Thank you so much for having me as your guest today, Janice! It’s been a pleasure to experience our writing journeys together, and it’s an added bonus that we get to experience motherhood together as well.
I’m a stay-at-home mom with three little ones all under the age of five. I’m already getting nostalgic knowing that my oldest is about to graduate from preschool, so I can’t imagine having a high school graduate. But I can relate to letting go of one of my babies—a book baby, anyway. I just published my fourth book, Shattered Heart. I’ve never felt more terrified to publish a novel.
I’ll back up a little. When I wrote the rough draft of this sweet and wholesome romance, I knew exactly what I wanted to happen in the plot. I knew what conflicts would arise in order for the characters to grow and change. I knew where the book would take place. Every book in this series is located in a fictional small town in Iowa (based the town off of the Village of East Davenport). I was so excited that the first draft was easy to write. That was a first for me!
However, when I started revising the novel I wanted to rip my hair out. The main characters, Amanda and Ethan, had conflicts to overcome, but their problems were too surface-level. At the beginning of the novel, Amanda Meyers’ dad is diagnosed with lung cancer. Her mom passed away when she was in high school and her dad’s diagnosis resurrects fears that she kept buried for a long time. As Amanda’s worries resurface, she takes it out on the charming and handsome oncologist, Ethan Contos.
My biggest hurdle in creating depth to Amanda and Ethan was my lack of experience in hospitals. Even though I write romantic fiction, I strive to create relatable, authentic characters with deep-rooted issues, like you and me. In other words, I couldn’t “feel” their inner turmoil.
Until real life happened.
Last August, I gave birth to my third child, Savannah Grace. After spending a few days in the NICU for what seemed like extra fluid in her lungs, Savannah was discharged from the hospital. But after several days of being home, I noticed that Savannah was having a hard time breathing, especially while nursing. So I took her in to our pediatrician thinking he would give me some advice on how to position her differently, so that she could breathe easier. But that’s not what happened. Before I had a chance to explain my concerns, the nurse checked her oxygen level and called an ambulance due to an alarmingly low oxygen level. We spent a week at our local hospital. Doctors and nurses tested her for everything they could think of—but she seemed fine, except that she couldn’t breathe on her own.
We were transferred to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. At this point, they started testing her for rarities. And that’s when they diagnosed Savannah with Congenital Lobar Emphysema. You have better a chance of getting struck by lightning than having this condition. The best way I can describe it is like this: you have a lobe in your lung that expands like a balloon and pushes into the other lobes of your lungs—and in Savannah’s case, her heart. Once she was diagnosed, doctors immediately performed surgery. Watching Savannah being wheeled away into the OR was one of the scariest moments of my life. My prayers were set on repeat, but I felt an overwhelming peace that she would be okay. And she was. She is. Her lungs aren’t normal yet, but they are growing with her body. As she grows, she should be able to do activities and sports like her older siblings. Thank God!
After Savannah’s hospitalization, it took awhile before I attempted to write the final draft of Shattered Heart. But when I did, I poured my fears and worries into Amanda’s character. When Amanda cleans her dad’s house because she wants to kill off any germs that are a potential threat to her dad … That was me. After we got home from the hospital, I cleaned my whole house until it shined. When Amanda calls her dad at the hospital in the middle of the night just to hear his voice … That was me. I would go into Savannah’s room in the middle of the night just to make sure she was still breathing. When Amanda has a panic attack at the hospital … That was me. I thought I would pass out when I brought Savannah in for her first check-up (post-hospitalization) at our pediatrician’s office.
Besides one scene, I didn’t put my experiences in the novel on purpose. I was just polishing a final draft. But when I reread the final copy, I had tears in my eyes. There I was, in Amanda’s deepest darkest fears. Amanda and Ethan’s love story would not be the same if I hadn’t added my experiences.
This is why my heart picks up speed when I think about releasing Shattered Heart into the world. But I’m ready to let it go. I’m ready for you to read it. I hope Amanda and Ethan’s love story touches your heart as much as it touched mine.
Amanda Meyers is a force to be reckoned with, especially when her beloved father is diagnosed with lung cancer. She’s all too familiar with the heartache of losing a parent. But this time, she refuses to watch her dad suffer from the debilitating side effects of toxic medications like her mom did.
As a successful oncologist, Ethan Contos is more than capable of fighting for the lives of his patients. But when he starts falling for Amanda, he finds himself fighting a battle between two desires—pursuing the feisty daughter of an ailing patient and moving back to Greece to make amends with his parents.
When Amanda’s dad urges Ethan to spend time with his daughter, Amanda and Ethan can no longer deny their chemistry. Between her dad’s deadly diagnosis, an ex-boyfriend who still cares about her, and Ethan’s impending move, Amanda can’t handle much more. Will her heart shatter to pieces, or can Amanda find a way to have her happily-ever-after?
Crystal Joy lives in Iowa with her husband and three growing children. She’s a stay-at-home mom with a heart for people. She loves getting to know them, writing about them, and inventing them. When she’s not hanging out with the hero and heroine in her latest book, she loves to dance awkwardly, watch reality TV, and visit real locations from her favorite books. You can learn more about Crystal Joy at her website www.crystaljoybooks.com.