I don’t typically read women’s fiction.
I am, after all, a thirty-year-old man. I’m not the target demographic. And yet, when the publisher contacted me to ask if I’d consider reading Beth Vogt’s The Best We’ve Been, I took one look at the synopsis and I was hooked. This wasn’t romance, although romance was there. It was a great big relational drama that told the overlapping stories of the individual members of a single family. (My wife: Of course you liked it, you big sap. It’s all about life being story.)
The Interview | The Best We’ve Been by Beth Vogt
Josh Olds: The Best We’ve Been is not just telling Johanna’s story, but it’s also continuing the story arcs of the other two sisters and everything they’ve gone through in the first two books. So how does this wrap up the storylines for all three of these characters?
Beth K. Vogt: The Best We’ve Been is when Johanna’s story comes front and center. And what I’ve slowly done is dismantle her life, so to speak. Johanna is what you would call a control freak and over in book two, I’ve allowed her sense of control to fall apart. Everything that she thinks she can control—her job; her long-distance, long-term relationship with her fiancé—have all fallen apart. And then in book three, I throw a situation at her where the one thing she’s never wanted, she gets.
And it’s the one thing that her sister Julian has always wanted. And she’s forced to make a choice that separates her from her sister. And it’s the one thing she’s never wanted that her sister has always wanted. How do you make a choice like that that’s going to affect someone that you actually care about? She and Jillian have always been close. But this choice could change their relationship forever.
Josh Olds: One of the one of the concerns when you write stories like this is that every character has five different things that are happening to them all at once. And it’s, you know, layered and layered and layered and layered until it’s ridiculous. How do you maintain that balance in trying to say like, “Okay, this is real life, but we’re not going to make it contrived.” How do you find that balance there between not ending up over in soap opera land?
Beth K. Vogt: That’s an excellent question. And I do love to write about real life. I used to write contemporary romance, and then I switched to women’s fiction. Because with romance you have to have happily ever after. If you don’t have a happily ever after, your readers are going to let you know they’re not happy with you. Okay?
With women’s fiction, you’re writing about real life, you’re writing about relationships. You don’t necessarily have to have a happily ever after. And I don’t necessarily tie everything up with a really nice bow at the end of my stories, because life doesn’t always necessarily end up with a perfect ending at the end of the day, or at the end of the year or whatever…The book is The Best We’ve Been, but it doesn’t mean it’s perfect. And when I’m trying to plot out a story, sometimes it can be out of balance. The way that I make sure I’ve layered it properly is to talk it out with a writing mentor. Rachel Hauck, who’s a New York Times bestselling author, or Susie May Warren. They’re both wonderful mentors of mine. I’ll talk about what I’ve plotted and sometimes they’ll pull me back off the ledge and go “Wait a minute, you know, you’re a little bit out of balance there. Let’s push the story back this way or whatever.”
I want my characters to be true to life. So I always try to know why they’re doing the things they’re doing. But talking it out with another writer, someone who knows the craft, someone who’s objective and not as deep into the story as I am. It always helps me to talk out the story with someone else.
The Book | The Best We’ve Been
How can you choose what is right for you when your decision will break the heart of someone you love?
Having abandoned her childhood dream years ago, Johanna Thatcher knows what she wants from life. Discovering that her fiancé was cheating on her only convinces Johanna it’s best to maintain control and protect her heart.
Despite years of distance and friction, Johanna and her sisters, Jillian and Payton, have moved from a truce toward a fragile friendship. But then Johanna reveals she has the one thing Jillian wants most and may never have―and Johanna doesn’t want it. As Johanna wrestles with a choice that will change her life and her relationships with her sisters forever, the cracks in Jillian’s marriage and faith deepen. Through it all, the Thatcher sisters must decide once and for all what it means to be family.
The Author | Beth K. Vogt
Beth K. Vogt is a nonfiction writer who said she’d never write fiction. After saying she’d never marry a doctor or anyone in the military, she is now happily married to a former Air Force family physician. Beth believes God’s best is often behind the door marked “never.” An established magazine writer and editor, she now writes inspirational contemporary romance because she believes there is more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us.