|A well-lived life is much like a well-written book.
In the best works of literature, chapters unfold in a satisfying stream of interesting characters, life-changing events, and occasional obstacles, with a healthy dose of surprise thrown in for good measure. In a substantial life, the seasons unfold in much the same way.
Jonell Kirby Cash’s years were already filled with all the components of a life well-lived. She had started her post-secondary education at a time when few women entered college, much less considered seriously the prospect of embarking on a career. Yet, she had not only received advanced degrees, she had also been a college professor, a family counseling consultant, and the author of four books on psychology and counseling.
At home, her life had been just as successful, enjoying both her marriage and her role as a mother. Retiring early, she and her spouse watched the days pleasantly pass in a lake house designed by her late husband.
There were even a few surprises thrown in the mix. After the death of her first husband, Cash unexpectedly found love again with the man who had once been her high school sweetheart.
Yet, there was one piece missing from Cash’s story. Although she had authored books, she had never tackled a piece of fiction. A few years ago, Cash decided it was high time she added that chapter to her life story.
“I was getting close to 80, so I thought I’d better get busy,” she said.
Now, that chapter, too, is complete. Tate Publishing recently released her first piece of fiction, A Ring, A Dance, A Second Chance.
The fictional book, as many of the best works do, draws heavily form the author’s own life experiences. As Cash did when she remarried, the main character in A Ring, A Dance, A Second Chance, explores the wonders and the challenges of finding love for a second time.
“It is a fictional novel, but the protagonist, Katie, is modeled after me,” Cash explained.
The book had its origins in an informal writing group consisting of Cash, her daughter, Sylvia, and her niece, Brenda. The three meet often to discuss books they have read, and to talk about books they would like to write. Once, when Sylvia and Brenda were bantering about ideas that would make great movies, Cash suggested the story of a widow who finds love again with her childhood sweetheart.
“I said, ‘People fantasize about things like that, and I think it would make a great movie,’” Cash recalled. “But, the idea wasn’t for them. So, I thought I would write the book. I would marry the idea of my story with discussing some of the issues that occur with a second marriage.”
When Cash started her book five years ago, she carefully developed a backstory for the lead character, Katie.
“The readers needed to know Katie as a child and to know the world she grew up in,” Cash said.
As she continued writing, Cash said her tale was still more of a story than a novel. And, even as the story slowly morphed into novel form, the author said Katie was talking in first person, present tense. So many elements of Katie’s life were rooted in events from Cash’s own life, she said the first-person voice just made sense.
Cash had attended college with one of Terry Kay’s brothers, so she felt comfortable enough to approach the prolific writer about looking at her novel. Kay read parts of the story, and told Cash the first-person voice for the main character had to go.
Despite the fact Kay is one of the most celebrated writers in Georgia, Cash said she was unconvinced about changing the voice of Katie. Later, as others looked at her work, the same suggestion was made. Finally, Cash relented, and was genuinely pleased with the result.
“I changed to third person, past tense, and I liked Katie a lot better,” she said.
Satisfied with the finished product, Cash knew her book was ready to be published. She decided she didn’t want to immediately engage an agent and instead sent her manuscript to Tate Publishing. Although not a religious book, she knew her story was wholesome, and would fit well with the other works published by Tate.
Within a matter of days she had a contract, and A Ring, A Dance, A Second Chance became the next chapter in Cash’s life.
Cash said it is her hope the book will not only be interesting and entertaining, but also will address many of the issues associated with a second marriage, especially a second marriage for an older woman. And, many readers are already telling Cash the book struck a chord with them.
“I have had people come up to me and say, ‘I have not found a book that interested me at my age,’” she said.
Now, with another act in her life complete, will the next chapter of Cash’s story include another novel? She certainly won’t rule that out. Nor will she rule out anything that makes the remaining episodes of her life gratifying and entertaining.
“I believe in doing the things you enjoy doing,” Cash said.
That sentiment has resounded throughout Cash’s life, and is echoed in the acknowledgments in the front of her new book. She included in the acknowledgments a quote from Gail Sheehy that reads, “If every day is an awakening, you will never grow old. You will just keep growing.”
For more information on the author or her book, A Ring, A Dance, A second Chance, visit www.jonellkirbycash.com.