The Genesis of “In Search of My Heart”

The Inspiration

The birth of the idea for our book occurred at about 4:00 one morning in February of 2000. We had attended our weekly Growth Group and had been studying Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. That particular evening we discussed the fact that God chose women to discover the empty tomb of Christ and deliver the unbelievable message to the disciples. This was a most unusual choice by God, since women in that culture were not highly regarded, except by Jesus, of course. I recalled saying, almost under my breath, “I wonder what the women were thinking and feeling. I wish we had biblical events written from a woman’s perspective.”

I didn’t give this much more thought until a couple of nights later in the wee hours of the morning. I woke up and could not get back to sleep. This is most unusual for me. The discussion at Growth Group never came to mind during the next two hours of tossing and turning. Finally, I got up. Since I also rarely did this, I wasn’t sure what to do. I decided to pick up my Bible and open to a random selection. I don’t even remember what passage that was, but I suddenly felt the inspiration for what has become In Search of My Heart literally sweep over me.

I had no particular plotline in mind. I only knew that a young Jewish girl would tell her story and that her story would take place during the time of Jesus’ life on earth. I immediately knew her name would be Miriam, after my mother. That was all. I went back to bed and slept soundly.

What now?

When I told Larry about my revelation, he was incredibly excited and in his way, had a flurry of ideas. He offered to research books, the internet, and other resources that would ensure the story’s authenticity. He created files filled with information on the culture of first-century Jews in Israel, the foods, plants, customs, feasts and festivals, games, geography, currencies and costs, villages and homes, Roman influence, and much more about those times. (Be sure to click here to read Larry’s post on “The Research Behind In Search of My Heart.”)

Before writing began, Larry and I both attended several Writers’ Conferences. At weeklong conferences, Larry had the privilege of sitting under the tutelage of prolific authors, Brock and Bodie Thoene, at the University of the Nations in Kona, Hawaii, and I studied under another incredible author, Angela Hunt, at the Florida Writers’ Conference.

Ms. Hunt provided a tip that sounded a bit strange but proved to be invaluable. She suggested that authors should have their main characters take the Myers-Briggs personality test. Yes, the main character takes the test, not the author! In this way, the actions and reactions of the main character remain consistent throughout the book, based on the results of the test. This was only one of the many insights we received at these conferences.

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The Writing Process

After 10 months of Larry conducting research and both of us soaking up as much wisdom as possible from other authors, the writing began. We still didn’t know the “outline” of the story, although we brainstormed aspects of various plot elements together.

I always thought authors were a little strange when they said that they didn’t know where their story or characters would lead them. But that’s exactly what I experienced as I began writing in early 2001. Larry and I are both wise enough to know that, in our case, the Holy Spirit was guiding our hands every step of the way.

Because Larry and I both had other careers and also because the biblical research required many hours of study, the initial manuscript was not completed until mid-2004.

Early Experiences with Publishers

In the middle of the writing phase in Spring 2002, I participated in a two-day Christian Writers’ Conference at Seattle Pacific University where I had a group appointment with the fiction acquisitions editor at Tyndale Publishing. We were thrilled when the editor requested a book proposal from us after only a brief introduction to our story and with full knowledge that we did not yet have a completed manuscript.

Tyndale kept the proposal and requested updates in our writing for just over a year. In June 2003, we received a letter of rejection stating that because the story was so interwoven with biblical accounts, one not familiar with the Bible may become confused. To our surprise, and through God’s grace, we were not disappointed. We simply believed that God had a different plan and timetable.

The rejection by Tyndale encouraged us to be even more careful with our treatment of scriptural content and to provide greater documentation to enhance a reader’s understanding. As a result, our book now provides an extensive set of 135 Notes, referenced throughout the chapters. We also created a list of characters, denoting which are biblical and which are fictional.

Following the completion of the manuscript in 2004, I once again attended the Christian Writers’ Conference at Seattle Pacific University. At this conference, both Zondervan and Harvest House publishers said that they would not even consider publishing a book that was written in the time of Christ, with Jesus as an integral character. Imagine my surprise when one of the agents commented, “Your writing is exceptional.”

Interestingly, this was the same year that The Passion of the Christ movie was released. Mel Gibson’s enhancements of the biblical accounts of Passion Week generated great controversy. We can only assume this controversy contributed to the publishers’ “hands-off” approach to such stories.

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The “Silent Years”

In 2004, I accepted a job that required over 50 hours per week of work, and three years later, I moved to a different position that required an average of 60 hours per week of work. Neither Larry nor I had time to devote to the editing and publishing of In Search of My Heart.

As I began to anticipate retirement in 2016, I approached Kay McCarthy, a colleague on our editors’ team who did freelance editing. She agreed to edit our book and completed her work for us in 2017. Kay provided a level of detail and insight beyond what we could ever have anticipated.

Having followed the leading of the Holy Spirit throughout this journey, we simply did not feel “moved” to do anything with the edited manuscript until late in 2022 (although our trip to Israel in 2020 certainly began to nudge us).

“For Such a Time as This”

I serve as an advocate for the Living Forward ministry to widows in our church. During one of our Bible Studies, the ladies learned that Larry and I had written a Christian historical novel. Our dear friend, Lolly Fricke, who is in her 80s, piped up and said, “I’m not getting any younger. You need to finish this book!”

The times of shying away from stories that enhance the details of biblical events and include Jesus as a primary character are over. I recently received a newsletter from Bill Snider, who led me into a relationship with Christ in 1972 and is now the Director of Asia Pacific Media for the Assemblies of God. Within his message, he stated, “Here is a truth: there is nothing more powerful than a Spirit-inspired idea whose time has arrived.” We firmly believe that all the delays from the initial writing of our manuscript to the publication of our book were orchestrated by God “for such a time as this” (a phrase from the biblical book of Esther).

With Lolly’s pronouncement and encouragement, we began the process of rewriting, soliciting readers to critique every aspect of the writing, and investigating publishers. With the help of so many, including BookBaby Publishers, we now have Miriam’s story, In Search of My Heart to share with readers. (Be sure to read the Acknowledgments in our book.)

We are excited and thrilled to share a story that allows readers to be transported into first-century Israel and walk in the sandals of a young girl who experiences both joy and tragedy as she wrestles with her faith and her doubts, even while traveling with Jesus as one of his followers. She shows us who Jesus is from her perspective and helps us to understand the true purpose of his ministry here on earth.

We also look forward to sharing In Search of My Soul, the second book in the In Search series.

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Carol McGehe
Carol McGehe
Carol is a connector who loves bringing people together and being a "resource person" for those who have a need. Her career was as much about mentoring young people as teaching mathematics. Some of her students from the 1980s are still in touch and many others have sought her encouragement and instruction throughout the years. Carol loves Bible study and ministering to the widows in her church. She especially enjoyed the biblical research required for the writing of "In Search of My Heart."