Someone asked me once why I liked to write in first person. It’s because the story belongs to the person who lived it. The truth about a life should first be told by the one whose truth it is. Then we may share the story to bring it into the global conversation—to weave it into our communal history. I, as the writer, merely empower the characters to tell their own truths.
From Without a Voice:
The word “family” can stir up wonderful memories for many people. Thoughts of holidays with loved ones, family photos to celebrate one member’s milestones in life, or simple summer afternoons sharing a picnic or a game. That same word, however, brings up a longing in others—a hope to one day reunite with a loved one. A hope that a family member may change and become more loving. A hope to feel loved and connected to others. Some of us often grieve over the word family—grieve for members who have died, grieve for those who face hardships or illnesses, grieve for those who left, grieve for those who hurt us rather than love us.
When “family” is something we lost or must leave, how do move forward? Do we toss out the idea of ever being a part of a family again? Can we redefine what family means to us or redefine who we consider our family?
The characters in Without a Voice faced these questions as they struggled with the emotional challenges of losing family members and leaving family members. Some quotes from the characters give you a glimpse of how they redefined family as they journeyed forward:
“The images of my mother and father seemed like ghosts that I could see but not grasp. I realized that my parents were now just memories. The people before me were my family now. Together we had redefined home with each place we stopped along our way. We never said aloud that we loved each other, but, somehow, we knew the feeling was there.”
“Uncertainty still loomed ahead, but facing the unknown with loved ones seemed more hopeful. Love eases so many fears. Jane reached out and squeezed my hand as if she could read my thoughts. Together would be much better than alone.”
“I smiled at the thought of being a part of this group that had bonded like family. We were strangers thrown together by the sheer coincidence of location on our separate journeys—different needs on the same road.”
If you are part of a book club reading Without a Voice, discuss the theme of family and how the theme evolves throughout the book. If you journal, write down your thoughts of how we redefine family as we face the changes life brings us.
Thistle Farms in Nashville has a quote that they use a lot. “Love heals.” That is such a powerful statement even though it seems so simple. What does that mean? For me, yesterday brought two perfect examples.
First, my best friend in Nashville sent me a beautiful picture for my wall. She became my best friend because we loved each other enough to listen to the life story of the other. We are nothing alike and many times she confesses that my story is so hard for her to understand. She’s happily married-I was married to an abuser who still creates problems in my life. She lives comfortably. I struggle financially because of the past and because of current medical bills for my daughters. The list of our differences goes on. But when I am struggling the most, her “love heals” because she never gives up on me.
Second, when I sent out an announcement about my book, I had someone email back saying she had lost contact with me because she knew of some of the challenges in my life but had no idea what to say. It was awkward for her. But now the conversation is started. She told me what she knew, and I told her what would have helped. Silence hurt. Love heals.
I hope the characters in my novel, Without a Voice, help paint that picture of how love does heal. That includes loving ourselves enough to take the first steps to healing!
Some days, life is just about the little things that make you smile…for me today it was about trivia that I found fascinating. Since my novel, Without a Voice, takes the characters from Memphis to Arrow Rock, Missouri, I thought I would give you some fun facts about Arrow Rock and the city’s famous painter who helps me tell the story:
Arrow Rock is a village in Saline County, Missouri. It is located near the Missouri River. The village has important historical significance related to the travelers who came through as they headed west on the Santa Fe Trail and related to one citizen—19th century artist George Caleb Bingham. The entire village of Arrow Rock has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
The Friends of Arrow Rock offers tram tours of village attractions, including the National Historic Landmark home of famous American painter citizen George Caleb Bingham, and the home and shop of renowned gunsmith John Sites. Visitors can still dine at the J. Huston Tavern, the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi. Characters in Without a Voice enjoyed the food here too.
George Caleb Bingham was an American artist whose paintings of American life in the frontier lands along the Missouri River still captivate viewers today. Many art critics credit Bingham with being the first outstanding American artist from the “West.” Bingham’s paintings relate to life and commerce along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and to the pioneer life of the people of Missouri in and around St. Louis, Columbia, Jefferson City, Arrow Rock, Boonville, and Kansas City. His most renowned works were completed between 1845 and 1855.
in 1820, when Bingham was nine, Missouri became the 24th state. Only five years before Bingham was born, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery returned from their 1804-06 westward journey. It is possible that Bingham was Missouri’s first artist.
These facts may seem totally useless to some people. If you live in Arrow Rock or if you like art, however, you may find these facts fascinating. I remind myself that it’s all about perspective. As a mom, I have to remember to look at things from the perspective of my daughters. I remember when a certain band was all they could talk about or when they absolutely had to have silly bands to trade at school. That was what was important to them in their world of childhood and young friendships.
I often have to remind myself to remember that my perspective comes from my family, my friends, my work, my traditions, my race, my economic status, etc.…I can’t claim my perspective as an absolute truth for all people. I recently volunteered for a few hours to assist a group of people who moved here from another nation. Organizers of the event soon realized that we had set up everything from the perspective of our culture. The organizers had to make some quick changes to some foods and some signs in the bathrooms. Some basic things that we thought made sense didn’t make sense to all cultures.
So I’m trying to learn to look at things from different perspectives—from different cultures, to different time periods, to different towns. It’s making me a better me.
Chris Pepple, published author from Germantown, Tenn., announces the release of her fifth book, Without a Voice. WITHOUT A VOICE takes you on a journey across three states in the 1840s, traveling with Sarah and her daughters as they learn about their own strengths and abilities, and as they discover a new life with family and friends.
Sarah’s younger brother knows that she hides a secret, and he wants to help her break free from the pain she is hiding from others. Sarah wonders, though, if she is courageous enough to break the chains that tie her to a life of suffering and sorrow. She fears that she is not strong enough to care for her two young daughters alone.
“Writing this book has been a very meaningful experience for me,” says Pepple. “I was honored to have these characters share their voices with me and allow me to write them down for you. These voices are part of a larger story—the story of the voices that can’t share the hurts and fears that are hidden behind closed doors. There are so many hardships that people never know how to discuss. I hope this book opens the door for some healing conversations to take place.
“Writing Without a Voice changed my life because I was finally able to share the voice of so many women I know who have lived without a chance to tell their stories. I also found my own voice with this book. Of course, this book is 100% fictional, so no one person’s story makes up Without a Voice; no one character represents one person.
“Well, there is one historical character—I love to uncover stories from the past that I have never heard before. When my own daughter became interested in developing her artistic talents, I decided to research the lives of early American artists. I ran across the works of George Caleb Bingham and decided to weave him into this story. His paintings told the story of so many people from his time, so I wanted him to help me tell this story. Besides being a painter who really lived in Arrow Rock, Missouri, the other parts of his life were fictionalized to fit this work. But I challenge you to look up his works and to visit the actual town of Arrow Rock. You might be surprised by what you find.”
When asked about Without a Voice compared to her previous works, Pepple responded, “I really grew as an author when writing this book. I listened to my characters more and let them guide me. I was also less timid as a writer with this book.”
“There are moments in life that define us, set us on a new course that we had never even dreamed of. Sometimes those moments begin when an unexpected person finds their voice. Sometimes it begins when we decide to listen.” (Chapter 1)
Chris Pepple is a motivational speaker, published author, and freelance writer with articles regularly appearing in national and international publications. She has five published books, including a book she uses in her writing classes for children and teens. She has a writing degree from the University of Memphis and a master’s degree from Emory University. She lives in Tennessee with her two daughters. www.chrispepple.com
Last month, I released Two Frontiers, my third book—first historical fiction. The book is set during the time of the Mexican-American War (late 1840s, pre-Civil War). Three of my main characters pray occasionally throughout the book. Their prayers are not printed, but I do make reference to them praying for other characters. I have been asked by readers why I incorporated prayer into my fictional book. Here’s my answer:
First, I believe that prayer keeps us centered on the holy in our lives. Prayer keeps our focus off of fear and limited hope and empty wishes and keeps our focus on an all-powerful, loving God who truly wants us to come seeking answers and comfort. When my prayer life is not strong, I get off-track in my goals and with my emotions. My characters needed the same focus (don’t want to tell you why—too many spoilers).
Second, my characters (just like me) needed a place to pour out their sorrows and fears and hurts. When they faced fears, they needed a Holy Presence to help comfort them and grant them strength to go forward. I am not a self-sufficient person (even when I am stubborn and try to be). I need God in my life to guide me at all times and to help carry me and strengthen me when I feel broken. I wanted my characters to reflect this same need.
Third, praying does not mean that the outcome of a situation will be automatically be changed (one spoiler—one character is seriously injured in the war). I have prayed for the health of people who still died way too young. I have prayed over my life and have still had to climb mountains to survive. I have prayed for my children, and they have still made some pretty big mistakes (great girls, though—love them dearly). Prayer didn’t always change the outcome to suit my wishes. Prayer changed me, though. Prayer gave me a stronger peace of mind and a sense of comfort. Prayer helped me find insight into the situation. Prayer led me to new hope that I would have never found on my own, to answers that came in a way much better than what I had asked for.
So my characters prayed in my book. It’s how I get through life; it’s how I had them get through their challenges. I pray. It changes me for the better.