Shannon here: I’m happy to host Candace West today. A fellow Arkansan, she contacted me several months ago and is now part of my local writer’s group. Candace shares the inspiration behind her debut novel, Lane Steen. Comment or answer the question at the end of the end of any post dated Feb 12 – 15 to enter the drawing for an e-book or signed copy. Deadline: Feb 23rd, 11:59pm central time. Here’s Candace:
Meet my great-grandparents Clarence and Minnie—the inspiration behind Lane Steen. Raised in the Arkansas Ozarks by a hardened father and cruel step-mother, Minnie’s story passed down to me sitting at the knee of my granny. Many days, Granny would share stories of how Minnie overcame her unloving childhood.
When she was a teenager, her father abandoned her with an uncle, telling her to “Root hog or die.” Minnie’s uncle saw her only as a workhorse. Minnie worked plowing fields as long as daylight allowed. Not an ideal place for romance to bud. Yet in the dirt and grime, Minnie found the love of her life, a young man named Clarence.
This is their story:
One spring afternoon, thoughts of Minnie filled Clarence’s thoughts as he pitched hay. Daisy, the family cow, peeped around the stall at him with sleepy eyes.
“Oh, mind your own business, Daisy. Can’t you let a man think for a spell?” He smiled, his deep blue eyes twinkling.
Outside, his father’s wagon rattled to a stop.
Straightening his overall strap, Clarence watched his pa climb down. Sunlight streamed through plump, white clouds overhead. One sunbeam struck Pa right on his bald spot.
Clarence wiped a sweaty hand over his mouth. He’d better not let Pa see him laugh.
“Pa, are you ‘bout ready for supper? Ma’s got an apple pie sitting in the window right now.”
Pa wiped a rumpled kerchief across his forehead. “That’s where I’m headed. But as for you, son, I think you’ve got more important things to do.” His eyes locked with Clarence’s. “I understand that you’re a bit interested in Minnie Stacy. You’ve been courting her for a little while now.”
The serious glint in Pa’s eyes erased the mirth from Clarence’s face. He straightened his shoulders. “Yes, sir, I am.”
“Well, son, let me tell you this. I drove by her uncle’s field just now. She is out there, plowing up new ground. Being used like a full-grown man! And her a little lady at that! When I saw her staggering over that hard ground behind that plow and team…well! ” Pa’s tanned face flushed as he pushed a finger firmly into Clarence’s chest. “It’s gone on long enough. Jack Stacy intends to work her to the bone. Now, if you care a wit for her, you’d better get her now and marry her—because if you don’t, her uncle is going to kill her.”
Without another word, Clarence leaped into the wagon and clenched the reins. In another moment, the chickens in the yard scattered as the wagon clattered past them. The trees, the hills, and the pastures blurred. Saving her was all that mattered.
A few miles passed, but Clarence never noticed or grew tired. His breath came in short, steady gasps. Closer. Closer. Jack Stacey’s field slowly edged its way in view. Near the end of the field, a tiny dot moved behind a mule and plow. Closer. The dot became a form, then a figure, and finally a wisp of a girl.
“Minnie! Minnie! Quit it, now!”
His voice echoed above the sound of the plow biting through the ground. Minnie’s arms ached as she reined the mule to a stop. Turning her head, she saw Clarence running down one of the furrows toward her.
When he reached her, he threw the reins aside and lifted the strap from her shoulders.
Without stopping for breath, Clarence went and started unhitching the mule from the plow. “You’re coming home, Minnie.”
Blinking against the sunlight, Minnie shook her head. “Coming home? Uncle Jack’ll be mighty mad if I don’t finish!”
Clarence strode over to Minnie and grasped her calloused hands, running a thumb tenderly over her sunburned knuckles. “I’ve tried to give you time to get to know me better, to learn to trust me. Maybe even love me a little. Time’s run out for that, Minnie. I can’t stand it no more. Your uncle is going to kill you with this kind of work.”
Tears burned in her golden-brown eyes, brimming over and sliding down, leaving trails through the dust smudged on her cheeks.
“I want you to come home—with me—now. Minnie, will you marry me?” His grip on her hands tightened.
Minnie scrutinized his face, read the honesty in his eyes. He’d never desert her the way her pa had. He wouldn’t raise his hands and hit her like Uncle Jack.
The tears streaming down her face transformed into a flood. With trembling fingers, she pulled her hands from his and clutched his arms as if she would never let go.
“Yes! Yes! Clarence, I’ll go”
Later, when Uncle Jack came to the field, he found an abandoned plow and a mule grazing under a nearby oak tree.
About Candace: Candace West was born in the Mississippi delta to a young minister and his wife. She grew up in small-town Arkansas and is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Monticello. When she was twelve years old, she wrote her first story, “Following Prairie River.” Since then, she has dreamed of writing Christian fiction. Over the years, she has published short stories as well as poems in various magazines. Since her teenage years, she has written many church plays. In 2018, she published her first novel Lane Steen. By weaving entertaining, page-turning stories, Candace hopes to share the Gospel and encourage her readers. She currently lives in her beloved Arkansas with her husband Aaron and their son Matthew along with two dogs and three cats.
About the book – Lane Steen:
How can she let go of the past when she is forced to confront it?
Kidnapped by her father at two years old, Lane Steen never imagines she is living a lie until a new schoolteacher, Edith Wallace, comes to Valley Creek. Yet Edith is more than a schoolteacher. She is part of the past–a past hidden in a mysterious dream that has haunted Lane since childhood.
At sixteen, Lane yearns to escape from her embittered father’s hatred that engulfs her home. The schoolhouse is Lane’s only escape. Carefully, Edith works to earn Lane’s friendship, but love and trust doesn’t come easy for a heart plagued by hate. But then the truth shatters Lane’s world.
The truth sends Lane on a turbulent search into the past. Leaving Valley Creek behind, Lane reunites with a family she cannot remember–a family that surpasses her wildest dreams. A family that belongs to her.
Despite her newfound joy, her hatred for her father only deepens. Although she desires to experience the faith of her family, Lane can’t cast away one thing she holds closely: the hatred that helped her survive.
Digging into her father’s unbelievable past, she confronts the story behind her father’s ruin. Will she always be bound by hate?
Yet something even stronger binds her. Something stronger than her family, something stronger than her will. She is bound to Valley Creek, the place of her stormy childhood, the place of the man she loves, but more importantly, the place of God’s calling. Ironically, she finds love, purpose, grace, and forgiveness in a place she’d sought all her life to escape.
Can’t wait for the drawing or worried you won’t win? Get your copy now:
Question for Readers: Would your, your family members’, or friends’ life story make a good novel? Share a bit of a novel worthy story you know of with us?
Come back Feb 15th for the Candace’s real life romance!