When I asked Melissa Tagg to write an article to guest on Writing to Inspire, I expected a glimpse of her humor. I've come to realize she's a witty woman. What I didn't expect--but totally got--was a peek at her spiritual journey with God. Each book a Christian author writes takes her relationship with God to a deeper level, while she hopes her words help her readers do the same. Today, we're honored to get a little look at the making of Melissa's debut novel, Made to Last.
What inspired Made to Last…and how Made to Last inspired me.
When Andrea invited me to write this guest post, she gave me a few topic suggestions, including the inspiration behind my debut novel, Made to Last.
Made to Last is about a DIY guru who’s out to save her homebuilding TV show—which means posing with a hilarious pretend husband. (Yeah, there’s a reason she’s in a fake marriage. Read the book and you’ll see. ;) ) And in the meantime, a somewhat desperate and nosy but awfully sweet reporter is digging into her secrets.
A lot of people hear that first part—about my main character being a homebuilding TV show host and ask me if I was inspired by that 90s TV show Home Improvement. Dude, remember Jonathan Taylor Thomas? I won’t name names, but I know some girls who looooved him.
But no, JTT, Tim Allen and their fellow cast members did not inspire Made to Last.
Instead, my story idea was sparked by the classic holiday movie Christmas in Connecticut. It’s such a fun movie starring Barbara Stanwyck—all about a magazine writer who has lied about being the perfect housewife. When her boss and a returning war hero make sudden plans to spend Christmas with her, she has to come up with a pretend husband, pretend house, pretend kid, pretend domesticity, all of it.
So yes…my story was inspired by a movie.
Which doesn’t make me as a Christian author sound all that deep and poignant. After all, wouldn’t it have been better if I’d been inspired by a Bible passage or a message from God? Sheesh, it took me like half the book before I even realized what the spiritual thread in this story even was…
But the evening when I did, when this story’s underlying spiritual theme finally became clear to me, it ended up being one of my coolest moments as a writer.
I was working on a scene about halfway through the book and my hero and heroine were having it out. One character’s lies had finally caught up to her and the other character demanded an explanation. And I realized as I wrote, this character’s lies weren’t just about saving her career….
But saving her identity. Because to her, without her career success, she didn’t know who she was or where to find her worth or purpose in the world.
And the truth in that moment of heady realization felt like a whisper from God: Melissa, she’s you.
Which is funny, really, because I can barely put up a tent much less build a house and should probably never be trusted around power tools.
But seriously, she’s me. Me. The person constantly tempted to define herself by her achievements or lack thereof. Her performance or success. Who hates the thought of whatever little talent she might have being stripped away. Who finds it just waaay too easy to tie who she is to what she does.
But as I kept writing that night—and really, from then on in the story—the reminders were everywhere. Reminders that who my character is, who I am, is not so much about the things I do or don’t do—but about who I belong to. And just like my character, that need to hold onto accomplishments or career success or relationships as definers of my identity diminishes when I’m confident of the simple truth that I’m created and cherished by a loving God.
So yes, Made to Last was inspired by a movie. But the story and I, we found new inspiration along the way.
Melissa Tagg is a former newspaper reporter and total Iowa girl. Her first novel, Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, Melissa is also the marketing/events coordinator for My BookTherapy. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at www.melissatagg.com.
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If you’re a writer, has your character’s spiritual or emotional journey ever become your own? And both writers and readers, are you ever tempted to find your identity in what you do?