The Story Behind the story A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel
In 2004, we had just moved back to the United States after two years living in remote, wild Donegal. Those two years were amazing…and hard…and life changing.
After we returned, I was struggling to process all we’d experienced in those long-but-brief two years. My faith had been stretched. I’d questioned my identity. And God’s sanity. I’d wondered about my place in the world, and how I could ever impact the darkness that seems to surround this world. And in His way and time, God was faithful. But there was still a lot to sift through.
Then one day, after reading a book about a quilting circle, this idea struck me for a story about a young Irish-American teacher who moves to her mother’s home village in Ireland to teach. Having suffered through a somewhat traumatic first year of teaching before moving overseas, it was easy for me to imagine what it might be like for a first-year teacher to start her career in a completely foreign environment, culture, and language. Thus, the baby idea for A Dance in Donegal took root.
I started writing right away, but was also expecting our first baby. Once she came along, the story sat. And sat. For years. Through that time, God continued to work on my heart and help me grow. We moved back to Ireland, and I learned even more about this amazing country, culture, and amazing, beautiful people. After another two and a half years back in Ireland, I picked the story back up, finding that it needed to be much different. Because I was different.
I’d learned more about the writing craft, the art of story, and I’d lived more of my faith. And some of my most favorite elements of the story came to life—the mystery element materialized, Moira’s main conflict and crisis of faith came to life, and secondary characters became like old friends.
There is so very much of my own heart and experiences bled onto the pages of A Dance in Donegal. And yet, Moira and Sean and Colm and Peg and all the others are their own people, with their own journeys. God showed me more of Himself and His grace as I wrote. And that is my prayer for all those who read it—that God would challenge and encourage them in their own faith journeys, no matter where on the spectrum of belief they start on.
And while they are fictional characters…figments of my own imagination…God used them to teach me more about faith, grace, and loyalty than if I’d never endeavored to write.
This story burned in my soul, and even though I was tempted to quit many times along the way because it was over 15 years from the time I started writing to when I signed the contract to publish it, I felt called to continue. And with that, I want to encourage you, dear reader, to keep on keeping on. If God has called you to it, He will equip you for it, and carry you through it, dark times and all.
Jennifer Deibel is a middle school teacher whose work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic magazine, and others.
With firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine home through the lens of culture, history, and family.
After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their three children.
Her debut novel, A Dance in Donegal, is available wherever books are sold! Her second novel, The Lady of Galway Manor, is available for pre-order and is set to release February 1, 2022.
Book Blurb for A Dance in Donegal:
After the loss of her Irish mother in the summer of 1920, Moira Doherty decides to fulfill her mother’s wish for her to leave Boston and teach in her mother’s home village of Ballymann in Donegal, Ireland.
Though a few locals offer a warm welcome, others are distanced by superstition and suspicion. Rumors about a scandalous family reputation abound and threaten not only her new position but also her life.
Moira must rely on the kindness of a handful of unlikely friends including Sean, a handsome thatcher, to help her clear her family name before it’s too late. As she seeks to navigate her new life in Ireland, she may find that this is truly the life she was always meant to live.
Historical romance fans will embrace this lyrical tale of family and relish the cultural nuances, the rich history and the beautiful setting imbedded in the pages of A Dance in Donegal.
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