Destiny Seeker: The Messenger took almost two decades of my life to publish. That means that a lot of my life experience has found its way into my writing. Today my post serves a few purposes: give you some personal background, share some interesting features about my debut novel, and hopefully get you excited to read it!
So without further ado, here are some things from my life that found their way into my debut novel.
My Mission Service
Some of you may or may not know, but I was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That means that I went to northern Germany for 18 months to talk about religion. While religion isn’t a major crux of this novel, the experiences that I had as a missionary definitely found their way in certain scenes and themes. For example, Ilsi finds herself trying to find allies and gets some important yeses but a lot of crushing no’s.
One of the hardest things about being a missionary was that I already knew that I was bothering or annoying people. I got a lot of “Keine Interesse” from about 99% of the people I approached. But something that Ilsi and I had to learn was that we’re not looking to please everyone—and no one is inherently bad for not liking us. In reality, we’re looking for our people—our friends, our tribe, our family. And we have to hang onto the people that truly care and say “Schön’ Tag noch” the rest.
I should also note that Mormon missionaries work in pairs. We live, travel, and work together. With that comes great friendships and common annoyances. A lot of the banter between Ilsi and Reshma are the kinds of things two young women might say to each other when they have a common goal and literally can’t do it without the other.
The Military Life/Moving
My dad served in the military up until I graduated from high school. That meant that for much of my life, I moved every three years. If you’re in college, you know what it’s like to put everything in a car and move to the next apartment. And Ilsi moves a lot within part one of Destiny Seeker. I’m just lucky that when I moved it was a different kind of scary, not Yildirims-are-on-my-tail sort of scary. Part of being a military brat means learning how to adjust as quickly as possible. I quickly learned how to make friends, know my way around, and continue life even though I felt like I was continually starting over. Ilsi experiences something similar in this novel in a more dizzying way. I know some people thought it was all pretty fast but that’s how it honestly felt for me.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m big into journaling. I think you can learn a lot about a person by reading the words they only dare to write down. I’ve kept a journal myself for at least 18 years. Just like many of you, I use writing to make sense of the world, my thoughts, and my feelings. Ilsi’s mother is an example of someone who wishes they could express themselves but can’t, so she writes. When Ilsi finds her mother’s journal, she’s able to learn about her mother and her own experiences. She adds to the journal and considers it one of her prized possessions.
Travis and I met back in high school; at that point, the seed of this novel was already planted in my heart. So Ilsi’s and Tyk’s relationship pays homage to the real friendship and romance that we share. I realized at a young age that I didn’t want a ton of guys to like me and I wasn’t necessarily attracted to their bodies. Can we be real? High schoolers don’t look like models, anyway! Travis and I connected because of our love for writing and things took off from there. Destiny Seeker purposefully shows off what a friendship-to-romance can look like even in a fantasy setting. For some, being best friends with your partner is a fantasy!
Living Away from Family
It’s tough being away from family, especially when you have a great relationship with them! I know it sucks that everyone is all over the map and being away from home means that things just aren’t as simple anymore. In Ilsi’s case, she lives for quite some time away from her father but also the rest of her clan. Everything she does is supposed to help her get back home and enjoy at least a part of that normalcy. I’ve lived away from my parents for at least a decade now—we’ll see how long it takes for Ilsi and me to finally be closer to our families.
The main goal to write Destiny Seeker was to break some tropes that I didn’t like as a younger reader. A lot of them had to do with the idea of “strong female characters.” There are lots of other blog posts that describe what a truly strong female character should be, so I won’t get into it here. I was just sick of characters that felt like they weren’t good at anything, didn’t like the way they looked, or they were clumsy. Like, it’s a great starting point for a teenage character, but that was all there was to read.
I wanted Ilsi to glean from some of the lessons I learned the hard way: only you can truly validate your worth, what is valued by others doesn’t have to be your end goal, and all bodies are beautiful. In earlier drafts, I fell prey to my own least favorite tropes, but as you’ll see in Ilsi’s journey, she has real struggles with her own worth and capabilities but they aren’t tied to her looks or whether or not the men in her life find her attractive. We’ve got some bigger fish to fry!
Also, the other female characters in the book get this same treatment. Many of you early readers will note that there are a lot of female characters. That is 100% intentional. The hope is that there’s a character that resonates with each of you and your worldview on the value of each person.
So that’s about it for this post! If you want to learn more about Destiny Seeker: The Messenger, you can check out my synopsis page or you can find it on Amazon! The best way to learn more is to read it.