Growing up in a tiny southern town with few diversions, I fell in love with books. Before I was old enough for school, Daddy took me to town every Saturday to buy Little Golden Books, and later, the Bobbsey Twins books, Treasure Island, Little Women, and the Mother Goose Book of Rhymes. While my brothers played softball, rode bikes, and pretended to be “army men” on secret missions, I curled up with a book. By third grade I was making up stories of my own, filling my school notebooks with tales of adventures on the Amazon, which we were studying that year, and with stories of tigers that could talk.
By the time I became a college student, paying for tuition as an editor at the university paper, I never wanted anything except a career as a writer. But it’s a precarious way to earn one’s living, so I became a teacher, a school principal, and a college professor before finally leaving my job to pursue writing. It was the scariest and biggest risk of my life. And the most exhilarating.
Taking to heart the advice to “write what you know,” I began by combining the things I knew and loved best—children and history. After five years of rejection, I sold my first historical novel for young readers to a legendary New York publishing house. For the next several years, I published a new historical novel every year—bringing to children stories of the Oregon Trail, the fall of the Alamo, the Great Plains drought, and the coming of the Civil War to the South.
As my audience grew up, I switched to modern-day settings and wrote novels for young adults. Remembering my own difficult teen years, I wanted to write books that offered hope to my young readers. I wrote about how it feels to have a mother more focused on her career than on her daughters. About how it feels when your mom gets cancer and the perfect life you’ve lived for so long begins to crumble. I wrote about what it’s like to be a high school freshman isolated, bullied, and tormented by the mean girls.
The constant thread running through my novels was hope. I wanted my readers to know that no matter how bad things get, a new day will come. Life will get better even as it is altered from what we might wish it to be.
Then the market for young adult novels changed. No longer were publishers interested in coming of age stories that were gentle in tone despite the tough circumstances my characters experienced. Instead they wanted “edgy” dystopian tales of life in a bleak landscape. Stories about teen prostitutes, drug abuse, alcoholism. Stories featuring vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Stories that I could not imagine handing to my young nieces, stories that I had no desire to write.
I chose hope. I left the world of secular publishing and moved to Thomas Nelson to write novels for adult readers. Novels told from a Christian worldview that allow me to weave together the historical and the personal in ways that lift readers up and remind us all of the promise of joy.
In Beauty for Ashes, the second in the Hickory Ridge series, my protagonist Carrie Daly has known plenty of grief and loss, but a newcomer to town sets her on a different path. One that reminds her of God’s grace, and of his promise to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
My hope is that these new books will bless the life of each and every reader as the writing of them has blessed mine.
Before returning to her writing roots in historical fiction, Dorothy published twelve novels for young adults. Her work has garnered numerous honors from the American Library Association, the Friends of American Writers, the International Reading Association, the New York Public Library, and many others. The Hickory Ridge Novels mark her Christian fiction debut with Beauty for Ashes.