. Henry, I love it when other authors share how they became a writer and why they write what they do. So thank you for an entertaining read. I too, enjoy in writing western romance that includes a lesson learned or raising awareness of an issue or topic of concern. Your story sounds very intriguing and I look forward to reading it. Wishing you much success.

    • Thank you, Faith. God sure knows my little quirks and the best ways to get ideas to me so I’ll want to write about them.

  6. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post, Henry. I love hearing about an author’s writing process and inspirations!

  7. Thanks for being here today! Great post! I like hearing how authors go about their process when writing their books. This book sounds fascinating. I can’t wait to read it. Best of luck to you.

  8. Redemption, reconciliation, and restoration, thse are such important things to have in a book. The description has me intrigued, thank you for sharing it with us today Henry.So nice to meet you !

    • Thanks, Deanne.
      God dropped those themes in my heart. And I thought they were just for Journey to RIverbend. Now I see them in everything I write. They must be important to Him.

    • Thank you, Susan.
      I actually didn’t like the cover at first. Then, as I studied it, I realized the artist captured my heroine perfectly. And I saw she wasn’t gaze at the hero. She was looking past to him to our ultimate source, the Father.

  9. My question for this author is Do you actually visit places in the West, like Tombstone, during your research?
    Your book sounds really good. I grew up reading Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour

    • For this book, I only visited my imagination. The town of Riverbend is entirely fictional as are the rest of the settings. I was influenced by TV and movies Westerns and by the research I’ve done over the years.
      In my books since then, I have physically visited the areas where the stories are set. The towns may still be fictional but the geography is accurate.

  10. I think I”ve found a new author to read in Mr. McLaughlin. I have always enjoyed reading about the Old West. I loved going to those old Western movies on a Saturday afternoon as a kid.

  11. It was good to get to know a little about you.
    It’s amazing the misconceptions about life in the Old West.
    Thank you for sharing.

  12. Thank you, Shirley.
    I agree with you about the misconceptions. That’s why, even if I can’t visit the area of my story, I do as much research as I can and dig into the history books. The accurate information is out there. The writer just needs to be diligent in seeking it out.

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