GOSHEN — Two Middlebury teenagers who have spent their short lifetimes loving each other face death, heartache and obedience to God in the first book by Concord High School graduate Lisabeth Posthuma.
“Songs Eight Six,” a new adult novel, has a distinctly Elkhart County feel, because after all authors write what they know, Posthuma said. But it took moving away from Elkhart County to a suburb of Detroit for Posthuma to appreciate the area she grew up and taught high school in.
“If I had never left here, I wouldn’t have been able to write about here,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had that perspective or the distance to see it, because I would still be living it.”
Some places, people and businesses might be very familiar to readers: Goshen, Fort Wayne, Rulli’s Restaurant, Maplecrest (although a psychiatric hospital in Fort Wayne and not the Goshen country club), Stephenson’s, Amish culture, the Essenhaus and more.
Posthuma explained that when she settled upon Middlebury/Elkhart County for her setting, she had recently seen a documentary, “Twilight in Forks.” The documentary was about the small town of Forks, Wash., and the impact the “Twilight” series by Stephenie Meyer had on the local economy.
In the back of her mind, Posthuma thought, if her book was a success maybe it would do the same for Elkhart County, which was suffering greatly from the recession. “Not that this is Twilight scale novel — but you’re dreaming, right?” she said. “And I love my hometown.”
So in November 2011, Posthuma started crafting the tale of Cosette and Westley — and Micah. For the next 18 months, the married mother of two immersed herself into the world she was creating. At the time, her children were both younger than 4. Her husband, Jonathan Conger, was — and is — completely supportive, sometimes taking the children to the zoo and giving her the space she needed to work.
In speaking of her characters, Posthuma said, “They feel so real to me now. It’s hard to believe I made them up.”
Unlike many books where girl meets boy and they go through a lot of angst to get to the relationship at the end, Posthuma wanted to start “Songs Eight Six” on a decidedly different note.
Cosette and Westley are a longtime couple at the beginning of the book.
“Because I was a high school teacher I read a lot of books for that age group … The pattern was so much, the goal is the boyfriend. So I wanted to explore what if that were at the beginning of the story. She already has that, so what else is there? Is there a bigger love than the one the young people are chasing, the romantic love?”
She explained that as people get older they realize that romantic love is just for a season. That’s the type of love that Hollywood and books depict because it’s fun and exciting.
“But even from my own faith perspective, I know that’s not all there is,” she said. “I wanted to explore that. The entire goal was to do the book in a way that was not cheesy or preachy.”
Cosette’s discomfort and kind of ignorance to faith while being raised in the Bible belt, Posthuma said she could entirely relate to. She did not have any kind of structured faith upbringing. “Though I was surrounded by it, I didn’t have any understanding of it,” she said. “… I guess I didn’t have any guidance or any strong person to influence that. And I kind of felt like that every new part of faith that is introduced to her. She reacts very much the way — where it was a very natural way for me to write.”
Like when the first time someone asked Posthuma to pray with them, her first reaction was that it was just weird people doing these things. “Now it’s kind of who I am,” she said.
Posthuma optioned the book to a Christian publisher. The publisher liked the book, but there was a kink to keep them from accepting the book — implied sexual relations between teenagers.
Instead of shopping around for a publisher, Posthuma and her husband decided to start their own publication company, Jasper Light Books.
“Honestly, self-publishing is so the way to go,” she said.
Amazon makes it easy to create books and so the couple opted to go that route. Now they are on a grassroots marketing campaign. It’s a leap of faith, but the reviews and responses are positive.
She recently had a book launch in metro Detroit and she sold T-shirts at a book signing.
“It starts small and keeps going,” she said.
Posthuma envisions a four-part series for the story. So soon she’ll be back to her own Middlebury and readers will find out what happened to Cosette in the cliff-hanger ending of book one.
"Songs Eight Six" can be found on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Songs-Eight-Six-ebook/dp/B00EQQUJSW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1382120211&sr=8-1&keywords=Songs+Eight+Six