Chrissy attends nurses training at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. In the 1960s, nurse training was done in actual hospital settings, and Barnes was one of the biggest training hospitals here. Since Chrissy doesn’t get paid for her training, she works part time as a waitress at the old Fred Harvey diner at Union Station, the train depot. Fred Harvey restaurants were a fixture at depots, and many trains used their food service on the lines (fun history to read about and then visit their old diners across America).
Chrissy is an orphan. Her parents died when she was a child, and she was raised in foster care. So she doesn’t have a lot of confidence that she’s wanted or loved, and that carries over in her relationship with John Pelletier, the attractive lieutenant she meets and falls in love with.
Her biggest strength is that she doesn’t give up, and she learns to trust the Lord through her coming difficult year.
Where is your story set?
It’s set in two locations: from spring to Christmas, 1968. Chrissy attends nursing school and works part time in a restaurant in downtown St. Louis, and John, the hero, spends some of that time on a tour in Vietnam.
What truth do you hope people walk away with after reading your story? Do your books have a spiritual message?
I think I can answer these two questions better combined: Chrissy first needs to learn to accept God’s love and forgiveness for herself. She doesn’t feel worthy of Him. When we are in sin, we don’t feel worthy enough to even pray. Satan keeps us bound in our sin that way. But the Lord reaches out to her through one of her sweet, elderly patients. He loves Chrissy, and He wants a relationship with her, even if she feels unworthy to seek that relationship. And he uses this lady to touch her heart and draw her to Him.
Something similar happened to my sister. She felt God wouldn’t forgive her and she even thought about suicide. But, one night, when she entered my mom’s house and headed to her bedroom without speaking to anyone, my brother felt an overwhelming urge to tell her God loved her. He didn’t know why he felt this, and even felt foolish to tell her this, but he was compelled to say the words to her. How God reached out to her when she couldn’t reach out to Him became part of her testimony.
God’s lesson for us is always He love us and wants to forgive us and be in relationship with us. This is the Christmas story.
What do you feel makes your story stand out from others in this genre?
I think one reviewer said it best on Amazon: “It was different than other formulaic Christian romances. The Vietnam War. An out-of-wedlock baby. A soldier who never wrote back. Thanks for taking some risks.”
What inspired the story behind this novel?
It actually came about by me being at the right place at the right time. I edit romance novels for private clients and freelance edit for Barbour Books and others, but this is my first published book of my own! I’m thrilled!
Last August, I attended American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Nashville, TN, and roomed with my dear friend, Carrie Fancett Pagels (a wonderful historical author). She introduced me to Cynthia Hickey, a multi-published author and publisher (Winged Publications, Forget Me Not Romances).
A group of us had dinner together at the hotel one night, and somehow the conversation turned to Christmas letters, and how they’re always filled with all the wonderful things that we like to share with everyone, but not any of the not-so-successful endeavors our families had tried during the year. I told them about a hoax letter we’d sent to a couple of people in our family, just as a joke (with lots of really bad but, thankfully, made-up failures for the year!). My father-in-law didn’t realize it was a joke, and he was particularly concerned about it! (so we didn’t write anymore of those). Anyway, we all had a good laugh about it.
Then one of the writers suggested we should do a Christmas collection of novellas to send out Christmas (2016, due within a couple of months! Yikes!) about Christmas letters. So, seven of us signed up: Janice Thompson, Cynthia Hickey, Rhonda Gibson, Christina Rich, Mary Alford, Vicki Talley McCollum (me), and Linda Kozar. Our novellas are now in a collection on Amazon, thanks to Cynthia Hickey.
That’s how the collection came together, but then I had to come up with my own idea for a novella.
Our waitress that evening was a sweet young woman, about five months pregnant, with long, auburn hair. I thought she’d be a great character! I asked her if I could take her picture and she agreed (she’s not the one on the book cover) and I came up with a story based on someone similar to her as my character, Chrissy Robinson. I decided it needed to be set during one of the military conflicts so the letter could be of great importance to the heroine. I set it in St. Louis, where I live, and chose the Vietnam Conflict, since we still wrote letters in those days. No tweets, e-mails, or texts (Not Romantic)!
I brainstormed with my roommate, Carrie Fancett Pagels, for the basics of the story, and my daughter Lindsey, a nurse, read it, and gave me ideas. My long-time writer friend, Sandra Orchard, was great with critiques, even though she had her house full of family the weekend I sent it to her, and was enjoying babysitting her young grandchildren. Yet she still came through with some excellent ideas for me. So it was a group effort, as most novels are.
When Chrissy Robinson learns she’s pregnant, after her boyfriend ships off to Vietnam (without proposing to her), she quickly writes to tell him. But weeks go by, and still, there’s no response from him. After she learns he’s been listed as MIA, she struggles with how she’ll get through nursing school, pregnant, and working long hours as a waitress. Can she raise her baby, all alone? Then John’s parents insist she allows them to raise her baby. Will John come home? And even if he does, will he marry her?
A story of love, forgiveness, and redemption.
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About the Author
Vicki Talley McCollum grew up in Atlanta, reading romance magazines her sister and aunts left around the house. She discovered Christian romances, fell in love with them, and later, started editing them as a freelance editor. She’s written several novellas, but this is her first one to publish. She’s very excited about it.
Vicki lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband, Jeff, her daughter, Lindsey (who’s a nurse and engaged to a fine young man), and two cats, Ninja and Penny. Her oldest son, Scott, lives and works in Colorado, and her youngest, Tim, is a senior at Wheaton College. Feel free to write Vicki at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on twitter at twitter.com@mccollum_vicki