They called her Lew

William Lewen’s father might be a respected doctor on the island of Barbados, but he’s controlled her life from the beginning. The youngest of five daughters, her father was so angry she wasn’t a son, he gave her a boy’s name anyway. Now that Lew’s older sisters have married, and her mother passed, she’s forbidden from marrying in order to take care of her father. But trouble at home is only an echo of the rumored danger that lurks off island shores.

The son of a wealthy sugar plantation owner, James’ future is set, if he can ignore the tugging in his heart which points to a life of full-time ministry. With the threat of pirate attacks on the horizon, James must focus on protecting the family business. But when he meets a beautiful girl named Lew, he knows life is about to change forever. If they can fend off deadly marauders, do they have a hope of ever being together?

Sound like an interesting historical romance? I’d love for it to be, someday, but for now it’s the true story of my great-great-grandparents.

*spoiler alert* James’ brother lost the entire sugar plantation in a card game, and James became a minister. To escape Lew’s father, they ran away together to the opposite side of Barbados and eloped. I may have added the pirates… 😉 (The true story is a good one hundred years after the decline of Caribbean pirates, for you historical nerds.)

Holidays in my family are spent sitting around the dinner table for hours, listening to the stories of who we are and where we’ve come from. The girl named William Lewen has always been one of my favorites.

In writing, it’s important to know my characters’ backstories. What was their greatest hurt? What was the best night of their life? These types of questions help me figure out the kind of person life has shaped them into and why they react the way they do in certain situations.

In real life, it’s just as important to understand our own backstories, whether the great-great-grandparents, or the life-altering thing that happened in second grade. As we enter the holiday season, let’s spend some time asking questions and listening to family history. Each of us has a backstory that’s influenced us in ways we may or may not realize.

Not all family members are eager to talk about the past, and not all family stories are exciting or glamorous. Sometimes there’s a little more of the controlling father and dwindled inheritance, than bravely defending island shores against pirates. But it’s still a part of the backstory that’s shaped each of us.

As we share this season’s holidays with family and friends, I hope we’re able to reflect on roads we’ve traveled that have brought us to this point. The high road, the narrow road, and the one lined with daisies and bumble bees. The broken road, the dark road, the one that seemed go uphill forever.

One more important thing to understand about fiction—backstory is what happened before the book starts. A character’s backstory is critical, but I’m not supposed to dump all of it in first chapter. That’s boring. The story must move forward, and at a good pace. The same is true for all of us. We have the privilege of learning from experience, but we must keep the story moving forward!

Do you have a favorite family story? I’d love to hear about in the comments.


Beth Olsson, in a pen cap, is all about Jesus, her Viking, and their two adorable babies. If you know what it means when she says her childhood heroes were Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables, and Jo March, then you get it! All kidding aside, they’re still her heroes. Beth started creating stories as early as she can remember, staying awake well after bedtime dreaming up daring characters and precarious situations. As a writer of contemporary romance, with a dash of suspense, she believes the best stories weave the raw beauty of real life with unbelievable adventures.

A proud resident of Kansas City, Missouri, Beth enjoys world travel, genealogy, and sitting around the dinner table for hours, talking about both. The best souvenir she ever brought home was a husband from Sweden. Like any good writer, she has a love affair with chocolate and coffee, but it’s a lifeblood connection with Jesus Christ that keeps the words flowing and heart beating. At the tender age of fourteen, on a tile floor in Costa Rica, she surrendered all to the one she calls Lord. Through life’s twists and turns she’s thankful for this steadfast foundation every day!


By |2018-11-02T01:59:11+00:00November 2nd, 2018|Beth Olsson|6 Comments

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  1. Karin Beery November 3, 2018 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    What a cool family history!

    My favorite family story involves my great grandpa (I think). They moved to America and bought a tiny house. They wanted to build a bigger one but didn’t have enough money, so he and his brothers would go to the train yard at night and steal old train track boards. (I can’t remember the exact term.) They uses those old railroad boards to help frame a new house!

    • Beth Olsson November 4, 2018 at 1:14 am - Reply

      That’s hilarious! And very resourceful 😉 Where did they move from? Have you ever seen the house?

      • Karin Beery November 4, 2018 at 3:54 pm - Reply

        From Poland. I think I’ve driven by the house before, but I wouldn’t be able to find it without someone showing me.

        • Beth Olsson November 5, 2018 at 3:07 am - Reply

          Very cool!

          • Austin Ryan November 6, 2018 at 4:51 am

            Wow. That’s resourcefulness alright! 🙂 I love that story, Karin!

  2. Austin Ryan November 6, 2018 at 5:02 am - Reply

    What a very cool story, Beth (even without the pirates!).

    I try to catch the family stories from my own families before the tellers can’t tell them anymore. I tell my little boy all the stories I know about our family and about the world.

    Sometimes my love of story backfires (like when I told him about the great Chicago fire and he started crying because his grandparents live in Wisconsin, which is very close to Chicago, and the 147 years between then and now seemed inconsequential when you’re five and a half). We cleared it up with a phone call to grandpa 😉

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