Taryn Oakley is a second grade teacher in the Bentley/Halstead school district where I live. I don’t know her personally and only learned of books recently when Jared Janzen (Editor for the Harvey Independent newspaper) interviewed her. I enjoyed getting to know her through this interview process and look forward to reading her books!
Share a little bit about your latest book, Gathering up the Stones
He needs a family to want him. One family wants him but can’t have him.
Emmaline Holcomb has waited years for God to grant her a child of her own. In the wake of miscarriages and a failed adoption, she resigns herself to believe a child will never come. When her husband prompts entering the world of foster care, it’s not long before Ollie arrives in the Holcomb household and their resolve is tested once more. In Emmaline’s eyes, he is a stone, cast away, and she can’t wait to gather him up. But she must let him go–another season she must endure.
Seven years pass. When a discovery that could alter the trajectory of both their lives emerges, Emmaline must race to unveil the truth if she hopes to ever gather up her stone. Told through the eyes of a lost boy, a struggling mother, and a woman who hopes to be one someday is a tale that personifies the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3:5.
The story revolves around foster care and adoption with heavy themes focusing on Christian elements.
Tell us about your previous book(s)
I have written one other novel titled Dreams of July. Focusing again on Christian themes, Dreams is a clean, romantic novel, somewhat like you’d find on the Hallmark Channel.
The back cover blurb says it best:
A story of sorrow, faith, and a love mighty enough to restore the Dreams of July.
For two years, Laney Sanford has lived with the remains of a dream after her husband is tragically killed. She’s turned from everything–her faith, her family, her career. But she’s had enough loneliness to last a lifetime. Moving back to her small-town home in Henson, Texas, she hopes to be rid of the past once and for all. Yet, just when everything seems too painfully familiar, she runs into a new face. His kind eyes evoke a sense of awareness to something she should remember, but the answer evades her like a cool breeze in summer. What could it be about the handsome stranger, other than drawing out emotions she longs to have but shouldn’t feel amongst her grief?
Firefighter Lucas Taylor is no stranger to grief and sadness. His job is to rescue and protect, but when it’s mattered most, he’s failed one too many times. Seeing Laney again revives the shame. Yet, this could be his second chance–at least that’s how he saw it at first. What he didn’t plan on was falling for her. How will she react when she learns what he’d done? Will her newfound faith in God be strong enough to withstand the truth? If so, can he bring back her dreams of July?
How long have you been writing and why did you start?
In middle school and a little bit of upper elementary, I’d write stories for fun. I shared a few with friends, but mostly it was for my eyes only. I didn’t start taking writing seriously until late high school and early college. I tinkered with a story in my mind for several years before finally finishing it one summer post-college.
This became Dreams of July. Soon after, I penned Gathering up the Stones. My goal with writing is to share Jesus. I want the entertainment a story can bring to mingle with Truth and speak to the heart of the reader. I aim for depth to stir emotions that will hopefully spur questions and desire to find Salvation through Christ.
What has influenced you the most as a writer?
Other authors have definitely influenced me. I love Karen Kingsbury and Deborah Raney (local author). I wanted to be like them–not necessarily style, but influencer like them. I wanted to be able to reach as many people as I could in a way that I felt gifted in–through the written word.
You labeled both books as Christian on Amazon. How does your faith factor into your writing?
My first novel revolved more around the story than the message, while my second novel began with the message and the story molded around it. I love Bible stories and the Truth of God’s Word, and I wanted to incorporate storytelling with Truth in a way that resonated with my audience. So Gathering up the Stones took a verse from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:5 about gathering and scattering stones, and I basically wrote an analogy using the lives of people who are lost and looking for a place of belonging. I also include direct biblical references and don’t skirt around my message. Direct, yet including imagery, speaks volumes in my novels.
Where do the ideas for your stories come from?
Stories of people around me and my imagination. I like to listen to stories, read the Bible, and read news articles. Plotlines spin off from those areas in my life.
Are teaching and writing related or two separate activities for you?
Teaching allows me to understand people better. The way children behave versus adults helps me bring my characters to life. I get a little insight into the minds of kids as a teacher, which I incorporate into my novels. Otherwise, the process of teaching versus writing are different ball fields.
What is the most difficult part of the writing process for you?
Being patient enough to get the right story on paper. I itch to write, so waiting for the whole storyline to come together before beginning can be hard. I like to know how I’m going to get from point A to point B. But the details can sometimes bog me down. But I’m proud of how it ends up. The details are the best part. They’re worth the wait.
What is next on your writing agenda?
I have a few ideas floating around in my mind, but the full picture isn’t formed yet. Hopefully a new novel will be in the works soon.
Taryn Oakley always dreamed about writing stories ever since elementary school. A lifelong resident of the Midwest, she is inspired by the open backdrop of her home. As a child, she would stare out the window on road trips, daydreaming as the wheat and cornfields flashed by. Those daydreams were the birthplaces of her stories. The possibilities were as endless as the landscapes.
Her debut novel, Dreams of July, officially propelled her into the world of writing, leading to her second novel, Gathering up the Stones. Through her stories, she hopes to bring the joy of Jesus’ life-changing power to her readers.
When she is not composing works of fiction, she teaches public school and enjoys time with her husband and daughter.
It came to a head one night when I caught Jesse scrolling through an adoption website. He clicked on a child’s profile, and a boy popped up on a new screen, his bio detailed on the right.
I turned away. “How can you consider this?”
Even to my ears, I sounded cold.
Jesse ignored me and continued reading.
Angered, I lashed out. “Are you actually considering adoption? Have you given up? Don’t you believe God will give us a child?”
“I haven’t given up, Em.” He sounded sad. “I want a child. Just like you. But I keep thinking, what if this is how God’s going to answer our prayer. What if it doesn’t have to be our own flesh and blood? I mean, look at these faces. I read the stories. These kids don’t have a chance at a family unless someone chooses them. What if they’re crying out to God to give them a family? What if we are their family?”
He stopped when he saw my mouth agape. I didn’t know what to say. His words stung. A fear crept over me. He was no longer on my side. He’d abandoned me for them.
The pride welled. He was wrong about this. He had to be wrong, didn’t he? Surely, God would fix me and we’d have a family, just like we wanted. He was, after all, the Healer.
I left Jesse on the couch and went to bed.
That night I tossed and turned, wrestling for understanding. The idea, and possibly the truth, festered and rooted into my dreams and in the daytime as I grasped for answers.
I couldn’t escape it.
What if Jesse was right about God’s plan?
But, I balked, I can’t desert the idea of a child of my own. Not permanently.Because, what if I’m right, too?
Yet the revelation grew and molded around my heart, softening it like potter’s clay. Before long, I was hunting down information. Maybe we could test the waters. Do a little good in the lives of these kids without jumping in with both feet first. There was, after all, a bridge: foster care.