What inspired you to write What Matters Most?
I’ve been carrying around this story idea for a very long time, and I was thrilled to finally get to write it. I think the moment I started thinking of the characters and scenario I’d already created living in Nantucket, the whole thing finally came together for me. It was like the missing piece the story needed.
Emma, the protagonist of What Matters Most, is a young widow. How was writing her story different from writing your previous main characters?
I tend to give all my main characters deep wounds in their backstory. However, Emma’s was especially emotional, but the approach I took to writing her was the same as always, which is pretty in-depth. Character creation is truly my favorite part of writing, so I take great care at that stage and just fall in love with my heroes and heroines!
The main characters in this novel are keeping secrets about their pasts— is it challenging as a writer to gradually reveal these things within the story? If so, in what ways?
I think it’s important to a story to have secrets that are gradually revealed because that keeps the reader wanting to turn the pages. I DO think knowing when to reveal these secrets is the challenging thing, simply because there are so many different ways to do that. You want to make sure it makes sense to the story and you don’t want to drag it out too long or it will frustrate your reader. I tend to stop in the middle of writing every single book and go back to the beginning to read simply to get a handle on the pacing. Then I finish the last third of the novel with that in mind. For some reason, this always helps!
Who is your favorite minor character in this story?
Emma’s father-in-law. I love writing older, wiser characters because I think there is so much to be gained from listening to their perspectives. I loved their relationship and the way he helped her navigate her faith journey, and I loved that he ultimately wanted her to be happy.
What did you learn from writing this story?
That I really want to go back to Nantucket! But also, I think writing a book like this reminds me how important grace is. Not only for other people, but for ourselves and our mistakes. We can so easily convince ourselves that we are beyond redemption, but that’s never, ever the case.
About the Story:
Emma Woodson is hoping the cobblestone streets of Nantucket and the charm of her late husband’s family cottage will be the fresh start she and her young son, CJ, need. Securing a dream job at an art gallery is one more step along the path to a new life . . . and away from a piece of her history she hopes will never be revealed. Falling in love with the kind and handsome guy she hires to clean out the rental apartment above the garage wasn’t part of the plan.
Jameson Shaw came to Nantucket for one reason: deliver his letter to Emma and never return. But when he sees an opportunity to help her, he takes a chance, desperate to atone for his past. He never planned to keep his connection to her husband a secret or to fall in love with her. After all, he knows that their new relationship might not survive the discovery of who he really is.
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