Brazilian native Patricia Beal immigrated to America in 1992, fell in love with the English language while washing dishes at McDonald’s, and put herself through college working at a BP gas station. Later, she graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati with a B.A. in English Literature.

After an internship at the Pentagon, Patricia worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army and was a spokesperson for five general officers. Writing from Iraq during the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom, she focused on feature stories for Army newspapers. One story won her a Keith L. Ware award in print journalism.

Patricia has danced ballet since her childhood but became a Christian as an adult. Her dance experience brings authenticity to her first, inspirational novel, A Season to Dance.

In addition to her busy writing and family life—she met her husband at Fort Bragg—Patricia is an advocate for Autism awareness. She and her son have Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.

 

What started you on your writing journey?

Writing a novel was an old dream. It first crossed my mind in 1987, when growing up in Brazil, I read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. But for years I didn’t have a good idea. In January of 2011, on I-40 (somewhere between Nashville and Winston-Salem), I had a good idea. I wrote a chapter every Saturday and finished the first draft before the end of the year.

Just as all good novels include a plot twist, the Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?

Oh, my word! Yes!

A Season to Dance is my debut novel. It’s the story of a small town professional ballerina who dreams of dancing at the Met in New York, the two men who love her, and the forbidden kiss that changed everything. But it’s more than big dreams and dreamy suitors. It’s about a young woman trying to fill the God-shaped hole in her heart with misguided career and romantic pursuits.

Here’s the twist: I wasn’t a Christian when I started. The story was initially just about big dreams and dreamy suitors. But the whole time, God had me writing my own salvation story.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, and for most of my life I believed there had to be some kind of god out there and that being a good person was important. But in the summer of 2012, an early version of the novel was rejected in three different continents on the same week. I was tired and lonely, and I freaked out. I decided the notion of a loving god was absurd. There was no loving god, if there was a god at all.

Self-gratification became the chief end of my existence, and I looked behind every door for happiness and satisfaction. I didn’t find anything worth keeping though, and at the end of every new pursuit, I was still tired and lonely.

Then Jesus passed by. I was born again in January of 2013, and soon after that, I realized the novel wasn’t complete. I cancelled a trip to a secular writers’ conference and started a 14-month rewrite. This book, A Season to Dance, is the book that wrote me. I journeyed with Ana and pray that now others will journey with us, beyond expectations and suffering and to the very heart of Christ.

You said that A Season to Dance (Bling! Romance, May 2017) began with an idea. What provided that initial inspiration?

I’m a pantser, so I didn’t really know what I was writing. All I had was a scene—a ballerina stuck on top of a marquee for behaving badly. But I didn’t know what she’d done or who’d put her there. The beauty of Callaway Gardens was definitely an inspiration and the story soon moved there. And ballet, of course, is always an inspiration. I’ve been doing it forever.

Writing is hard work. How do you discipline yourself to write every day?

I don’t necessarily write every day. Not right now. I’m in the middle of a mega transition in my life: moving from Texas to North Carolina and blessed with a second opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. Once we are all settled in North Carolina, I want to write in the morning, go for a walk, then take care of the home and read. We will see how that will go. I’m still looking for what works for my family.

Above all, I don’t want to be frazzled and anxious because of writing. I recommend Allen Arnold’s The Story of With to all writers and creatives. Because of it, I’m after being more, not doing more. If I’m going after God’s heart and peace at a pace dictated by Him, all will work out. “All” might simply be the quality of my walk. It doesn’t have to be publishing success. It’s what God says it is. It’s a life filled with what He brings about as we walk together.

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

I love hot tamales (the red candy, not the Mexican food). I’m not sure why and don’t even remember how or when it started.

What Bible passage or story best describes your journey of faith?

Right now I feel like I’m headed toward the promised land. I was saved to serve a better master, did/do that, but failed to conquer the promised land. We should have moved to North Carolina fourteen months ago, when my husband retired from active duty service. We have a lovely home there. But when a job opened for me in Texas, we stayed for the financial security. Looking back, I think that was a mistake.

The past fourteen months have been a time of wilderness. I danced very little. I wrote very little. I read my Bible very little. I spent very little time with my kids. I worked very hard at an office and made money but felt empty daily and failed to be a blessing to my family.

Deuteronomy 8 has been coming to mind a lot as I ponder the wilderness experience and prepare to move forward with a refined heart.

I’m a dog lover, and I love that you’ve included a canine character in the book. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

Oh, pets! My mom never let me have a dog. I finally decided I didn’t like dogs either. Until I met my husband, who came with a rescued boxer girl who stole my Aspie heart.

I wrote the dog in the story when she was fading away, and I gave the dog in the story the senior experience I wish our boxer had had. I can’t go into details, or I will give away the story, but if you do get the book, the book club discussion includes a note on what happened to “the real Barysh.” 😉

Now we have a yellow lab named Kendra—the greatest champion. She’s the daughter of a famous Hungarian champion and her future was bright. Then I bought her. Apparently my dog-rearing skills are as good as my child-rearing skills. Kendra is the champion of mischief and of all things goofy.

Thanks, Patricia! It’s great to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.

Thank you for having me here. How fun!

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For more information about Patricia, visit her website and/or on Facebook or Twitter.

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