I’m the type of person who craves quiet—stretches of time where my thoughts have room to roam, whether in creative ventures or just to process the events and emotions of the day. Being a homeschool mom of three elementary-aged kids, finding time where I can follow a stream of thought wherever it leads are…umm… in short supply.
When it came to the idea for my debut novel, The Edge of Belonging I had recently finished writing my first novel. I didn’t have any exciting new ideas begging to be written, so I wondered if I’d reached the end of my “Can I Write A Book” adventure— one little story for my eyes only. I hoped this wasn’t the case. I’d fallen head over heels in love with writing.
Around that time, I was driving home on a long, silent car trip which gave my mind room to roam and explore what my next step in my writing life might look like. Because writing is a spiritual experience for me in many ways, I offered up a simple prayer as my car traveled the highway. Lord, is there a story you’d like me to tell? I didn’t get an answer at that moment, so I kept soaking in the scenery I passed by.
At one point in the journey, in the middle of the median, I spotted a baby bouncer looking just like someone had placed it there on purpose. Of course, my writer brain began spinning a story.
As I daydreamed, I traded the abandoned baby bouncer for an abandoned baby. The next question that begged to be answered was who would have been there to stumble upon this child. And that is how one of my main characters, Harvey, was born. A man who lived a hermit’s existence—squatting on public land along the highway, living off only what other people carelessly lost or discarded. Trusting no one. Finding the baby shakes up the world he has become so comfortable in.
The setting for this story is inspired by the stretch of highway that I traveled that day—roadway flanked by rolling farmland and occasional wooded areas that offered pops of color with their autumn foliage. I imagined Harvey walking along the shoulder and ducking into the cover of trees to hide away from the world. When I drive through now, those beautiful farms with old red barns, where mist lingered in the valleys of the little hills, are filled with cookie-cutter subdivisions, which breaks my nature-loving heart. But maybe I was able to preserve a little of its purity in the pages of The Edge of Belonging.
When I sat down to write the story that had been unfolding in my mind on that car trip, it quickly became a tribute of sorts. To blended families that come together in unexpected ways. To the beauty of adoption, of both the formal variety and instances in which people are adopted into our hearts, even if it isn’t made official by a piece of paper. It is an ode to the people who are there for us when we’ve lost our way. It is a celebration of how finding people who accept us, flaws and all, can facilitate deep and authentic healing.
One of the things I love most about this story is the idea of looking past first impressions, of having the courage to step into uncomfortable places with people and see them, not for what is visible on the surface, but for the person underneath all that. So, while I adore Harvey as a character, I quickly grew a soft spot for those who gave Harvey, and my other main character Ivy, their first tastes of love and acceptance.
I’m so thankful for the experience of writing this tender story, that opened my own heart in so many ways and for quiet stretches of the highway where my mind has room to roam.
Amanda Cox is a blogger and a curriculum developer for a national nonprofit youth leadership organization, but her first love is communicating through story. She holds a
bachelor’s degree in Bible and theology and a master’s degree in professional counseling. Her studies and her interactions with hurting families over a decade have
allowed her to create multidimensional characters that connect emotionally with readers. Amanda lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with her husband and their three