Find more from this author on:
About the author:
Debra Coleman Jeter has published both fiction and nonfiction in popular magazines, including Working Woman, New Woman, Self, Home Life, Savvy, Christian Woman, and American Baby. Her first novel, The Ticket, was a finalist for a Selah Award, as well as for Jerry Jenkins’ Operation First Novel. Her story, “Recovery,” was awarded first prize in a short story competition sponsored by Christian Woman; and her nonfiction book “Pshaw, It’s Me Grandson”: Tales of a Young Actor was a finalist in the USA Book News Awards. She is a co-writer of the screenplay for Jess + Moss, a feature film which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, screened at nearly forty film festivals around the world, and captured several domestic and international awards.
What inspired you to write your book?
I’ve always believed in the axiom, If you don’t give up on God, he won’t give up on you.
Yet, who hasn’t—at least occasionally—struggled with doubts about her faith in God or about God’s personal interest in her life? Add to this internal conflict a lack of self-esteem and the complication of falling in love with a committed, charismatic man who wants to share his faith with the world. There you have my protagonists, Acadia Powers and Peter O’Neil.
My daughter, like Acadia, went to Pepperdine University. She met her husband, Jared, in California. Jared’s father and brother were both ministers, but Jared had no interest in this career path. I decided it would be more interesting to make Peter O’Neil the opposite—the first man of faith in his family, while Acadia struggles with her faith. In the novel, Beatrice Wood is a widow who befriends Acadia and helps her through a difficult time. Beatrice is based loosely on a friend of mine from church, who mourns the passing of her husband even as she becomes a strong business woman. The character Sybil was inspired by one of my former students.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Malibu, California My acne finally cleared up about the time I started college. By junior year, I had come into myself, into my comfort zone so to speak, and was having the time of my life. Or so I told myself. Then I met Peter. Something about him jarred me out of this zone so completely that, try as I might, I simply could not find my way back. The first time I saw him, I was at an off-campus party. Bored, I looked around for a cute guy to talk to. With his long blonde hair, intense green eyes, and especially the way he laughed—as if all the joy of the universe radiated from him—he certainly fit the bill. I made my way across the room toward him. The record player blasted “We Are the Champions” by Queen. Pretty coeds in miniskirts and wedge-heeled boots or knee socks were everywhere. Peter was absorbed in conversation with a classmate of mine named Greg and paid me no attention as I edged into his path of vision. I’d recently learned the power of eye contact, having gained enough self-confidence to take risks—once my acne cleared up. Today, though, not only Peter, but Greg as well, seemed oblivious to my approach. Peter gestured with a wave of one hand to emphasize a point while Greg listened intently, his eyes on Peter. I was about to back away when Peter’s words caused me to pause. “If you really believed in everlasting life or punishment, if any of us really believed, why wouldn’t we do everything in our power every minute to ensure the one and not the other?” Hadn’t I once accused my parents of exactly that? Or maybe he was putting the words to something I had been trying but failing to communicate. “Are you saying they’re all fakes?” I pivoted to confront Peter. “That nobody really believes at all?”
SONG OF SUGAR SANDS
Both guys turned to gape. Greg’s eyes flickered over me, taking in the details of my appearance in one practiced sweep. Peter, however, looked directly into my eyes. “No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying we’re weak, and it’s a good thing God has such a generous, forgiving spirit. Don’t you think?” I stalled, hoping he would keep talking so I wouldn’t need to answer. He waited, his eyes intent on mine. “I—uh …” Greg saved me. “Acadia, pardon our manners. Peter O’Neil, this is Acadia Powers. She’s a pre-med major.” “Pre-med,” Peter echoed, holding out his hand and offering a lopsided grin. “Impressive.” “Only if I pass.” I took his hand, and my heart performed a peculiar little leap. “I get carried away sometimes,” he said, “when I think about how awesome our God is. Forgive me.” Clearly this guy was some sort of religious nut and not my type at all. My best bet was to contrive a fast escape. My feet, however, seemed glued to the floor, cooperating about as well as my tongue. “O’Neil? Funny, you don’t look Catholic,” I said at last. “I’m not.” He smiled with his eyes. “I think I’ll get some popcorn. Do you want some?” I nodded. The food at these types of parties was all over the place. Kids with trust funds might have catered dishes like shrimp cocktail or fondue. Other times, like tonight, there was nothing fancier than chips and salsa. And, of course, the popcorn, which did smell tantalizing. A couple of sorority girls approached, and Greg slipped away with them. Girls who looked like these two beauties still made me feel like my clothes were all wrong and my hands were put on backward. All through high school, I failed to get so much as a date to the prom— though I was known to be the one to ask about rock bands or for help with homework. A lot of the kids called me “the brain,” which wasn’t true and definitely not a compliment. None of the cute guys ever came close to asking me out. By high school graduation, I wondered if anybody ever would. When I arrived on a college campus and started to get attention from the opposite sex, I gobbled up the change like a kitten with tuna fish.
DEBRA COLEMAN JETER
The girls’ eyes lingered on Peter as they moved off. He took my hand and steered me through the crowd. “Acadia,” he murmured as we worked our way toward the salty aroma. “I think I’ll call you Cadi.” “Cadi sounds so much like Katie.” I articulated carefully. “Not to me,” he said, as if the matter were settled. The way Peter looked at me broke all the rules I thought I’d sorted out for myself. He did not appear to notice the way my crocheted granny skirt hugged my hips and legs right down to my platform sandals, or my lacy sleeveless top, or the crimson scarf I had wrapped around my waist. Instead he kept looking straight into my eyes. “So, Cadi Powers, where are you from?” “Kentucky. Can’t you tell?” I exaggerated a hillbilly twang. “Maybe, a little.” “I’ve been practicing my elocution in order to drop the accent.” I replaced the southern drawl with my best British inflection. “Why?” His eyebrows lifted. “You know, the image thing—that we’re all barefoot and chasing houseflies.” Peter laughed, the same joyous laugh that had first drawn me in his direction. His teeth were white and even, with a small chip off one front tooth. “That’s ridiculous. You should be proud of your southern-ness. It’s what made you who you are.” “How do you know that’s something to be proud of?” “Just a feeling.” He placed a bowl of popcorn in my hand and guided me with a light touch on my elbow across the room to a couple of empty chairs. The tweed upholstery scratched my back, and I squirmed away from the itch. “Sometimes, I’m not sure I have any faith at all.” Where had that come from? I wanted to bite back the words as soon as they were out. “We all have doubts,” Peter said. “Even you?” “Sure. Did you know that when Jesus was on earth, he told his followers that if they had no doubts in their mind, they could tell a mountain to fall into the sea, and it would happen?” “Yeah, but that’s crazy,” I said. “Crazy, if you take God out of the picture.”