Welcome to Chapel Cove, Oregon, where life begins at forty.
What she most needed was right there in front of her all along.
At the age of thirteen, Clarise Aylward and her two best friends each pen a wish list of things they want to achieve. Deciding to bury a tin containing their life goals, the friends vow to unearth the metal box once they’ve all turned forty. But as the decades pass and each girl chases her dreams, the lists are forgotten.
Heath Brock has been in love with Clarise for over twenty-seven years and counting. As a young man, he’d plucked up the courage to ask her out on a Valentine’s date, but the couple succumbed to pent-up passions, sending Clarise dashing for the other side of the country.
Years after Clarise’s sudden departure, Heath serves as youth pastor. He’d held out hope of Clarise’s return, but buries his feelings for his childhood sweetheart when he learns she’s married.
Almost penniless, divorced, and with nowhere to go, Clarise returns home to Chapel Cove, her future uncertain. She’s approaching forty with her dreams in tatters. When old feelings resurface, Clarise wonders whether she’s ever really fallen out of love with Heath.
What’s the man of God to do when his old flame returns, seemingly to stay?
With Clarise back in town, Heath is determined not to repeat past mistakes, but if he has anything to say about it, never again will he lose the only woman he’s ever loved.
Hello and Thank You, Marion, for joining us today for coffee! It comes as no surprise to our readers what a fan I am of your writing, so this is indeed a treat for me! I am so excited about this new series – Chapel Cove Romances that you are collaborating on with Alexa Verde and Autumn Macarthur.
MU: Thanks for having me, Paula. It’s great to be sitting down with you over a cup of brew again. Believe me, Autumn, Alexa, and myself are just as excited about Chapel Cove.
PM: Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired you to write a series where ‘life begins at forty’?
MU: Paula, it all started with a post I did on our readers’ group, TAaaB (Three Authors and a Blogger), on October 8th, 2018. I was giving everyone an update about a sixty-something set I was in, and my book, A Time to Push Daisies. In that post I asked the question: Do you think there’s a gap in the market for stories with older couples?It was Robin Widner Moore’s response—“I would love the same thing for 40s- 50s. I think there is a gap for anyone over 40”—that got Autumn, Alexa, and me thinking. By the end of that day we were sold on the idea of a new trilogy of three friends, nearing the big four oh.
Around the same time, the question was asked on Avid Readers of Christian Fiction: What is a topic you wish you saw more in CF books? Mature adults (40’s/50’s) was something mentioned that stood out to us, and we realized there was a gap in the market for books of this kind.
But we already had our schedules planned for the next two years with two other series we wanted to collaborate on. However, the more we chatted and brainstormed about a forty-something series, the more the idea and the characters grew on us. Very soon, we all felt that THIS was the series God wanted us to write next. Soon we’d pushed the other series back and planned Chapel Cove for September this year. But still Reese, Kristina, and Nai called to us, demanding their stories were the next we told, and so by October 13th (5 days after the idea was sparked), we were all in agreement that Chapel Cove would happen in March 2019. We’d initially thought just three books, but it didn’t take much to realize we were creating a storyworld that shouldn’t be wasted on only three stories. And so, we settled on nine books in the series (three each). That soon changed to twelve (four each). Who knows once we’ve written those twelve books whether more characters will emerge demanding their stories be told?
Here’s a little sneak peek at our storyworld, Chapel Cove. It’ll be an evolving town/map as more stories are told.
PM: That is so wonderful to hear! I love that you not only listen to the readers wishes, but of course, follow God’s leading in all of it!
In Remember Me, Reese goes about reinventing herself a few times, but the hardest to me must be after her return to Chapel Cove divorced, and basically penniless. I must tell you, this is an experience I have actually lived through – only younger than Reese was, and as a single parent – not an easy transition under any circumstances. You captured Reese’s struggles beautifully, I hate admit, but I have been in that very ‘same’ pawn shop myself. I’m not sure I want to ask how you were able to get such insight to this particular struggle……?
MU: So sorry you’ve been there, Paula. Thankfully, I’ve never been in that situation before. My sister did have a troublesome first marriage, so I did witness her struggles since I was about ten (she’s a decade older than me), even though she tried for thirty years to hide so much from the family. Movies probably…although none in particular… But I’m sure there were those that subconsciously helped me visualize the scenes. However, I do believe that my insight came from God, that He helped me get into the mind and heart of the woman scorned, the one who lost everything—like Reese.
PM: I am thankful that you have never had that struggle yourself, Marion, and my prayers to your sister!
I love second chance at love stories, especially when one party has remained head over heels in love with the other….no matter how much time has passed. This makes me swoon, lol! In your own opinion, why do you think so many people love the second chance at love – with the same person – stories?
MU: Good question, Paula. I think maybe because it’s great to see people FINALLY getting it right. For me anyway, that’s why I love the trope.
PM: I love the idea of the girls having a ‘bucket’ list for when they reach the ripe old age of forty, lol. I remember having a few things I had hoped to accomplish later in life, but never made an actual list. Is that something you ever did – at any age?
MU: Not that I can recall. I did want to marry my younger brother when I was a little girl. That was before I learned it wasn’t the done thing and long before the days of my landing my fist through his bedroom door. Thankfully I discovered there were many, many interesting boys out there LOL. Much as I love them, I definitely wouldn’t want to marry any of my brothers.
PM: I am so curious as to how the three of you authors work out the dynamics when crossing over your characters, you all did it – and with even more authors- in A Tuscan Legacy and I can imagine it might be hard to get into the other author’s mindset when writing one of their character’s into your own story. Can you give us any inside scope on that?
MU: We do a lot of brainstorming before writing, so we do get a good feel for each others’ characters initially. Then we just write and send the scenes back and forth to each other to check if we’ve gotten the other authors’ characters right. It’s all quite an interesting undertaking. The biggest challenge though is keeping the timeline accurate.
PM: I completely connected with Clarise wanting to go by a new name – Reese, and sort of re-invent herself. Goodness knows I have certainly gone through that phase as well, hahaha – I never liked my name, lol. What gave you the idea to have Clarise be teased by the movie Silence of the Lambs? I’ll be honest, I have never seen the movie, but do recall the promotions with him saying that line very well…so it worked perfectly for me!
MU: LOL, to be honest, Paula, I’ve never been crazy on my name either. I mean, really, it means bitter??? But I have learned to live with it…my mom and dad must’ve liked it when they chose it, so I figured I could too. Plus, I don’t really know many Marions…two or three, that’s all.
When I chose the name Clarise, the first thing I thought of was that line in the movie (yes, I did see it), and I could just imagine this teen boy teasing poor Reese. I only just made it to using the film reference as the movie was released merely months before Clarise’s birthday. I first had the scene written with the girls surmising Heath’s brother had hired the movie.
Then we realised the movie wouldn’t have been released yet on DVD, so I had to rework the scene.
Oh, and remember I said Reese was very insistent on many things? Her name was one of those things. She insisted it was Clarise with one S and Reese with an S, not a C. She drove me, Alexa, and Autumn crazy, LOL.
PM: I just loved meeting Clarise and her friends in Remember Me as teens, they are all three so different and yet band together so well! I have to ask – do you still have friendships today with your own girlfriends as a teen?
MU: Life has taken me far away from where I grew up—even overseas to Ireland for a while—so sadly I lost touch with my childhood friends. Thanks to Facebook though, I have reestablished contact with many of those old school friends, and it’s great to keep abreast with what is happening in their lives.
I do have two friends I’d like to single out though. I made friends with Cathy at my first job almost 40 years ago. She lives in Swizerland. We don’t keep in contact much, but when our paths do cross, it’s like no time has passed since we last saw each other, even though it would’ve been years. In 2017, when she heard we would be holidaying in Italy, she and her hubby drove six hours from Zurich to Cinque Terre on the Italian coast and we enjoyed two nights and a wonderful day together. Here’s a photo of us on that holiday (she bought me the hat and it’s my favorite).
Then there is Sandy. We met through work around 2008—part of my job was planning corporate events, and she worked for a travel agency. She assisted me in finding suitable venues. Several years ago, she moved to the UK, but always comes to stay with me if she visits South Africa. And when we went to England in 2017, we made sure to visit her for a night. We’re not in contact much either (she’s not fond of social media), but we know we’re always there for each other.
Both Cathy and Sandy have fascinating lives, and I could certainly base some great books on them. Maybe one day I will.
And then I can’t not mention my Irish sister, Libby. She adopted herself into our family when I was a teen. Fresh off the boat from Ireland, she and her hubby lived in our small South African town for a few years. At that time she was friends with my oldest brother, but over the past two decades, Libby and I have become very close friends and “sisters”. This was us wandering the streets of Robin Hood’s Bay (A Hero for Heather and A Husband for Holly storyworld).
PM: You did an outstanding job portraying Heath – I absolutely adored him from day one. I especially enjoyed the way he comes off as a total beach bum, still living in the RV he did as a teenager! You really made him earn his way back into Reese’s heart, lol…..but of course that is half the fun! What I found so interesting is how you had Reese being closer to God growing up, and being pulled away from Him in adulthood, and just the opposite for Heath. What do you think would have happened if Reese and Heath were on the same “page” as teenagers, do you feel like they would have been able to make their relationship with God and each other work at that tender age, or did they truly need the years apart from one another to be at the right place and time down the road?
MU: My gut feeling is that Reese and Heath needed those two decades apart to allow God to work in each of their lives. I’m not sure that Heath would’ve changed as dramatically for God (if at all) had they gone from high school to married couple. He needed that heartache, from the loss of both Reese and his father, to get him to the place of realizing he needed God in his life. And he needed those kids to channel his energy into. It gave him a sense of purpose. And Reese…well, she would never have felt fulfilled if she hadn’t chased her ultimate dream. But when that was all stripped away from her, God was able to mold her into the vessel he’d always designed her to be.
PM: I completely agree with you on that, it’s just so hard to live through those struggles, but God knows the plans He has for us!
Reese’s parents are absolutely adorable, but tell me, how hard was it for you to make them practice the tough love with their only daughter? I’m not sure how most parents would handle that, lol, in my big Italian family the momma’s are only too happy to have their young one’s back home so they can coddle them, lol!
MU: Paula, it was pretty tough writing them that way, and it was hard for them to take that stance. But they knew their daughter, knew what she was capable of achieving, and what they’d seen for nearly two months wasn’t it. They had little doubt that taking a lesson from the birds and kicking their little chick out of the nest, she would learn to fly high once again.
And they were wise enough to realize that the alternative of leaving her to continue wallowing in her misery, would be to Reese’s detriment. So they were willing to take a chance on tough love. Of course, whether they actually would have kicked their daughter out onto the streets had she not pulled her life together in the time they’d given her…well, thankfully neither us nor them needed to find out.
PM: Yes, you certainly got them off the hook, lol! Last question – are we going to get to see Reese and Heath’s love story progress as we get more installments in the series? Inquiring minds need to know, lol!
MU: Reese and Heath will definitely pop up in all the rest of my three planned Chapel Cove stories, so yes, readers will get to enjoy snippets of their lives.
Marion is being so incredibly generous as to offer not just one but FIVE ebook versions!! Please comment on this post and tell us what your “dream career” was growing up is to enter! This contest will run for one week from today and winners will be notified via email!