Courtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theater director, and playwright. Just Let Go will be her eighth inspirational romance novel. Her debut, A Sweethaven Summer, hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists and was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. A creative at heart, Courtney has also written two craft books and several full-length musicals. She lives in Illinois with her husband and three children. These are the five books that have most shaped her faith and writing.
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
When I was in sixth grade, I got sick for a few days. During that time, my mom rented a couple of movies to keep me from driving her batty, one of which was Anne of Green Gables. I threw such a bratty fit over her movie choice. (I wasn’t in a particularly grateful mood.) It turned out this “stupid movie” she brought home captivated me from the second I turned it on. I immediately went out and got the book, a big fat hardcover edition with three volumes in it. I was hooked on Anne. Never before had a story drawn me in or a character spoken to me so well. I think that’s where my love of story first began—with Anne and “The Lady of Shalott.”
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
After college, I lived in my hometown for a brief time, which meant my mom’s bookshelves were mine for the raiding. It feels a little cliché now, because who didn’t love Redeeming Love, but truly, I walked around for days with that book in my purse, just so I could read it any chance I got. At the time, I didn’t know Christian fiction existed, and I certainly didn’t know a Bible story could come to life the way that one did. That book made me begin to see there were authors writing the kinds of stories I wanted to read, and it awakened something inside of me. It planted the I want to write stories like this seed, though it was years before I began pursuing that dream.
Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins
Around the same time I discovered Redeeming Love, I also discovered Left Behind, and those books changed me in a different way. See, I’ve always been a curious person, and despite any reading or study I’d done, I didn’t understand the Rapture, heaven, the Tribulation, or any of these other Christianese events that my parents and their Bible study friends would discuss. At various points of my childhood, I was certain I’d been left behind, and I was terrified. These books answered so many lingering questions, but in a way that made sense. You see, I love nonfiction books, but it’s stories that speak to me best of all. I’m grateful for these books, for the way they helped me grow in my faith, for the way they showed me that story can change hearts.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
I studied theatre in college, and during that time, I discovered a beautiful book for creatives called The Artist’s Way, but it wasn’t until several years later that I really dove in, read the book, and completed the exercises in it. This book was written for people like me—creative people who learn and think differently than others do. The exercises pushed me to tap into my imagination, and honestly, the book made me realize that creativity is something to be nurtured. It’s not frivolous. It’s not a hobby. If you’re a creative, then you must create. As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in Letters to a Young Poet, “Ask yourself . . . must I write? . . . If you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple ‘I must,’ then build your life according to this necessity.” (You can replace “write” with any other creative endeavor—“Ask yourself . . . must I teach/paint/photograph/act, etc.?”) These concepts shaped my entire adult life. I must create. I must write. These ideas felt silly before, but this book gave the appropriate weight to them. I believe God made me to do so, and I’ve stopped apologizing that I don’t fit the nine-to-five mold. This book helped change my thinking and embrace things about myself that previously felt wrong. Now I feel like these things are among my greatest gifts.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
It may seem strange for a Christian author to list a general market novel as a book that changed her life, but bear with me for a moment. A few years ago, I realized what Stephen King said was true—“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” For many authors, it’s difficult to find time to read because we are so focused on our own stories, but I knew that in order to grow as a writer, I needed to broaden my literary horizons. A friend recommended this book to me when I was purposely trying to read authors I’d never read in genres I didn’t normally read, so I bought it. And I read it. And my jaw hit the floor. See, I’m a rule follower. Once I hear a “writing rule,” I follow it. This is the formula for a good book, right? Maybe. But it’s also a formula for your work sounding and feeling like everyone else’s. In Liane Moriarty, I found an author with a voice so distinct, an author who clearly knows the rules of writing but who isn’t afraid to break them to create a more original story. This book has given me the courage to think outside the box and push the envelope, and besides that, I thought it was a brilliant story.
Courtney Walsh, author of Just Let Go
For Quinn Collins, buying the flower shop in downtown Harbor Pointe fulfills a childhood dream, but also gives her the chance to stick it to her mom, who owned the store before skipping town twenty years ago and never looking back. Completing much-needed renovations, however, while also competing for a prestigious flower competition with her mother as the head judge, soon has Quinn in over her head. Not that she’d everask for help.
Luckily, she may not need to. Quinn’s father and his meddling friends find the perfect solution in notorious Olympic skier Grady Benson, who had only planned on passing through the old-fashioned lakeside town. But when a heated confrontation leads to property damage, helping Quinn as a community-service sentence seems like the quickest way out—and the best way to avoid more negative press.
Quinn finds Grady reckless and entitled; he thinks she’s uptight and too regimented. Yet as the two begin to hammer and saw, Quinn sees glimpses of the vulnerability behind the bravado, and Grady learns from her passion and determination, qualities he seems to have lost along the way. But when a well-intentioned omission has devastating consequences, Grady finds himself cast out of town—and Quinn’s life—possibly forever. Forced to face the hurt holding her back, Quinn must finally let go or risk missing out on the adventure of a lifetime.