My Author Story (part 3) — A Time to Die

This three-week series of sharing my author story, is in answer to Brent King’s question on my Ask Me Anything post: “I would be fascinated by your personal story…what fueled your passion for…writing and your desire to write.” Here is the author-side of that story. (You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)


Exactly one year ago today, I read this opening sentence in an e-mail from Jeff Gerke, the founder of Enclave Publishing (formerly Marcher Lord Press.)

“I’m 123 pages into A Time to Die, and I already know I want to publish this book.”

I won’t get into all the details of tears, laughter, celebration, and dances of joy that came afterward. You can read some of that in this post.

Instead, I consider today the perfect opportunity to share how I found the story for A Time to Die. My author story, to this point, led you through my life as a kindergartener all the way through graduate school.

It was October and A Time to Die was just a blip on my author radar. I had the vague idea of a world with a giant wall around it and maybe some twin or triplet protagonists, but I didn’t plan to dig into that story until I’d written all the other masterpieces I had simmering in my fingertips. 😉

Simmering Fingertips - Blog

Now, let me introduce you to a young man named James. I’d never met James, but I was acquaintances with his dad and sister. I had several opportunities to meet James, but he always seemed to drop out last minute to do something like travel to Africa or galavant across Europe. It became an ongoing joke between my sister and me that James was the invisible son who didn’t actually exist. I only ever knew him through stories told from his family.

It’s different learning about someone. You build your opinion of this person off of what you hear, not what you see. I eventually started to view James as the flighty young man who put his desire to be in Africa over all the “expected” things he should do — like settling down or getting lofty college degrees. Wouldn’t it be nice if he settled down, finished something, and then indulged in his desire for travel?

Mid-October I got a call.

James had been in Nairobi, Kenya and died in his sleep from pneumonia.

Wait…what? But…he’s my age. And pneumonia can be treated so easily!

This news threw me much farther than I expected. I took it hard and I couldn’t pinpoint why. After all, I’d never met James. Was it just because we were close in age?

I couldn’t get him out of my head for days and days. And that’s when the thoughts came. All those years I spent wondering if he’d ever settle down or if I’d ever meet him face to face…I never got it. Something inside him — something in his soul — knew he didn’t have time for that. Something kept driving him back to Africa to minister to people there. Something knew that his time was limited…and needed to be spent right.

How much time did I have, and what was I doing with it? How much time did any of us have? God sledgehammered me with the question: how would you live if you knew the day you would die? (Tweet this.)


A story grew in my imagination of people living with the knowledge of their time — with a Clock. I couldn’t focus on graduate classes or anything else for that matter. I had to process the question, for myself, for humanity. One night, I finally went home and just started writing — more for the sake of freeing my mind than actually starting a new book.

Chapter one came out. It was unlike anything I’d ever written. The next day I read and re-read it, unable to believe it had come from my fingers.

“Okay God, what are you doing here?”

I never doubted for a moment that this story came from Him. One month later, A Time to Die won the 2010 ACWF Ohio Hook Me Contest with a perfect score. Six months after that, Jeff Gerke requested a full manuscript when I wasn’t even pitching it to him. He waited over a year for me to finish writing it! (Psst! You can pre-order A Time to Die now on Amazon!)

During this time, I was still pushing myself through graduate school in speech therapy. I had no time to write, but I overflowed with inspiration. When I finally graduated that’s when God said, “Okay…now write.”

“Wait…now?” I asked. “After everyone’s watched me go through six years of speech therapy schooling you want me to ditch all that and write?”


It’s funny how I actually sat back and considered the ramifications. In my mind, I’d be throwing my reputation out the window…but I’d be following my dream. It all came down, once more, to a matter of obedience.

So I obeyed.

Funnily enough, no one minded — not even my parents who paid my way through college. They were more pleased that I pursued my passion.

This idea of following the pull of my soul — the pull of God’s calling to urgent active living — is a permanent stamp on my thinking now. God used James’s life and death to kickstart my dream of writing. Ultimately, obeying Him and becoming an author changed how I viewed, and ultimately lived, my life.


  • Sometimes God has a different story for you to write. I did not want to write A Time to Die at first. I had another series I’d been dying to write. I had so many other ideas that, in my mind, took precedence. But this is the one God used to change my life and, hopefully, will use to change the lives of others.
  • Be willing to ditch your “reputation” to follow God’s call. (Tweet this.) That sounds intimidating, I know, but think of James. He didn’t have a great “reputation” in my mind — mainly because I never really knew him and formed my own view of his life — until I realized his “impulsive living” was actually an answer to God’s call.


For authors: What instigated the idea for your current work-in-progress?

For everyone: What do you think would change if you started viewing your life — I mean really viewing your life — as temporary? (Tweet this.)



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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. If we are close to God, then it is He who tells us what to write. I have several books that are started (one is ⅔ written), but they are waiting because God wants me to write another first.

    The first book I set out to write (a unique story about the wise men) is one I want to finish so bad, but I don’t know when I’ll ever get to finish it.

    On the other hand, it is a wonderful thing to have someone wiser guiding us with what to say and when.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story Nadine. The cool thing is that all God’s stories turn out good…

    • It certainly is a wonderful thing to have His guidance. Even if it means waiting to write those books we can’t stop thinking about. When God calls you to write another book, you know for a fact He has plans for it. 🙂

      It was a pleasure sharing my story. Thank you, Brent, for requesting it and opening up that opportunity for me.

  2. Last summer, the immediacy of the Rapture was impressed upon me. I thought that if I was going to leave this world even as soon as the end of summer, then I should not waste a second of it working a silly job for my own gain but use the summer to work in the ministry opportunity I had been presented with. (Being a high school student, I had that option.) So, I spent the summer serving God at a summer camp. We have obviously not been raptured yet, but I don’t regret a second of that summer and wish I could have done the same this summer.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your story. It’s encouraging.

I love hearing from you!