My debut novel, Wings of a Dream, released this past September. After the excitement over that book died down, people began asking about my upcoming book, which releases this September. When the question arises, I usually hesitate for a moment, trying to quiet the flip-flop of my stomach.
“It’s about a girl who is passionate about missions and auto racing—in 1916.”
Blank stares. Or confused ones.
It’s obviously not the missions part that throws people. It’s the auto racing. The first question I usually hear is, “They raced cars back then?”
“They sure did,” I reply. “And at speeds near 100 mph.”
Eyebrows usually shoot sky high about now.
How in the world, you might ask, did such a story come into being? To be honest, I’m not really sure! While doing some general research in the time period of 1910-1920, I ran across an article about an obscure race in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s illustrious 100 year history. The Harvest Classic was run in September of 1916 in an effort to generate income in case the U.S. entered the war in Europe. If this happened (which it did), they assumed auto racing would shut down for the war effort (which it did). That wacky imagination I’ve been gifted with started to churn. But to use this footnote in history as even a piece of a story, it would require a heroine with unusual interests. Someone spunky and fearless. But I wanted her to be more than a woman in search of adventure. I wanted those characteristics to be true of her faith, as well.
More research ensued, digging around for information about other race tracks and about missions efforts in 1916. The story still swam in my head in a vague, cloudy way. I couldn’t quite grasp it. One day, while accompanying my husband on a business trip to Chicago, I sat browsing through newspapers from the era. All of a sudden, a young woman stared back at me from a grainy photo. She wasn’t shy of the camera. Her wide smile spoke of her generally sunny outlook on life. And something in her eyes convinced me that she sought out excitement. I knew she was the girl for my story.
Alyce Benson became a real person to me that day. Of course I’ve infused her with some characteristics of other people I know, but that day in Chicago, she and her story took on a life of their own, dragging me along for the ride of my life.
Intrigued yet? Here is the back cover copy for At Every Turn:
Caught up in a whirlwind of religious fervor when two missionaries speak at her church, Alyce Benson impetuously pledges three thousand dollars to mission work in Africa. She’s certain her wealthy father will simply hand her the money. But when he refuses, she must either stand up in front of the congregation and admit failure, or raise the money herself.
Alyce harbors a secret passion for speed and automobiles. It’s 1916, and the latest advancements in car engines allow some to post speeds upwards of seventy miles per hour! When she discovers her father’s company has sponsored a racing car that will compete in several upcoming events–races in which the driver will be paid and could win as much as five thousand dollars in prize money–she conspires with her father’s mechanic, Webster, to secretly train and compete.
But as Alyce comes across needs in her own community, money slips through her fingers faster than she can earn it. And when her friends cast aspersions on Webster’s past, she believes she might have trusted the wrong man with her secret. Will Alyce come up with the money in time, or will she have to choose between her promise and the man who holds a piece of her heart?
If you’d like to be one of the first to read Alyce’s story, leave a comment for a chance to win an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of At Every Turn.