What started out as a “cheap hobby” has turned into a full-fledged career for Bowie author Rebecca Coleman, whose latest novel, Heaven Should Fall, debuted last week.
“I’ve always written, even when I was a kid,” said Coleman. “I had kids, I was home and I had this accumulation of life experience I wanted to turn into something worthwhile, things I wanted to say.”
The manuscript of her first widely released novel, Kingdom of Childhood, was a semifinalist in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Competition and takes place in a fictionalized town based on Greenbelt, MD. The highly emotional novel follows a Waldorf school kindergarten teacher who has an affair with a 16-year-old student.
In her latest novel, Heaven Should Fall, the lead female character is a young woman who is similarly isolated as she enters into a community of anti-government survivalists and a family torn apart by the war in Afghanistan. Jill—who is young, pregnant, in love and without a family of her own—must figure out how to deal with her new circumstances even as she struggles to get out without abandoning those she loves.
“Both are stories about people who enter strange little communities and find themselves in extraordinary situations,” said Coleman.
That’s not the only similarity between the two novels. As a University of Maryland graduate who has spent the majority of her life living in Prince George’s County—University Park, Greenbelt and, for the last nine years, Bowie—Coleman uses street names and settings in both books that should be familiar to readers who also call this area home.
The idea for her most recent novel was spawned from a conversation Coleman had with a divorced friend, whose husband was trying to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) suffered from his time in Iraq. That marriage was never able to recover, but Coleman wanted to raise awareness about what soldiers returning from war have to deal with as they try to reclaim their lives.
“I’m hoping that [the book] will broaden people’s thinking about what it’s like for the people who come back from the war. What affects soldiers affects the entire family,” said Coleman. “People think that you will get over it, but it doesn't necessarily work that way.”
Like a character in the novel, Elias, many people try to put on a brave face and deal with the psychological challenges, even though they are having difficulties.
In addition to being a novelist, Coleman is the children’s ministry director for Christian Community Presbyterian Church (CCPC), and the mother to four children, ages 14, 12, 10 and six. She’s been married to her husband Mike, a DC firefighter, for 15 years.
Coleman is currently working on her third novel, Wonder Girl, about a trio of former child prodigies who go on a vision quest together and it doesn’t go as smoothly as expected. Modern fiction authors Margaret Atwood, Carolyn Parkhurst and Allison Leotta are among her favorite writers.
Both Kingdom of Childhood and Heaven Should Fall, both published by Harlequin, are available for sale online through Amazon.com and other online retailers, and in most commercial bookstores.