Beyond My Wildest Dreams
by Kara Swanson
Growing up as a missionary kid, in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, moving has always been one of the hardest things for me. The idea of having to pack up all my belongings, leaving the place I have known for so long, and set off to create my life again was beyond frightening. However, that is what I was called to do frequently. Through many travels, God pushed me farther out of my comfort zone than I would have gone by choice, teaching me anew to trust Him. Those times were both scary and exciting. That fear of the unknown was one of the first threads that would eventually be woven into an adventure beyond my wildest dreams. Those trials were the stuff of stories.
Fantasy has always entranced me—been in my blood, I suppose you could say. My father started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to me before I could even spell my name. My love of writing was cultivated through the fact that as a child, I was the only English-speaking girl in the tribe where my parents were serving in Papua New Guinea. Those lonely days afforded me extra time to read and eventually write. Although, I could never stick with a story long enough to finish it. That is, until I met Charis Smith.
Charis and I hit it off immediately. Our friendship grew like wildfire, and it was no wonder. Only a year apart in age—I was sixteen, she fifteen—we had so much in common it was uncanny. We both loved the same music, books, movies and even shared a favorite color. Most of all, we both had a passion to write for our Jesus. The fact that we both loved writing fantasy was an added bonus. Eventually, we hit upon the idea to write a short story together. Soon, we had the makings of an allegorical short story about a mermaid, pirates and a whole lot of adventure.
“We are in more danger than ever before. And if Merlydia falls, it will not only affect all the other mermish cities, but the land above as well.” My Uncle told me, his eyes dark and foreboding. “And you are the only one who can stop this. That is, if you are willing to go.”
(Pearl of Merlydia, Chapter One)
After hours of planning and outlining, I began to write the first chapter of our fantasy novella. The manuscript told how a young mermaid, who had always lived in the safety of her underwater kingdom, was forced to journey to a strange new land in search of a father she never knew she had. At that point I didn’t realize that I was telling my own story. After all, I have never had a mermaid tail or been royalty (not to say I haven’t dreamt of such a thing). However, as our short story blossomed, it became clear to both Charis and me that this novel was more than just a fantasy tale. It was a journey filled with the hardships and truths we had both learned. Our experiences, life lessons and imagination all played a vital part in how this novella blossomed.
Our short story didn’t stay short for long, however. It only took a few weeks of Charis and me emailing chapters back and forth, for us to realize our manuscript was going to end up being novel sized. As teens, the dream that this book could ever go from a lowly word document to an actual paperback was beyond crazy. God, however, had other ideas.
That brave little mermaid named Pearl began to come to life, turning into a living, breathing character full of complexities and ambitions. The story was too much for us not to share. We began to look into a way to get our book in print; and one by one, God opened doors we never would have been able to find ourselves. Within a year we had completed Pearl of Merlydia, found a cover designer, an editor and even published our novel.
Now that we have returned to the United States, Charis and I have been holding book signings and watching in amazement as God uses our humble little story to change lives. People from five to ninety-five have been encouraged by Pearl’s journey. Those who would never have found themselves reading fantasy otherwise have written to tell us how much they enjoyed it.
As Charis and I continue to write, looking to the future, I know I can say with confidence that no matter where we go from here, God will be with us every step of the way. He is trustworthy. After all, he is the master Author of every detail of our lives.
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