How I wrote the Valley of the Giants

I’m going to be very vulnerable right now. I’m going to tell you the story of this story- how I first started writing it, and what I believe about it. It’s a strange story, about a strange story. It’s going to sound crazy, and maybe I am.

I have to start by telling you that I’m a Christian. I grew up in the church, and I have believed in the God of the Bible as long as I can remember. I absolutely believe in Jesus Christ, his Son, and his virgin birth, and his death and resurrection. I want to start with that because I know that as some Christians read this, they will wonder. I go into some strange places in this book, strange for Christianity, strange for me. But I’ll get to that later.

Let me start by telling you that about ten years ago, my husband and I moved to a tiny town in upstate New York. Tiny like- a half an hour from a Wal-mart. My husband has always wanted to farm, to have land of his own, and he got the opportunity to take over his grandparent’s land, so we went. I’m not a farm girl, not even a little, but when we moved, I started trying to do the farm things- helping with the herd of red angus, gardening and canning and all the things.

But me? I’m not a farm girl. I’m more of an artsy type. I play several instruments, love musical theater and ballet, I paint portraits for a little extra spending money- and I write. I love to write.

I also read a lot- my favorites are fairy tales and classic literature. (My very favorite book of all time is Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.) And I like to read about writing.

So one day, I was out in the field, handing my husband tools while he fixed our fence. It was a golden summer day, sometime in late August. I was sitting in the tall grass, waiting for the next thing I needed to do, and he was kneeling a few feet away from me.

This photo is from that same time, though not the same day. It was like Eden.

Anyway, I was thinking about how the land was all new to me. I was newly learning the paths in the grass, in the woods, the marks of our land.

We had moved from a small town from about 4 hours north- a small town where I had spent the first 9 years of my marriage, although it wasn’t where I had grown up. But by the time we moved from it, it felt like “home” to me. I knew it fairly well. I knew the roads and the fields and the people and… oh, everything. But this new town was all unfamiliar to me.

I was looking up into the fields at the hills around me, all new and unfamiliar, and I was thinking about two things I had read earlier that month.

The first was an interview with J.K. Rowling. In it, she had said that she “was sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London, (when) the idea of a young wizarding boy “came fully formed” into her mind.” Of course, she went on to write the world-famous Harry Potter series.

This anecdote reminded me of something similar I had read about C.S. Lewis and Narnia- here it is:

All my seven Narnian books… began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures. The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. At first I had very little idea how the story would go, but then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it…once He was there He pulled the whole story together.

-C.S. Lewis

These two things in tangent were so fascinating to me. To think that they had each author had had just seen something and it had sparked whole stories. A little glimpse of a scene, and suddenly- an epic saga.

I mean, not suddenly, of course. It took years of work to write it out.

But the initial inspiration: a flash from- where?

Let me go back to my initial statement: I am a Christian. I believe that there is a God, a creator, and that He’s good, and that He’s intimately involved in his creation. I also believe that “all good things are from Him,” and so in my mind- inspiration comes, logically, from him.

Now I’m not saying Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia are stories from God, like as if they’re… scripture or something. Not at all. I don’t even like the Harry Potter series, to be honest.

But my personal opinion is that each of those authors received a seed- a blip of inspiration- and used to it tell a story that was meaningful to them. One- an allegory about Christ- the other- a modern fairy-story series about… whatever Harry Potter is about.

So back to my day in the field.

I was sitting there, on the side of that golden, windy field, watching the clouds slowly pass overhead, and thinking about JK. Rowling and C.S. Lewis, and the hills near me, and my old home, and the different stories that I had tried to write and not succeeded very well at, and the idea of “inspiration,” and I just… asked God for a story.

“Hey,” I prayed, “Give me a story. You gave one to Clive and Jo. Give me one. And… Let me use it to tell people about You, and how good you are. Give me an epic story.”

I don’t claim that God spoke out of the clouds to me that day. But something happened, right then.

I was looking up at the hills, at the new hills I didn’t know very well, and I suddenly saw, in my mind’s eye, a little glimpse something.

I saw a crowd of people- not people- giants. They were coming over a hill, down a path, into a valley- and they were being led by one single girl, and she was crying. And I knew immediately that she was leading them into her own home, and that they were an army of giants, and that it was going to be called “The Valley of the Giants.”

That’s what I saw that day.

I was just full up- bursting- with so many questions and feelings. Who was this girl? Why was she bringing these horrible things to her own home? Why was she crying?

After an agonizing day of waiting to be done with the farm work, I rushed right to the computer and starting writing as fast as I could. In only a few short weeks, I had almost 30,000 words of an entirely outlined story….

And then it stalled. Somehow- the story I was writing wasn’t… good. It was lame. Powerless. Instead of having deep, rich, epic meaning- it felt shallow and silly.

I was very discouraged. I put it aside awhile and just thought- maybe I wasn’t a good enough writer to tell this big story. Because this story felt So Big to me.

A few years went by. I worked on other things. I gardened, I gave up gardening. I painted, I washed dishes. I read. I wrote other books- fun romances and short stories. Poems. But all the time, this Valley of the Giants was hounding me. It felt as though it needed to be told.

So one day, I tried again. I opened up my outline and tried to read the trash I had already put down. It was so painful.

“Why would you give me a story I can’t write?” I asked the Lord. “I just am not skilled enough, or talented enough. I don’t know if I’ll ever be.”

But my God is so good, you guys. So, so good. He reminded me that He is strongest in our weakness. So I set about with an entirely new story. I threw out my old outline- the silly, shallow one, and I started a new one. This one was different. Instead of plotting the story ahead of time, like I always do, I started out just typing and having no idea where I was going. Instead of planning and mapping…

I started with prayer.

Every day, when I would open the computer, I would say, “Lord, give me more of this story. This weird, crazy, story.” And then I’d start. And the strangest thing happened: Instead of me making up a story about this little blip of an idea, I started writing a story that I had never imagined at all! A strange, wide, broad story- about Noah and the ark, about Giants and Angels and Satan and… the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

It was completely, utterly astonishing to me. Every paragraph I wrote was crazy and- even surprising to me.

This is that story.

I’d like to warn you that there are strange things in this book. Lots of things that I wouldn’t prefer to read- let alone write. Violence, sadness. Some things some people might call heresy. I’m sorry if I offend you- that’s not what I want at all.

I’d like to also offer the caveat that- my normal writing friends and connections didn’t love this. It doesn’t sit well in any genre or follow the normal “Save the Cat” formula for a novel, or the writer’s guidelines for any publishers that I know of. It goes a little off the deep end in some places. But I can’t really help that and stay true to the story. You’ll have to take it the way it is.

I finished the novel a few years ago, and I’ve been tentatively trying to figure out what to do with it. I’m not much of a marketer or self-promoter. All the self-publishing advice out there relies heavily on selling yourself and your work, which feels… like going for a root canal to me.

And a part of me had gotten discouraged. When I wrote this story, it felt huge to me- this epic, amazing adventure that just blew me away. And yet I didn’t know what to do with it! Where to go with it. So in my discouragement, I just let it sit.

But lately I’ve shaken off that discouragement. I’ve been learning to walk in hope. And my biggest hope is that God, the wonderful, loving God of all creation- will use me to help reveal his love to all the world. And so in that hope, I’m moving forward in releasing this book.

This wild, epic story tells about God and who I know him to be. I hope that it does what I always wanted it to do- I hope it helps you and my whole generation to be encouraged that there is a Creator who knows you, and loves you, and is calling you. I hope it causes you to know Him better- because He is so good, so, so good. I hope you like it, and if you do, I hope you share it.

My official release date is coming in June, but for now I’m still taking advance readers in exchange for a survey! Just send me an email briannasiegrist@gmail.com


All glory to God.

Brianna

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