My recently published book, Returning to Amanda, is the first of the Aloevale Series.
What is the overarching theme of the series?
The main characters are all from Aloevale, an imaginary rural town two hours’ drive from Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The confusing point is that the first book takes place in Port Elizabeth. However, like so many towns and cities in South Africa, Port Elizabeth recently changed its name. It is now Gqeberha.
If you can’t figure out how to pronounce that, join the club. Here is a fun clip of people trying to say the new name. The first guy has it right, but very few people can make that click sound. So we do the best we can!
The overarching theme of the series is a church that is challenged to undergo transformation as they learn about the motivational, or personality, gifts.
What are the motivational gifts?
They are what makes you YOU. Why do you react as you do in different situations? What are the strengths of having your particular gift mix? And what are the weaknesses?
When my husband and I came across teaching on this topic, we were blown away. There were so many things we hadn’t understood about ourselves, never mind others around us, that suddenly made sense.
As an example, my husband’s principal teaching gift is that of TEACHER. He absolutely loves to dig into God’s Word and share all he’s learned with his listeners. His main goal is to make sure he covers every part of the passage and leaves nothing out.
My teaching gift, however, is that on EXHORTER. When I catch the main teachings in a passage, I desperately want to be sure you, the listener, understand, not just WHAT it means, but more importantly, how you can apply it to your life. I exhort, persuade, urge, you to apply the truth.
Teaching together with different gifts
When the two of us taught together, we often ended up frustrated as I felt Rob wasn’t doing enough to help his audience apply the story to their own lives. On the other hand, Rob felt I wasn’t covering the material in enough depth.
Once we learned about these gifts, we understood. I wasn’t a teacher. I was an exhorter. Rob wasn’t an exhorter—he was a teacher. Both aspects are extremely important, and both gifts are given to us by God. As we began to appreciate and understand each others’ gifts, we learned to work together. Rob would expound the Scripture. I would bring the practical application. And we made a strong team.
The story of the Aloevale series
So what happens when a pastor and his wife come to a congregation whose previous ministry couple did everything? The members weren’t used to doing anything to help. The over-stressed pastor’s wife eventually had a nervous breakdown, and the old man died of a heart attack.
Mandy, once known as Amanda, was determined to prevent that from happening. Yet, how could she prevent it, when her husband submerged himself into the work, regardless of whether he enjoyed it or not?
Enter the teaching on motivational gifts. People needed to learn to participate in the running of the church, but in the areas where they were gifted. And they needed to allow their pastor and wife to use their own gifts.
The books in the Aloevale series
In Returning to Amanda, the couple starts to identify the problem at the Aloevale Community Church, and try to figure out their own gifts. The pastor begins to introduce the theory to the church.
In the sequel, working title, Discovering Carey, the church starts to move into the gifts. Some of the experiments work well. Others are disastrous. Can the motivational gifts really work in the stubborn, Aloevale community church?
Next up is probably, Who is Eleanor? This centers on the church secretary who not only hides her gifts, she hides her true identity as well.
And right now, I’m concentrating on a prequel to Book 1, which has yet to have a title.
A prequel is a book released AFTER an existing story, but consisting of events that took place before the story. Confusing?
This prequel will show you the lead-up to the events of Returning to Amanda. It will be a stand-alone story, and you’ll be able to read it whenever you like in the series. But it would really be best if read first. Which of course you can’t do yet—as it’s not yet finished.
So how about helping me come up with a title?
In the first scene, Amanda meets Owen, a young pastor. Through the story, they get married and have three children. Then the family moves to a new congregation, the Aloevale Community Church. The one mentioned above. Where they expect Owen and Amanda (now Mandy) to do everything for them.
But that’s not going to happen. Not from Mandy anyway.
So . . . title? I’d love to have your thoughts.
Previous Posts about Returning to Amanda
- A Debut Novel at My Age?
- Write What You Know
- Character Interview: Mandy Douglas
- The Cover Story
- The Characters in Returning to Amanda
- Introducing Rev Owen Douglas—Antagonist!
- Are You Up for Promotion?
- The Story Blurb (and Introduction to the Jigsaw)
- Jigsaw as a Cover Reveal (includes video clip)
- Sample Scenes