Just in time for spring! For book lovers, I can hardly think of a sweeter way to welcome this season of rebirth and renewal than with a novel all about love and the joy of second chances.
Today I’m so pleased to welcome fellow Whitworth alum Heidi McCahan and to shine the spotlight on her delightful new romance, Covering Home.
I like it when a story takes me to a place I’ve never been, and this one certainly did that—to Japan…to watch baseball, of all things. This unexpected combination is central to the story, as are the wily ways of two people who don’t want to admit they’re falling in love.
Read on to learn more, and be sure to leave a comment for your chance to win an e-copy of this winsome novel.
About this book: (from the publisher) On assignment in Japan, television personality turned sportscaster Britt Bowen is determined to land an interview with the most reclusive pitcher in baseball and prove she can succeed in a demanding profession. A relationship with a self-absorbed professional athlete is the last thing Britt needs. Shunning all media attention, former All-Star pitcher Caleb Scott is focused on rebuilding his career in Japan, far from his past and the horrible tragedy that nearly ruined him. Then he meets Britt, who is everything he vowed to avoid. But it doesn’t take long before Caleb is battling his attraction toward Britt. While she works to uncover his secrets, she can’t deny she’s drawn to his wounded soul. At a crossroads, Caleb must decide if he can break free from his past mistakes and give love another chance. And Britt must choose between advancing her career … or falling in love.
Heidi, thank you so much for being here today. Let me start by saying, you know your baseball! Oh my. How’d you get all those details right? One would imagine you were a pro.
Thank you very much. I enjoy watching the game of baseball and when I worked in college athletics I was permitted to sit in the dugout, which gave me a different angle than that of a spectator in the stands. There are certain nuances of the game that I still don’t quite grasp, having never played the game. In an effort to make sure the baseball scenes were portrayed accurately, I watched YouTube videos of professional pitchers pitching and quite a few games on television. I also hired a professional editor who happens to love the game. Finally, my pastor coaches baseball and his wife was a beta reader, so they were a tremendous help, too.
This novel had a totally different tone than your debut (Unraveled)—much breezier—and your touch seemed lighter somehow, more confident. Was this a deliberate choice as you wrote Covering Home, or did tone choose itself?
I’m glad you noticed that breezier tone, because it definitely chose itself from the minute Britt chased Caleb across the lobby of that hotel on page one. I feel nervous talking about it because it probably sounds odd, but I experienced this undercurrent of excitement—like an adrenaline rush—when I wrote the opening scenes. I just knew I was really going to love writing this story. I also received a lot of encouragement along the way. My critique partners offered positive feedback as well as constructive criticism. The first chapter also won the grand prize in a writing contest, which gives a writer a nice burst of motivation to keep going. Finally, I took on a long-term freelance fiction writing project last year and there’s something about receiving a steady paycheck that affirmed my abilities as a writer. All of those factors buoyed my confidence and contributed to the tone of Covering Home.
You did a terrific job balancing all the components of a novel—setting, characters, plot. I particularly liked the way you didn’t over-spiritualize, which I think can be a temptation for Christian authors. You wove in a faith element without letting it overshadow the story. What do you hope your readers take away from it?
For me, the faith element is difficult to weave in without sounding trite or formulaic. It’s definitely an aspect of the novel that comes together in the re-writing phase. On the other hand, I have to be careful that it feels organic, authentic to the characters I created.
Regarding takeaway messages, I’ve discovered that I really like to write about redemption. As I was preparing the novel for publication, the verse from Joel chapter 2 came to mind: “I will restore to you the years the locust has eaten…” In short, the Lord can redeem anything. He is truly a God of second chances.
The story’s flow, as well the growth of its characters and their relationships to each other—it all felt effortless, though of course I know it wasn’t. What was your greatest challenge in writing Covering Home?
Yes, I’ve been very upbeat and positive in answering these questions so far. Writing is a joy for me, but it’s also emotionally challenging and just plain hard work. I’m always a little undone when the manuscript comes back from the editor. In this instance, both my editor and a handful of beta readers felt the rough draft portrayed Britt as snarky and unlikable. Ack! That wasn’t what I was going for at all. Most of the conversations between Caleb and Britt had to be re-written so the reader felt compelled to root for them and not against them. I’m so glad I took the advice and did the hard work of re-writing. The novel is certainly better for it.
Your setting descriptions especially captivated me. Please tell me you’ve actually been to Japan—or I’m going to be very jealous of your research and imagination skills.
Yes, I’ve been there. Japan is a beautiful country with amazing people. I haven’t traveled internationally very much, but my visit there was unforgettable. When I was a student at Whitworth University, they offered a three-week trip to Japan for sports medicine students. We toured many shrines and temples, visited Hiroshima, a couple of colleges, attended a professional baseball game and spent weekends with a host families. Most of the details about Japan in the story come from my personal experience. The scenes that involved food and the unique aspects regarding baseball in Japan required quite a bit of internet research. I also followed a blog written by an American baseball player who played a couple of seasons in Japan. That was both fun and informative.
Voice, tone, pacing—these were all spot-on as part of a winsome romance. Why does this genre so capture your heart?
I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Voice is really something that you have to discover. The more one writes, the more it shines through. Pacing is something I didn’t understand until I wrote more than one complete book and had professional editors explain why certain scenes are sometimes not necessary to advance a plot. I’m still learning and I definitely try to learn from reading successful, multi-published authors.
I think this genre captures my heart because I love a happy ending. Inspirational romance by definition will ultimately point the reader toward the Lord, in my opinion. As a reader, it’s the characters’ journey that’s so enjoyable for me. It’s what keeps the pages turning. As a writer, I like the challenge of taking flawed yet lovable characters and throwing all kinds of obstacles between them and their happily ever after, then making them fight for what they believe in, testing their faith, etc. In the end, they are stronger (both emotionally and spiritually) than when they started and they are with the one they love.
What’s next up to bat?
I was just invited to collaborate with nine other inspirational romance authors on a virtual boxed set of digital novellas. I’m very excited and quite flattered to be included. Each story must take place near water: lake, ocean, river, etc. My story is called Love Flies In and is set in Emerald Cove, Alaska. It features a minor character from my first novel, Unraveled. More details to come very soon, as the June release date is coming up quickly. I’m also working on a sequel to Unraveled, with Jeremy Tully as the hero of the story and featuring a professional female snowboarder as the heroine. I’m targeting a late-fall release.
Thank you so much, Katherine. You ask the most delightful questions. It’s a joy to visit Story Matters.
Thank you, Heidi! A pleasure to have you here.
After words: Friends, did you grow up around baseball? I loved watching my brother play Little League and playing some version of it (usually softball) in the cul de sac where we lived. Later, one of my favorite summer activities when I came home from college summer was to watch an A’s game live with my dad, brother, and boyfriend. What are your baseball memories? Leave a comment (even if it’s just to say you’d like to enter the drawing) for your chance to win an e-copy of Covering Home.