A local author has published a novel exploring universal themes of struggling with and adapting to chronic health conditions.
Newberg writer April McGowan will read from and sign copies of her new novel, titled "Hold the Light," later this month.
The story follows Amber, a young artist who is at the beginning of her creative career. She has recently moved into an apartment, become more independent and is feeling "pretty content," McGowan said.
Then, she discovers she's losing her sight. At a young age, the news sets her on a path to rediscover her purpose in life. Although the story focuses on Amber's circumstance, McGowan said the journey is familiar to people facing any number of unforeseen changes in life.
"That happens to a lot more people than you would expect," she said.
McGowan wanted to focus on chronic illness as a topic in the story, but wanted to write about the journey in a way that would resonate with many readers. She searched for a topic that would allow her to explore the universal themes in facing health struggles. What rose to the top as an almost universal and relatable fear was losing one's sight.
Now that her book is out and being read, it appears McGowan's research paid off. She's heard from not only individuals going through similar struggles as Amber, but also family members and friends who say her writing has helped them understand a different aspect of the struggle their loved one is experiencing.
"That's one of my biggest focuses in my writing, is to create empathy for people that have gone through difficult times," McGowan said.
It can be daunting for a writer to tackle a subject they don't have specific personal experience with, but McGowan delved into researching her topic. She spoke to friends with macular degeneration and spent time getting familiar with the online communities for individuals with vision impairment.
She also communicated with the Oregon Commission for the Blind, a state agency providing resources to Oregon's vision-impaired residents. And through her conversations and research for the story, she also connected several people with the agency and other resources she found.
"That's been a side blessing, to be able to do that," McGowan said.
McGowan, who has lived in Newberg for 15 years, is active within the Christian writing community in Oregon. She is a member of Oregon Christian Writers, and credits the organization with her receiving her first publishing contract. The group is a resource for authors to connect with others in the writing and publishing industry around the state and elsewhere in the country.
She has penned two previous novels, "Jasmine" and "Macy." One follows a counselor who has been freed from the world of sex trafficking, and the other tells the story of a woman escaping domestic abuse. Both stories had McGowan researching and delving into new subject matter. And both stories, as well as her new novel, cover serious and sometimes dark topics.
"But there's always light moments and there's always hope," McGowan said. "And that's why I write: to connect with people and remind them that there's hope."
McGowan will read from and sign copies of "Hold the Light" from 4 to 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Coffee Cottage. For more about McGowan and her writing, visit www.aprilmcgowan.com.