Jodi Thomas was inducted into the Romance Writers Hall of Fame in 2006. She is a New York Times bestselling author, has won many awards and received hundreds of accolades. She is also one of the most charming writers I have ever had the privilege of meeting. Several years ago I had the opportunity to interview Jodi at an RWA conference and it was one of the highlights of the weekend.
For Jodi, writing was like an addiction. She began by writing on Sunday afternoons. Those weekly writing sessions quickly turned into an hour or two each night, and when her addiction took over she was writing every night, all night long. After four or five years of writing without selling any manuscripts, she decided to enter a contest. There were seven categories in the contest and a total of 100 people entered—Jodi entered all seven categories.
Arriving at the contest luncheon knowing not a single soul, she sat at the back table with the bus driver. As they began to announce the winners, Jodi said, “I just knew they were going to call my name so many times, they were going to say, Jodi, just stand up here at the podium, we’re giving you an award in every one of these categories.” But her name was never called. The book that would later win a RITA award didn’t even place in the contest.
Disappointed, and ready to quit, she left the luncheon and made a side trip to one of her favorite places, the cemetery. Apparently cemeteries cheer her up, knowing she’s better off than anyone there. Reading headstones and walking around in her favorite section where the Barfield family was buried, Jodi recalled,
“ …the Barfield’s don’t just write BELOVED MOTHER. They write whole paragraphs about all their people and everything they ever did. So I’m reading these paragraphs, and thinking that’s interesting. And I see this iron bowl of fruit. And I’m thinking those Barfields are crazy. They put an iron bowl of fruit on a concrete square in the middle of the cemetery. I go over and I sit down in the middle of square, and I’m thinking, I wasn’t meant to be a writer; I don’t know why I thought I could write. I could tell a story, but I can’t write. And I look down, and between my feet was the word “THROUGH” and I got down, and I crawled around that concrete square and I pulled out weeds till I could read all four squares. And there was one word on each side and it said: TRIUMPH. COMES. THROUGH. PERSERVEANCE. And that was the defining moment in my life. I stood up and I said, I’m going to write. I’m going to write til I die. I’m not going to die and say, well if I’d written one more book, I was going to hit big. It wasn’t even three months later when I sold my first book, and within 15 months I sold five more. I think you just have to reach a point where you do it. I think the secret of writing is not talent. I think the secret of writing is working at it.”
And thankfully, Jodi Thomas never quit. I’ve been reading her books for years and there isn’t one I haven’t loved, including her latest release Welcome to Harmony. Set in Texas with a cast of characters that are as multi-faceted as they are loveable, this is a story of caring and personal triumph.
Regan Truman is a courageous 16 year old foster kid, who’s been shuttled from one home to another and finally decides it’s time to find a place to set down roots. Through a series of circumstances she ends up in Harmony, Texas pretending to be the long lost niece of Jeremiah Truman, a crotchety old man who wouldn’t give you the time of day if he was the last person on earth who owned a watch. But Regan sees more than a lonely old man and unfamiliar surroundings—she sees her one chance to finally call someplace home and somebody family.
When prairie fires are mysteriously set and the town’s existence is threatened, Reagan’s dreams hang in the balance. Fire Chief Hank Matheson must discover who’s behind the arson working side by side with a woman he’s loved for years, Sheriff Alexandra McAllen. But, Alexandra’s got only two things in mind, solving the mystery and keeping Hank as far away from her heart as possible.
This story is as unsentimental as it is romantic and it will steal your heart. Welcome to Harmony is the first book in a trilogy and it captures the essence of the people who live there and the extent they will go to care for each other. Once again, Jodi Thomas has written a book that will go on my keeper shelf—it's pure Jodi—writing a story that comes alive in my mind. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, she paints pictures with words, and I for one could stare at her canvases all day long.
Jodi is one of my favorite authors; who’s yours?
P.S. I've heard Marisa has recently read 27 authors in one week and plans on telling you all about them on Monday. And of course, there's always a lively discussion featuring the latest releases at Romantic Reads.
Until next Thursday - lay off the chocolates.
Maria Lokken is an avid romance reader and an award winning television producer.