A native of coastal South Carolina, bestselling author T.I. Lowe sees herself as an ordinary country girl who loves to tell extraordinary stories. She kicks off her Carolina Coast series with Beach Haven (Tyndale House): Feeling guilty in the aftermath of a hurricane, ex-Marine Lincoln Cole decides to help free-spirited Opal Gilbert repair her store. But even as he tries to keep her at arm’s length, her well-meaning meddling begins to heal his wounds—and capture his heart. In this interview, T.I. explains her inspiration for the book, shares the challenge of her characters’ romance, and reveals the part of the story she just loved.
What inspired you to write Beach Haven?
The Bible verse shared at the beginning of the book sums it up. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11). Storms in life can come in and make such a mess that this promise can get overlooked.
Haven means “refuge,” so I was inspired to write a story centered around finding our haven in God during these storms, seeking his refuge and redemption in the aftermath. Readers will see this physically manifested through a hurricane and spiritually demonstrated through Lincoln’s redemption of faith.
What was the most difficult part of writing this story?
When I create a character with such an altruistic background as Lincoln’s military career, my goal is to pay my respects and to honor them. I’m always a little nervous about getting that right and mindful of how it will be perceived.
What can you tell us about your characters Opal Gilbert and Lincoln Cole?
Opal is what folks consider weird. Different. Too silly at times. She allows people to form those opinions but doesn’t allow them to keep her from enjoying the eccentric fit of her quirkiness. Opal’s purpose is to inspire readers to own up to their uniqueness.
Lincoln is a big ole teddy bear hiding behind a grouchy pout, but boy does he have one fierce stubborn streak. Once his mind up is made up about something, there’s no wavering from it. Lincoln finally reaches a point in the story where there is no other choice but to come to terms with accepting God’s repurposing plan for his life.
Neither one of them wanted a relationship. Opal’s focus was restoring her shop in the aftermath of Hurricane Lacy, and Lincoln’s focus was restoring his life, which was left in ruins due to a career-ending injury and the poor choices he made afterward. Even though they both fight against their developing feelings, of course love wins in the end.
Exploring the unexpectedness of their love story was an appealing challenge for me. They butt heads quite a bit, but both have that endearing quality where they have each other’s back. I’ll share one of my favorite scenes below that showcases this when a guy makes fun of Opal in public.
What role does faith play in this story?
Life is a gift from God, even when we perceive it to be in ruins and past repair. During a confrontation with Lincoln, Opal points this out to him by checking his pulse. She tells him, “Each pulse you have is another chance. Another opportunity … You’re a living, breathing miracle. Your life is a gift from God and yet you’ve just wasted eighty-eight chances to appreciate that in the last minute.”
What lessons or truths do you hope readers take away from Beach Haven?
Just because a chapter of your life inserts an unexpected plot twist and is far from what you had planned doesn’t mean the story is over. Embracing change is never easy, but it’s a part of life.
I’m most excited for readers to experience the victory of redemption. Lincoln will make mistakes, he will fight against necessary change, and he will try running from his faith and the feelings developing for Opal.
I loved, loved, loved when I finally got to the part of the story where this giant of a man humbles himself to accept it all. He is a decorated soldier and wore bravery like a fine suit before he was wounded in battle, but I found him at his strongest when he stood up for Opal and when he reconciled with his father.
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