Shannon here: Contemporary Romance author, Neena Gaynor shares the inspiration behind her debut novel, the Bird and the Bees. Just a head’s up: Neena’s book was published by the small press my business partner and I recently bought. Comment or answer the question in this post to enter the drawing for an e-book copy. Deadline: July 18th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Neena:
Story Behind the Story – The Bird and the Bees by Neena Gaynor:
I suppose it’s not typical that my last first date ended without a goodnight kiss, but did include a marriage proposal.
When my brother played matchmaker, it could only mean Wade was either a living saint or a complete nerd. I assumed it was the latter, but was still interested in going to dinner after Wade was drafted by the Detroit Tigers… just being honest. The man with the kindest eyes, deepest dimples, and dirtiest jeans was soon to be the man of all my dreams. When the evening ended with a humble proposal of, “I think we should get married, and we’d be just fine,” I only nodded my giddy, little head. We were married within a year.
I will never forget how many people truly loved and supported him (us) throughout baseball. It’s rare for someone to have a few authentic encouragers in his or her life, but for Wade, he had many… at some points, I would have argued too many! When you’re living in the tornado that is professional baseball, it’s hard to get your head to stop spinning and focus on much outside of the next game. Looking back, those people who supported Wade were probably also praying for him… for his protection, his continued performance on the field, his strength of character, our marriage and growing family. Now, I thank God for those people who showed us so much love. Though my husband had been blessed with this sense of community for his entire life, his rare life experience has become my own.
Writing a novel about a nurse and tall/dark/handsome professional baseball player, the grit of a relationship, learning to trust another and the Lord were very autobiographical for me. It was easy to pull from experiences, especially those times when life was a whirlwind of bleacher seats, late suppers, and travel-sized toiletries.
I will never forget washing my baby’s bottle in a hotel sink. We had just moved “home base” for our family for the fifth time in three months. I’d made the inaugural grocery run that accompanies every move: peanut butter, diapers, and Lysol wipes. After hauling the extra bags and a road-weary infant up six flights of stairs (the elevator was out), I was exhausted and frustrated. I turned on the radio, tuned to the local sports broadcasting station, and prepared to cheer on the Toledo Mudhens. The phone rang.
As the announcer described the competing team, Wade was on the line telling me to start packing. After the game, we were being moved yet again. Another city. Another hotel. Another team. We said our goodbyes and good lucks, and the commentator went on to announce Wade Gaynor as the night’s starting third baseman. Tears raced down my cheeks as I rinsed the bottle, and I felt the Lord drawing me into His gentle arms. I heard Him whisper to my heart. “Am I not enough?”
After being delivered from Egypt, the Israelites were led to the desert where they muttered and moaned to Moses and grumbled against God. Even still, this same wilderness was where God provided for their every need: food, protection, and more.
The Minor League Baseball lifestyle is its own sort of wilderness, as can be motherhood, empty-nesting, infertility, losing parents, losing children, or losing jobs. But where delight is dehydrated, who walks with us and provides for our needs?
He does. God will lead us through the wilderness just as He led Israel. With eyes wide open, we see how completely He fulfils our every need and the pure desires of our hearts.
When we moved to our next team, we leaned into the constants of our lives: Our Lord and our gift of marriage. It wasn’t easy—another grocery trip, another hotel with a rattling AC or broken elevator, and more professional uncertainty. While it may have been a season of our lives that I would’ve naively hoped for something different than a demotion, we ended up with front row seats watching God provide for our greatest needs through a community of fellow believers. Everywhere we went, God delivered support through faithful coaches, players, player’s wives, chaplains, family, friends, and more.
Wade is now retired from baseball, and I’m a stay at home mom of our two little boys. Our ten years of marriage have been so much more than “just fine,” and I know it’s because Jesus is a central part of our relationship.
Something happens when you marry a professional athlete–they encourage you to pursue your own dreams. I had learned so much about our gracious Lord, I wanted others to know. My hope and dream is that through a contemporary romance novel, readers will not only be entertained, but fall deeper in love with Jesus…. because, friends, He’s more than enough.
- Where is the most romantic place you and your spouse have ever been?
Wade and I have been blessed to travel. As to the “most romantic place” we’ve been, a list of random destinations come to mind: a train ride to Chicago, a cornfield in Kentucky, a coffee shop in New York, a sunset beach in the Caribbean… my favorite is home.
- What simple gesture does your spouse do that melts you every time?
My husband leaves me notes by the coffee pot. Just him making fresh coffee would be enough, but his sweet notes always start with “I love you like…” I should add that he’s no poet, but his heart for the simple, true, and beautiful things of this world make me thank God for our marriage.
- Who said, “I love you” first, you or your spouse?
This is kind of funny…
My husband said he loved me on our second date—but he said, “I *think* I love you.” We were falling for one another quickly, and the speed of our affection shocked us both. I confess a hint of southern stubbornness, because my response was, “Well, either you do or you don’t. Which is it?”
He did. And I did, too.
- Where did you and your spouse go for your honeymoon?
We went to a couples resort in Antigua. It was the perfect tropical escape during blizzard conditions in Kentucky.
- What simple gesture does your hero do that melts your heroine every time?
Ketch’s soul is at peace despite the many questions swirling about his circumstances. His easy smile and deep dimples always get to Larkin.
- Who is most romantic, your hero or your heroine?
Definitely the hero. Larkin is slow to trust her heart, and Ketch makes every effort to win it.
- If you hero and heroine end up married, where will they go on their honeymoon?
I have no doubt that Larkin would lobby for somewhere sunny and sandy.
About Neena: Neena Gaynor is a former nurse who has spent much of the last decade traveling with her husband, Wade, a former professional baseball player. Throughout the 29 changes of address and the stresses of moving a young family, Neena learned to embrace the peace that only comes from the steady accompaniment of Christ in her heart. Today, Neena is ecstatic to be back in her old Kentucky home, beekeeping, writing, and being Mom. Learn more and connect:
About the book – The Bird and the Bees:
When Larkin Maybie buries her mother in the foothills of Appalachia, she is left all alone. Her only inheritance? A crazy aunt, a mountain of debt, and a run-down, secluded cabin left by a mysterious benefactor. While Larkin thinks an escape to a cabin miles from anything familiar might be exactly what she needs, the quick answer to her problems only leaves her with more questions… Questions concerning her true identity.
As Larkin searches for her link to the Lewandowski Estate, she begins to accept the kindness of strangers on Presque Isle and the affection of professional baseball player, Ketch Devine. Charged with caring for the cabin’s honey bees and haunted by past choices, Larkin struggles to move forward in a new direction and is running out of time. With summer and baseball season coming to an end, she must decide: what is the value of true love?
Question for Readers: God used my husband to encourage me to write. God also took my vulnerable moment at the hotel sink to speak to my heart. But most of the time, I find the Lord’s wisdom and direction in holy scripture. Proverbs 16:24 is “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” and that verse has been such a source of motivation for me. I try to write (and speak) words like honey. Is there a verse or passage of scripture that has served as motivation for you?
Come back July 14th for Heather Greer!