Eagle Designs
Yvonne Lehman

YVONNE LEHMAN is a best-selling, award-winning author living in the mountains of western North Carolina. She founded/directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years before turning it over to Alton Gansky and now directs the annual Blue Ridge "Autumn in the Mountains" Novelist Retreat (October 14-17) held at the Ridgecrest/LifeWay Conference Center (near Asheville NC). She earned her Master's Degree in English at Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level and at conferences. She will teach at the Christian Devotions Bootcamp in February, at the May Blue Ridge Conference in May, and her novel retreat in October. Her latest release is Aloha Brides (Barbour collection of three historical Hawaii novels). Hearts that Survive - A Novel of the Titanic is her 50th novel.

Genre Happenings

Hearts That Survive
A Novel of the Titanic

Yvonne on the Grand StaircaseAnd you thought the Titanic sank?

Well, so did I. My novel about the Titanic, that is. But here’s how it began to surface.

Way back in 2006, because of her firsthand knowledge of Nova Scotia and its important role after the sinking of the Titanic, my novelist friend Peggy Darty suggested she and I write two novellas each for a collection and set it in Nova Scotia. We brainstormed and shared possibilities. However, life and other writing projects took precedence and the collection never materialized.

A few years ago at the Blue Ridge conference, an editor mentioned that I might consider writing a book about the Titanic for their company to be published in 2012 in time for the April 15 memorials of the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

Because several books and movies have been done about the Titanic’s sinking, I thought my book should be about survivors following the sinking. But after I’d submitted my proposal, I learned that editors wanted another sinking story. Feeling like that’s what I was doing, I pressed on. Because it’s hard (impossible?) to throw away characters who have come to life, I had to have the afterlife as well as the sinking, so I worked on a proposal that would cover fifty years—before, during, and after the sinking.

By this time, several editors had accepted Titanic books from other authors, and another editor considered my proposal for a while. By the time the “return” (don’t like the word “rejection”) came, I thought my ship had sunk for good. There wouldn’t be time for any company to publish my book before 2012.

So, as a failure and a reject in May of 2011, I walked down the aisle to the front row of the conference room at Blue Ridge to be introduced to other faculty. Alone and sunken, I sat beside someone who was talking to the person on her other side. Then Abingdon editor Ramona Richards turned her head and looked at me.

“Do you have a Titanic book?” I said.

“No,” she said.

“You want one?”



Then she clarified the yes. “If you can write it by June fifteenth.”

“Sure,” I said, but thought That’s impossible, but I’m already dead in the water with this book, so this is sink or swim. I’ll write it or drown trying.

Guess what I did that night? Ran home (well, drove), printed a hard copy of the proposal, e-mailed a copy, e-mailed my agent. By the next morning Ramona had two e-mailed copies and a hard copy of the proposal. Don’t think we were anxious or anything!

I heard from her the next day. “I like it.”


Hey, it’s too late. I can’t write 90,000 words (minus about a fifty-page proposal) in four weeks. Ah, no problem. She gave me until July 1. Fortunately, a long time ago God planned that the Fourth of July fell on a Monday, so editors wouldn’t be in their offices from Friday through Monday. I had a long weekend to write thousands and thousands more words.

And I did, with about 30,000 more words than needed and a disclaimer that my ending still needed work (I didn’t mention the whole thing needed work), which I could fix during revision.

How does one write so many words in such a short period of time? The way I’ve done most things: I’ve never had enough sense to know I couldn’t. So I wrote.

And wrote. And wrote. Fortunately, I’d already done a lot of research about the Titanic, had books marked up, and had watched the movies over and over. My characters began to do their thing. I didn’t have time to think a lot.

I learned the secret to writing a lot of words in short period of time: keep the fingers moving on the keyboard. No editing. When I was tempted to stop and think, I didn’t stare at that screen. Instead, I jumped over the clutter on my office floor, waded through the dirty clothes in the hallway, struggled into my bedroom, and fell on my knees at my unmade bed and prayed for my characters.

Please don’t blame God for some of the things my characters do. He’s divine, but they’re still human. And so am I. My characters became composites of many people and many experiences, some mentioned in the acknowledgment section of the book. One of my characters is a poet, so I asked Dr. Donn Taylor to write a poem for me the way my character would. I included a poem written by my son-in-law, the faith experience of my son David when he was six years old. I included the experience of a young boy who swam out of the baptistery after being baptized.

My office is upstairs where I can gaze out the window at the neighborhood and the mountains in the background. That’s a great way to leisurely pass the time without writing, but know everything going on in the neighborhood. But not having time to gaze, my eyes lit upon the dog next door, so I included my neighbor’s experience of her hurting dog jumping into her car.

Much of the “after” section of the book takes place in Nova Scotia. I researched writers groups there and eventually found Janet Burrell, who answered questions for me almost daily about places in Nova Scotia that would make my book realistic and authentic.

Fortunately, I was allowed two weeks to edit, change, rewrite the ending, and to whittle down 20,000 words. Another impossible task, but it’s amazing what one can do when one doesn’t have time to gaze out the window.

The book should be in bookstores by March 1, but in mid-February, Christian Writers Guild’s Writing for the Soul Conference (Denver, CO) had the copies in its bookstore. It’s also available through Amazon, Crossings, Rhapsody Book Clubs, and other places.

One of my heroines has been interviewed at http://www.margaretdaley.com/margarets-blog/. In April I’ll have a three-day signing in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, at the Titanic Museum. Anyone in that area, I’d love to see you.

Stay afloat!!



Hearts That Survive