I’ll admit that writing about churches is tough. So many of us have preconceived notions about what it’s like to be a clergy person in any denomination or religion. We forget to view ministers/priests/rabbis and all other people serving religious communities as human beings, flawed and struggling. I think that’s why when clergy falls from the pedestal, as we see far too often and publicly, we are shocked and disheartened. So exposing that basic humanity can be tricky for an author.
As the wife of a minister for many years I’ve seen the best and worst of my husband’s colleagues and friends. I know them for the people they are. I had fun with this in my Ministry is Murder novels. And I’ve tackled ministers as “heroes” in two novels, one, Dragonslayer, which won the Romance Writers of America RITA, and another, Endless Chain, the second novel of my Shenandoah Album series. While critically acclaimed and meaningful to many of my readers, neither novel was among my bestsellers.
Knowing this, I still chose to write about Analiese Wagner, the minister of the Church of the Covenant in Asheville, North Carolina and home of the Goddesses Anonymous. That series began four years ago, and this is the fourth novel. Many readers have asked for Analiese’s story because she’s been a consistent character and wise woman in each of the preceding books.
But Analiese, like every real minister, must have her challenges. I considered all the possibilities. Battles between churches and their clergy are all too common. Personal struggles are, too. 1700 ministers leave ministry each month citing, among other problems, exhaustion, depression and negative impact on family. This is never an easy job, and I didn’t believe it would be easy for Analiese, either.
In the end I knew that Analiese must struggle here with both her congregation and herself. And she does.
I’ve never been as happy with a title as I am with this one. I think you’ll see why.