It’s been seven years since Karen Pashley last visited Dade City, but she was excited to have the chance to reconnect with area friends.
Pashley was in town Friday for a book signing of her best-selling Christian novel, “Precious in His Sight,” released just last month.
In the first week of its release, the novel catapulted to No. 2 on Amazon’s Christian nonfiction best-seller list. It also was endorsed by New York Times’ best-selling author Denise Jackson, the wife of country music icon, Alan Jackson.
It’s been a surreal experience for the first-time novelist, who was surprised by her sudden popularity.
“As a first-time novelist, this isn’t what we gear ourselves up for. We hope that our family and friends will read it and that will be it,” Pashley said. “I knew the book had merit, but it’s so hard to get recognition in this publishing industry with the rise of independent publishing.
“People are apparently resonating with this story, sharing it with their friends, and it’s just really exciting what is happening,” Pashley said.
In a nutshell, the book centers on a scandalous affair of a prominent southern Christian couple, and how it affects the husband, wife and mistress.
“It’s the story of three people entangled in this web,” Pashley said. “The story is written from all three points of view — the wife’s point of view as she discovers her husband’s affair, from the husband’s point of view as he tries to work his way out of the mess he’s gotten himself into, and from the mistress’ point of view — and the struggles that they go through during the course of the year the book takes place.
“It’s kind of a story of betrayal and heartbreak, but it’s also a story of tremendous hope in light of very, very difficult circumstances,” she added.
The author said the book’s title is also very relevant to the story, which readers will eventually discover.
“As readers work their way through the novel, they’ll have an ‘ah ha moment’ where they’ll understand why the title is what it is,” Pashley said.
“There’s a lot of symbolism in this book, a lot of deep layers, a story within a story. The title plays into the plot, but it also plays into the turning point for my characters and their journey and understanding that we’re all really important in this world, and we all are worthy of being loved,” the author added.
Pashley’s vision for the book came through a daydream several years ago, in what she described as a “really unique experience.”
“Most writers maybe have to search for their inspiration from somewhere, but this story literally dropped in my mind like a movie,” she said. “The whole thing played out from beginning to end — the settings, the characters, the plot, the twists, everything. I jotted all my notes down and stuck it in a drawer, and then a couple years later, in a moment of epiphany, I decided to try my hand at writing a book, and I pulled that old notebook out and the story had never left me.”
However, writing the book became a significant task for Pashley, who was just starting the project when she was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that causes vertigo.
“I had to work off and on with it,” said Pashley, who is now in remission.
“Looking at a computer is a major trigger, so I had a very hard time working for several years because of the period of time where I just couldn’t look at the light, so it took an immense effort to get the draft finished,” she explained.
After the book was awarded first place in the unpublished novels competition at the 2014 Blue Ridge Writer’s Conference, Pashley figured she’d move forward with fully completing the novel, and publishing it.
“I wasn’t willing to put my name on something until I knew it was going to be the best that I could make it, so I guess that’s why I was patient and put the time in to really learn the craft, and get a lot of feedback early on from people in the industry,” Pashley explained.
“In the course of learning how to put together a proper novel, you don’t just sit down and write it. I attended many workshops and conferences, and met with editors all over the country.”
As she tours the country on book signings and other speaking engagements, Pashley is finishing up a companion study guide to go along with the novel, allowing book clubs and Bible study groups to incorporate it into their discussions.
Pashley says the companion guide, which is expected to be ready for order in July, will “really cultivate all the feelings and the thoughts that (readers) are going to have when they finish reading the book.”
As for future novels, Pashley already has outlined a sequel.
“I’ll hopefully be carving out some time for that,” she said, adding, “I’m taking a trip to British Columbia for two weeks where I can watch the bears and draft for the sequel.”
Pashley and her husband lived in Dade City from 1997 to 2009, until the family relocated to Nashville, Tennessee.
Before living in Dade City, the New York native resided in Spring Hill, Florida, for 11 years.
The family still owns their Dade City home, Pashley said.
She thinks her Pasco ties should help spread the visibility of the novel through the rest of the Sunshine State.
“I knew going into this that I wanted…to make myself available to women’s groups, church groups, book clubs and bookstores in Florida. I still do have a lot of connections in the area,” she said. “It’s just kind of getting our feet wet. I hope to be back in the Florida area, especially the Tampa Bay area.
“This is just our first whirl,” Pashley said.
Published May 25, 2016