I have to confess that when I come across a situation that I don’t know how to handle, my first instinct is to run to the bookshop or the library to find a book on the subject. My husband jokingly claims that I don’t take a ‘pill for every ill’ but read a ‘book for every situation’. And if there isn’t one…well there is a market staring you straight in the face.
The first time this happened was when his young receptionist chose the quaint village church for her marriage ceremony, although the only time she went to church was for other people’s christenings, weddings and funerals. When I heard the news, my mind took off. Wouldn’t it be great, I asked myself, if there was a book that focused gently on the Christian view of marriage, which we could add to the official present chosen from the store-based gift list? The only trouble was that Lucy was not a book reader, but a ‘magazine flicker.’ I knew that she wouldn’t read a closely worded paperback. What I needed was something visual, with a small amount of text, eye catching as well as thought provoking.
Back in 1980, ‘gift books’ were thin on the ground, and I trawled through the local bookstores without success. My own published writing to date had consisted of a few articles and two children’s novels, but I discovered a firm that specialized in beautiful color books. I wrote to them, describing what I was looking for and asking if they had ever thought of producing something in that category.
The answer, when it came was positive. The editor replied that they had a book like it in preparation and that they’d let me know when it was finished. I tossed the letter aside and forgot about it. Four months later an envelope with the Lion crest plopped through my letter box. The editor wrote that the author working on the marriage book had passed away and asked if I’d like to “give it a go.”
Would I? The trouble was that I had never written anything like that before. It didn’t sound hard but it was incredibly difficult to find appropriate quotes and change my writing style from hard hitting ‘journalese’ or children’s narrative to very short prose with a touch of the poetic. For two weeks I tore up everything I wrote, and then suddenly I got the hang of it. The Gift of Love was completed, and accepted.
As soon as I signed the contract, Prince Charles was obliging enough to get married and weddings became high profile. The birth of Prince William gave a boost to baby books and it didn’t take much urging for my editor to agree to a Gift of Marriage and the Gift of a Child. After that we were really on a roll, and The Gift of Friends and The Gift of Years: (for retirement and similar occasions) followed quickly. The series appeared in 14 different languages, sold well over 3/4 million copies and went through several different editions. After 23 years, the Gift of Marriage and Gift of a Child are still selling merrily – and all because I couldn’t find a book for a wedding gift.
Marion Stroud has published 21 books, most of them adult non-fiction written to fill a gap in the market. Her books seem to have a long shelf life. Loving God but still Loving You, written for women who do not share their Christian faith with their marriage partner, has gone into three editions and has been translated into French; Cancer Help, written for the relatives of those who have cancer is about to go into its third edition, and has been published in Hungarian, Polish and Estonian. A founding member of the British Association of Christian Writers and its former chair, she lives in Bedford England with her husband Gordon. She has five adult children and eleven grandchildren and has just published a gift book for grandmothers and another for mother’s to be.