It's funny how things happen. God puts a book on a writer's heart and she trusts in the Holy Spirit and does what He asks. Never dreaming it would happen again, she thanks Him for having her write Olivia and the Little Way and goes about the business of living her life. Then one day, God gives her another inspiration, to write a pro-life, pro-modesty sequel to the book, and Olivia's Gift becomes a reality. As teachers, parents, and young readers write her to encourage her to write more Olivia books, she prays on it and wonders what God will have her do next. She takes out a notebook and begins to jot down ideas for a third Olivia book.
Thinking this is where God wants to lead her next, she does what she normally does when a new book idea is born: she prays and wonders about the many book ideas that knock about in her head, competing for space and time. Oh, if only she could write several books at once! But she knows God didn't make her that way; that multitasking is not one of her strong suits.
One day, she and her family visit a priest friend of theirs. As they visit and chat, she tells him of the various book ideas that she has. She tells him she's thinking God wants her to write a third Olivia book, how she wants to continue to reach Catholic youths with her writing.
Father gets a serious, pensive look on his face and tells her something that is burned on her brain, to this very day.
"In Confessions, more and more I'm seeing a pattern."
"A pattern?" she asks.
He nods. "Especially with young people. They feel so sad, like there is no hope for the future."
He leaves it at that.
The author goes to daily Mass to pray about many things, thinking of what the priest had said. As she waits for Mass to start, she wonders what she can do about it, these young kids who feel alone, who feel that God is far away. How can she help them see that God will never leave them, no matter what pressures they face, no matter what evil surrounds them?
Minutes tick by, and soon it is apparent that the visiting priest is not showing up. Apparently he is from out of town and cannot find the church. She stares at the priest's empty chair up on the altar and the thought suddenly comes to her that this could be the future of her parish, of many parishes: empty chairs, no priests. No one to give the Sacraments to these youths her priest friend mentioned, the precious souls God loves so very much. She is frozen with shock at the thought.
"God, what can I do about it?" she wants to know.
"Go and write," He tells her.
"Write what?" she asks, perplexed. "I don't understand."
She figures it's another Olivia book, but God tells her, "Yes, but not yet. Write this one first."
"I really think it should be an Olivia book," she tells God. "That's what people expect of me."
"Yes, but right now I want The Gate," He tells her.
She is obedient. It takes her two years to write. She prays for the young souls who will read it. She asks her saint friends to pray that this book will reach them. St. Therese, St. John Bosco, and St. Pio are called on day and night for these young souls.
Some people are thrilled her book is about a boy. "That's what we need!" they say.
Others are confused. They want another Olivia book.
"It will come," she promises. "I had to write this one first."
"Why?" they ask.
"It's this feeling I had," she answers. "Experiences that led up to it. A whisper from God in my ear. This one has to come now."
Several people read it before it goes to print.
"I like it a lot. But we wanted Olivia," one says.
"I know," she answers. "And I still do, too. Olivia will be back."
"It's different," another says. "I was expecting Olivia."
The author laughs to herself, thinking So was I.
The Gate, which will go to press next week, God willing, is not an Olivia book. It is different. But sometimes different is okay, is it not? Sometimes authors feel called to write many different things. Maybe one day it will be poetry. Perhaps a screenplay. Who knows? Well, God knows. He always knows.
The author does what He tells her to do, in His own Perfect Timing. She writes a different type of story. It is not about Olivia and it is not about St. Therese. It is funny, it is sad, it is symbolic. It is reverent, it is faithful to Church teaching, it is moral. The character is 13 years old; he's a bit older than Olivia. But it is a wholesome story, a faith-filled story, and you can trust this author with your children.
A reader emails her a note that astounds her. "I LOVE it. I cried, Nancy. This book will save a soul."
The author feels a tear slip down her cheek when she reads this.
God willing, that's all she ever wanted.