|If Tomorrow Never Comes|
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Childhood sweethearts Kinna and Jimmy had dreams---marriage, children, a house by the sea. What they didn't foresee was infertility. When Kinna rescues an elderly woman, threads of past, present, and future weave into one final chance to follow not their plan---but God's! Can they embrace the power of love before it's too late? 352 pages, softcover from Multnomah.
| Marlo Schlesky is the award winning author of six books. She had over 600 articles published in over 100 different Christian magazines including Decision, Focus on the Family, Today's Christian Woman, Discipleship Journal, and Moody Magazine. She is a graduate from Stanford University, a regular columnist for Power for Living, and just graduated with her Masters degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. She and her husband currently reside in central California and have four young daughters.
Favorite Verse: I Corinthians 2:9 (NIV) "No eye has seen,no ear has heard,no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him."
Visit Marlo Schalesky in our Writers Corner
How did you come up with the concept for If Tomorrow Never Comes?
If Tomorrow Never Comes began with a single image that popped powerfully into my mind – an old man, walking along a foggy beach at dawn, bending to pick up an old locket from the sand. The rest of the story grew from there. The funny thing is, when you read the book, you’ll find that Kinna finds the locket, not an old man. But originally the image of the locket in the sand was so intriguing to me that I kept thinking about it until a story began to develop.
How closely is If Tomorrow Never Comes based on your personal experience?
In If Tomorrow Never Comes, the main characters are struggling with the fall-out from infertility. I’ve spent most of my adult life – 15 years – dealing with infertility and miscarriage. I’ve had some successes along the way, and whole lot of failure, disappointment and pain.
So, as far as plot-line goes - what happens to the characters and how they’re changed and challenged through the book - that is uniquely Kinna & Jimmy’s story. But the emotions, the fears, the questions they face are things I drew from my own experience.
The longing for a baby that seems like it will never be fulfilled. I’ve been there. Month after month of trying and failing. Turning into year after year. I’ve been there. Frustration. Doubt. Wondering how God could possibly love me in the midst of this. Been there. Having to pry my white-knuckled fingers off my own hopes and dreams. Been there. Choosing to love anyway. Choosing to believe anyway. Choosing to trust God anyway. Been there.
It seems that just about every deep and meaningful thing I’ve learned about God, I can point to my journey through infertility and say, “Yeah, infertility taught me that.” It taught me that I’m not the god of my life. God is. It taught me there are things I cannot control, cannot achieve, no matter how hard I try. And sometimes we must choose to live the life God has given us, with love and hope, even when it’s not the life we dreamed.
Because infertility taught me that God calls us not to the pursuit of our dreams, but to love. “Love one another,” Jesus says. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” God taught me that through the journey of my own infertility. My hope is that If Tomorrow Never Comes will reveal the same truths to others as well.
How long did If Tomorrow Never Comes take you to complete?
About a year. I went through four rounds of infertility treatments, and four subsequent miscarriages (ugh!) while writing If Tomorrow Never Comes, so it took me longer to write than is usual for me.
What is the symbolism for the title If Tomorrow Never Comes?
The idea behind the title is that the choices and decisions we make today dramatically impact our future, our “tomorrows,” and not only ours but the tomorrows of others as well. Choosing to love, choosing to do right despite pain, disappointment, and sorrow, allows tomorrow to come. But choices made out of desperation, fear, and clinging to our own desires can cut off the future God wants for us.
We don’t know, we can’t see, what tomorrow holds. So all we can do is do what’s right now, love now, trust now. Because God sees the whole of our lives and weaves all things together, even those hard and painful things, in a way that will make a beautiful masterpiece in the Kingdom of God.
So, really, the title means that if we choose love today, if we choose sacrificial love, God will hold our tomorrows in His hand. That’s what’s at the heart of If Tomorrow Never Comes . . .the choice to love, the choice to believe, the choice to let go of our dreams in order to embrace His. To do it today, for the sake of all our tomorrows.
Do you have a favorite character in If Tomorrow Never Comes? Why?
My favorite is Thea (her name is short for Alethia, the Greek word for Truth), who is the old woman whom Kinna rescues from drowning in chapter one. Throughout the story, all the reader knows is that Thea is there for a reason – she has a purpose in Kinna & Jimmy’s lives. With wry humor and odd confrontations, she steers Jimmy & Kinna toward reconciliation and one another. She helps them to remember their past love story.
What I like best about her is her humor mixed with mystery. She’s just fun. She thinks she’s in a dream, and doesn’t want to become some crazy old lady with a houseful of cats. But despite her doubts, she chooses to care about Jimmy and Kinna and help them, no matter what. She chooses right, and as it turns out, that makes all the difference, for them, and for her too.
How much research did the If Tomorrow Never Comes take?
If Tomorrow Never Comes required less research than all my previous books, mostly because I’ve lived the main issues for so long. I’ve even published a previous nonfiction book on the subject of infertility, so most of my research occurred in the smaller issues of the book, like construction equipment, nurse’s schedules, blood types, and Pacific Grove beaches (yay!).
How did you choose the story line?
Well, the story line I chose isn’t the one you’ll read in the book. The story line you’ll read is the one the characters insisted on. Mostly it was Kinna’s fault – she simply wouldn’t do what I’d outlined for her to do! In fact, I rewrote the first third of the book a dozen times trying to convince her to act the way I wanted. But she wouldn’t cooperate. Just like in the story, she had her own plans! So finally I gave up and allowed the story to change and flow as the characters dictated. Needless to say, that worked out a lot better. So, I invite the reader to experience the story of If Tomorrow Never Comes much as I experienced it – page by page, scene by scene, being surprised and delighted by each turn of events.
What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing If Tomorrow Never Comes?
I needed to research rare blood types for If Tomorrow Never Comes. I was surprised to find out that there are other types besides the regular A, B, and O combinations. There are even blood types that are particular to certain small tribes and races. For this story, the blood type “Lan Negative” fit the needs of the story. Before writing this story, I didn’t even know Lan Negative existed.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
My biggest challenge is finding the time and energy to focus on writing the story God has for me to write. With four small children, a business to run, church ministries and other responsibilities, getting that quiet, focused time is a challenge.
And then, of course, there’s the doubt. Every time I start a new book, I find myself muttering “What was I thinking?!!? I can’t write this book! Why did I ever think I could do this?” By the end, though, I see God working and how He’s been faithful in the writing of the story He’s given me to write. So, right now I’m in the early stages of a new book, and of course all those doubts are raging. So, I have to remind myself that this always happens. I just need to push through, do my best, and the story will come.
For both challenges, my best solution is to remember that God knows my situation and will give me what I need to do what He wants me to do. He’s not asking me to work miracles, just to be faithful – just to do my best every day to follow Him and be who He wants me to be. The rest will come.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
What I love best about writing novels is partnering with God in the creative process. Sometimes it feels like I’m listening in on his musings. And I’m finding that there’s a moment in every book when I see something, when I write something, that I did not plan, did not expect, and didn’t realize the story had been leading up to. That’s when I feel the touch of God, I sense His pleasure, and it’s like getting a glimpse of heaven. I love those moments . . . those flashes when I know that this is what God has been doing, and the story impacts my heart and life in some new and wondrous way.
Of course, don’t ask me about those other times – when I’m staring at the blank screen, the clock is ticking, and I can’t think of a single thing to write that doesn’t sound like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. There are plenty of those times too.
But I gotta say, those moments when I glimpse God’s vision for a story are worth all the others when I don’t.
(P.S. My second favorite thing is hearing from readers who say a book opened their eyes to the wonder of God, or helped them see Him more clearly, or made a difference in their lives in some way. I love that too!)
What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?
I’m a part of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), and also ChiLibris (a group of multi-published Christian fiction authors).
What do you do to keep your writing fresh and improve on it each time you write a book?
I like to try something new and challenging in each book. In my last novel, Beyond the Night, I tried a type of “envelope” story – a story that’s grounded in the present, but also tells the couple’s love story from years before. It was fun, fresh, and challenging to weave the stories together in a smooth and intriguing way.
In If Tomorrow Never Comes, I use some of that technique to share Jimmy and Kinna’s story of falling in love as children, but I’ve also included short first-person scenes from Thea’s point of view. Weaving in mystery and humor in Thea’s voice was a lot of fun, but also a challenge to do smoothly and in a way that would enrich the story and not be jarring. I like how it turned out!
In my next novel, Shades of Morning, I’m trying short scenes told from the perspective of a boy with Downs Syndrome. As with my previous books, this new element is turning out to be challenging, but my favorite part as well. I hope my readers will enjoy it as much as I am!
Are there any other new projects on the horizon?
Yes! My third “love story with a twist,” currently titled Shades of Morning, is due out in early 2010. I’m in the midst of writing it now and am enjoying the characters and plot. For those who read If Tomorrow Never Comes, watch for Marnie, the quirky owner of the coffeeshop and bookstore, who will be the main character in Shades of Morning.
Marnie has her life just where she wants it. At least that’s what she tells herself – her past is hidden, her regrets locked tightly in a box on her shelf, and her bookstore and coffeeshop business is booming. No one knows what she’s done, who she’s been. That is, until the man she once loved finds her again and brings startling news – she’s now the guardian of her 15-year-old nephew, a boy she never knew existed. And to make matters worse, when the boy arrives, she discovers he has Downs Syndrome. The past collides with the present, the box of regrets is exposed, and Marnie’s world shattered and rebuilt through the love of one special boy who makes all things new.
Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?
My husband, Bryan, has been wonderful with support and encouragement. He’s my first reader for everything I write, helps me develop ideas, watches the kids regularly to give me writing time, and continues to believe that God has asked me to do this writing thing, even when everything doesn’t go as I hope.
Other than that, Ken Petersen (who used to be at Tyndale and is now at Waterbrook-Multnomah) was the first editor to believe in me and my work. My agent, Steve Laube, has been a great source of encouragement and support as well.
And then, of course, there are my writing friends, like Tricia Goyer and Cindy Martinusen, who have been with me (and me with them) through the long process of trying to get published, hoping, dreaming, etc. Back before any of us were published, we used to read each other’s manuscripts and give encouragement, critique, and advice.
What message would you like your readers to take away from If Tomorrow Never Comes?
Our culture tells us that we can do anything we set our minds to, we can accomplish any dream . . . and we should. “Reach for your dreams,” we say, as if that is the highest goal of humankind. Success posters (and platitudes) abound.
But 15 years of infertility and miscarriage have taught me that we are not the gods of our lives. There are things we cannot control, no matter how hard we try.
Perhaps that is why God calls us not to the pursuit of our dreams, but to love. “Love one another,” Jesus exhorts in John 13:34-35, and also gives, as the second greatest commandment, the exhortation to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18, and all 3 Synoptics)
So, in our Grasp-Your-Dreams culture, I hope this book will stand against the tide, calling people instead to the way of love – to the way of laying down their lives for others instead of clutching their own dreams and plans.
I hope readers will be inspired to fight for their marriages with sacrificial love, and will be challenged to look to the future for the rewards of loving sacrificially, and to the past to remember the seeds of real love.
What do you do to get away from it all?
Ha! What a question! With four expressive little girls (from those few infertility treatment successes!), life around here is VERY noisy, very busy, and very crazy! But I’m finding that God is available in the crazy times as well as the quiet ones. He knows my circumstances, and he can meet me here, in the ins-and-outs of everyday life. So, I’m learning to connect with Him not only in set-aside times of Bible study, prayer, and reflection, but also through the happenings of life. One of my little girls falls down, gets an owie, and comes running to Mommy to kiss it and make it better. And I am reminded that when I fall down, I too can come running to God to heal and comfort me. So, I am discovering that God wants to connect with me not only in special set-aside times, but in all times – crazy times and quiet times, confusing times and clear times, play times and do-another-load-of-laundry times.
Still, there are times when I really need to get away, and the best place for me to do that is a quick trip to Starbucks with my laptop. A decaf venti white mocha (nonfat milk, no whip), a little table against the wall, maybe an apple fritter (don’t count the calories!) every so often . . . Ah, heaven!
What is your greatest achievement?
Well, I thought about my degree in Chemistry and my Masters in Theology (which I finished not too long ago). I thought about books published, articles written, ministries I’ve been involved in. But what I find I’m really most happy about is finding a wonderful, godly husband and, finally (after all those years of infertility), having four sweet little girls and a little boy on the way (surprise! And at my age – our only non-infertility treatment baby). For most people, I don’t suppose getting pregnant and having a baby is an accomplishment, but for me, with difficult infertility treatments and multiple trips to the doctor’s office for unpleasant procedures, it’s something close to a miracle. So, are children an achievement? Not really, so I’ve cheated a bit on this question, but when I think of my life and what it’s about, I think of my husband and kids and find I’m so glad for them and thankful (at least on most days ƒº).
What is your goal or mission as a writer?
I hope to make God’s love in the midst of trials and tragedies evident and unmistakable. I dream of opening readers’ eyes to the wonder and mystery of our incredible, vivid God. And I hope the vision of Him will take their breath away.