Monday, August 26, 2013

Inspiration For (And From) Made to Last -- by guest Melissa Tagg

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


Melissa may be found at these locations:
Website/blog: www.melissatagg.com


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? 

37 comments:

  1. I loved that movie Christmas in Connecticut. I love most classic movies from that era. This will be a fun book to read. Thanks for sharing some insight into "Made to Last".

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    1. I love classic movies, too, Daphne. The only bad thing about my looove for classic rom-coms is that it makes me incredibly judgmental toward today's rom-coms. Haha!

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    2. Thanks for visiting Writing to Inspire, Daphne! I'm always glad to have new readers. I must agree with both you and Melissa. The classic romantic comedies are unbeatable with modern movies. They just don't make 'em like they used to!

      Blessings,
      Andrea

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    3. I totally love that movie, Melissa! Great inspiration for a book too!

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    4. Hey, Andrea! Hope you are well. I want to read your Frasier winning book too!!!! (We were at storycrafters together the year you won. . . remember?)! :)

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    5. Sorry, Sue, but I'm a different Andrea. I haven't yet been to Storycrafters or won the Frasier. Thanks for dropping by, though! Glad to have you here.

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    6. Sue! Hi! I think you're thinking of Andrea Nell. :) So many great Andreas in the world. :)

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  2. Andrea, Thanks for having Melissa as a guest today. I enjoyed this peek behind the scenes of her debut novel.

    Melissa, My first novel is still waiting for a home with a publisher. Meanwhile, I may be the most important one to read it. My heroine has to learn to trust as she risks her heart to find love again. Something I learned too.

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    1. Roxanne, I love how God brought new love into your life. I still remember that year at ACFW after you'd recently connected with Steve. You glowed. :)

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    2. You're welcome, Roxanne. Thank you for stopping by. Risking our hearts is often the most difficult challenge we face. Should we take the leap of faith and risk a broken heart? Especially once we know how much a broken heart aches... it can be quite painful, but it's worth it when God's got a great future lined up for you.

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  3. Andrea, I'm so glad I had a chance to stop by here today and get a glimpse of your blog. :) I look forward to stopping back again.

    Melissa, I loved this sneak peek into your story, and how God spoke to you. He just showed me a bit of something about my characters as I read your article here. Thanks for sharing a piece of your story and your journey!

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    1. Yay, I'm glad the post gave you some insight into your own characters, too, Jeanne. How fun!

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    2. Yippee! I'm always thrilled to have new visitors who say they're coming back soon. I'm glad you enjoyed Melissa's awesome guest article. Congratulations on learning new things about your characters. It's neat how God uses a wide variety of things and people to reveal new things to us (whether it's for our characters or ourselves). May He continue to shine wisdom into your life.

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  4. Thank Goodness!! I was afraid I was the only writer who struggled with the spiritual thread in their novel! And you're right, it's the best feeling when you discover it. Can't wait to read Made to Last!

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    1. Oh yeah, you're definitely not alone. I always feel like I know what the spiritual thread is going to be, but often what I think it is ISN'T what it is. :) And if I try to force it, I can tell...so it's almost better just to discover it right along with my characters...

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    2. Hi Patricia! Thanks for dropping by today. I'm dealing with that very thing for book two in the series I'm working on right now. I've got the female's main struggle, but the male... he's being difficult at the moment.

      Melissa, I know what you mean about being able to tell when you try to force it. If we writer's can tell, then our readers will definitely be able to tell! And we don't want that.

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  5. Yay, great post! And of course you know the answer to the question about identity (unfortunately) is YES! I definitely struggle off and on with being defined by my achievements, but I do know deep down that I am God's child...and that's simply enough.

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    1. Lindsay, you put a smile on my face with your comment. Sometimes it's very difficult to be still and soak in the fact that being God's child is enough. In the midst of the modern age when we can have basically anything we want (even quicker with online retailers and overnight shipping), it takes great effort at times to remain grounded in our faith and keep our eyes on the One who holds our future and joy in His hands.

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    2. Linz, I love that we have that twin struggle with achievement...I think it makes us good CPs and friends...we get each other. :) And even better, God gets us...and He's always so faithful to nudge us when we start putting too much stock in achievements or whatever. :)

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    1. Welcome, Teri! Like you, I am eager to read Made to Last. I have a feeling Melissa's humor is going to shine pretty brightly.

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    2. Thanks, Teri and Andrea. I definitely hope people find it fun and funny. :)

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  7. Melissa, thank you so much for guesting on my blog today! Glimpsing your struggle with the spiritual thread in Made to Last reminded me of just how vital prayer is to the success of everything we do in life. May our Lord abundantly bless you and the release of MTL.

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    1. And thank YOU for having me over here today, Andrea. It's been fun getting to know you online!

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    2. I could say the very same. ;)

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  8. Andrea, thank you for having Melissa over on your blog.

    What a marvellous post. Melissa, wonderful how you reveal a challenge we all grapple with. Fantastic that the Lord spoke to you about it during the writing of the novel. Amazing revelation.

    I read this great quote on the weekend from Tim Keller :"When work is your identity, if you are successful it goes to your head, if you are a failure it goes to your heart." I know I've spent many years bouncing between the two.

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    1. Wow, what a quote, Ian. Seriously, I feel like I need to copy it down...because it's a good one. I honestly think sometimes God must get so annoyed at me for the way I look to work or ambition or success or lack thereof to find worth or identity or purpose...and yet, it amazes me that time and again--especially through writing MTL--He just keeps reminding me of the truth. That if I really want to know who I am, then the best thing I can do is know who He is...that's where I'll find real identity and purpose. :)

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    2. Ian, it's a pleasure to play hostess today. :) Thanks for popping by with such wisdom. That quote by Tim Keller is perfect for today's topic, isn't it?

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  9. Getting here late in the day because, well, it's been one of those days.
    But I am so glad I took the time to read this post.
    I love Christmas in Connecticut. Great movie.
    But I love how the spiritual truth of Made to Last is so tied to your heart, Melissa.
    Isn't that just like God to teach us -- to change us -- even through the trials and travails of the imaginary characters were bossing around?

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    1. No worries, Beth! Happy I am to see your comment pop up right before I log out for the last time tonight. Tomorrow is a brand new day, and I'm sure it's got sunshine and laughter for you.

      Thanks for visiting Writing to Inspire. You are spot on with your thoughts. God has such a divine plan for each of us, and I've also found that, while I'm trying to get my characters to behave, God reveals to me the next crucial step to take to improve my character, lead me through an open door, overcome a failure, etc. I love the way He uses writing to teach me.

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    2. Yes, it's exactly like God, Beth. Funny thing is, he's doing the same thing right now with my second book. It hit me over the weekend once again...his timing with the stories he gives us, it's just huge and awesome. :)

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  10. Wow. I totally <3 this post! Want to comment so badly, but it would be a huge Spoiler in my book. So I'll tell you in person when I see you. :) -raj

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  11. Thread? There's supposed to be a thread? Hmmmmm. I'll have to remember that! LOL

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    1. Welcome, Jennie! There's always so much to learn about writing, isn't there? We know we're starting to "get it" when we realize the knowledge we've gained really isn't even the tip of the iceberg. :)

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    2. Jennie, your comment made me laugh out loud. :)

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