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Into New Territory

The author of The Journey of Josephine Cain ​talks about how God opens doors and sometimes, if we’re brave, we walk through them.

Nancy Moser, author of The Journey of Josephine Cain

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. (Psalm 32: 8)

I have little in common with the main character in The Journey of Josephine Cain, whose life in 1866 was pretty much set out for her: Destined to marry a man of equal status who would provide her with a life of plenty, she in turn would provide him with a home and many children. Deal done. Everyone would live happily ever after.

Except that when Josephine’s father takes a job on the Transcontinental Railroad, heading west from Omaha, and she visits him and sees a world that is so different from the one she knew… things change. Doors are flung open, and Josephine is faced with opportunities and challenges that turn her expectations on end.

Maybe we aren’t so different after all. Back in 2004, my future was predictable. I had written 16 contemporary Christian novels, and if things played out as I intended, I would write that type of novel until I was too old to see the computer screen.

But then, like Josephine, I discovered a world so very different from my life in Kansas when I visited Salzburg, Austria, with a community chorus. We were touring Mozart’s house when a guide said something that broke through: "Many people don't know this, but Mozart had an older sister who was just as talented as he was, but because she was a woman she didn't have the chance to fully develop her talent."

I went home with that interesting tidbit and put together a proposal for a contemporary novel about an author writing about Mozart's sister. My agent sent it out. Life would go on as usual. I would get the contract and write the book.

Two days later I got a phone call from an editor I didn’t know. "I don't want your contemporary novel, I want a historical novel about Mozart's sister."

"I don't write historicals."

"I don't care. I want Mozart's Sister. First-person. The sister telling her own story."

Finally (luckily) I said yes. Like Josephine Cain, I didn’t fall back on my plans for the future but stepped into a strange and exciting new world.

It was a bit scary, yet it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I wrote Mozart's Sister and three other biographical novels about real women of history: Martha Washington, Jane Austen and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Letting these women tell us about their lives… I felt privileged to be a part of it. Now I write my own stories, but I am still hooked on historical fiction.

I think about what had to line up that day in Salzburg, what God had to do to get everything in place for me. The chances of me being in Mozart's house at the exact time to hear that particular guide say those particular words are so exact it humbles me. God opens doors and sometimes if we’re brave we walk through them—and sometimes we even close a door behind us. I have not written a contemporary novel since.

Josephine Cain is faced with a decision to move forward into new territory or return to the life she knew. It’s a tough decision. And I’m guessing it's one we all make at some point.

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