A young happily-married woman who is stuck with a boring job travels to Israel to participate in an archaeological dig. As time passes by, she learns more about the world around her, develops a new crush, and discovers her true calling in academia while toiling for hours under the sun, organizing shards of ancient pottery, and translating an article on the Neanderthals. When tensions in her marriage rise, she must decide if she’s ready to sacrifice the comfortable and familiar path for the sake of her dream. In the end, she’ll learn that it is possible to have the best of both worlds, but not until she’ll nearly lose everything. That’s the short summary of my newly-released novel. Although written in a light style, this piece of chick lit explores many important themes, including self-discovery, sacrifice, loyalty, and quest for personal happiness.
The Background Story
The idea of writing a full-length novel came to me back in grad school. Many things happened that year, and winning a scholarship to travel to Ashkelon for a dig was one of them. I applied for a bursary through Biblical Archaeology Review—a magazine that gets mentioned in the novel several times—in hopes of gaining fieldwork experience for my master’s program. Well, I ended up turning it down because of a huge renovation project that was meant to happen during the weeks of my purported travel.
So instead of chasing adventures on the other side of the globe, I ended up scrubbing the old paint from the walls of our newly-bought condo and priming them for a new layer of paint. And although learning the ins and outs of a successful home renovation was fun (no pun intended), I often felt bouts of regret about having missed this opportunity. That’s how the idea for my novel was born.
It took me two years to produce the first draft. A lot of changes happened during this period. I enrolled in a teachers’ college but dropped out after realizing that managing a group of thirty teenagers was making me miserable, got a new job, traveled to Bethsaida the following summer (also on a grant but this time from the ASOR), enrolled in a Publishing program, lost my job, and stepped on the path to motherhood. Sometime around July of 2014, when the Operation Protective Edge was raging through that very part of the world where my story was meant to take place, I got the first draft jotted down.
The story of My Journey revolves around the inner world of Rebecca O’Connor-Smith, a married twenty-six year old, who travels through various parts of Israel, struggles with an illicit crush, and ultimately discovers that her true passion lies in studying ancient civilizations. Although the book is heavily-based on my travels to Israel, especially on my experience in Bethsaida, the story is by no means autobiographical. The parts about the protagonist’s marital woes are pure fiction and were used merely to illustrate the challenges one may face when making major life choices.
I chose this option for a variety of reasons, and sometimes, I did doubt my decision. Up to today, I wonder if I should’ve gone through two hundred rejections first when I chose to stop at nine. During the submissions process, however, I realized that my novel is somewhat different from the mainstream chick lit.
As I said, most of the story takes place in several parts of Israel, some of which are awe-inspiring and others are wrought with conflict. The characters often engage in scholarly debates about different topics surrounding archaeology of Southern Levant. Various artifacts and sightseeing destinations are described with the same zeal as shoes and bags are described in the Shopaholic series. So the story I wrote is hardly the right material for mass-market fiction.
However, it didn’t stop me from taking the chance, and I hope it won’t stop potential readers either. If you’re a traveler at heart, an archaeology geek, or simply a twenty-something-year-old who is still figuring out the future, I strongly recommend My Journey to you. It will take you through thousands of years of human history, make you fall in love with the colorful sceneries of Israel, and, hopefully, inspire you to go after something you love the most in your life.