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Interview with Maggie Brendan

A month after sending off her first book query, Maggie Brendan was ready to quit. Darkness loomed as a pain so intense it invaded her and stole her lifelong passion. Her brother, the man who’d been instrumental in helping launch her career had died, and she fell apart.

“I thought, ‘That’s the end of it,’” She said. “I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to move forward. He was like my father, because my dad wasn’t around. He took care of me and my sister.”

But he did much more than that. He also gave Maggie the courage to follow her dreams of becoming a published writer.

As he was.

Birth of a dream

Maggie Brendan's brother

It was September 2002, the year Maggie’s church hosted a Bible study by Marlene Bagnull called Write His Answer, a tool that helps writers grasp and pursue God’s will for their career. Maggie’s brother, a successful writer of westerns and film scripts, working under the pen name Jess McCreede (right), was one of the guest speakers. It was then Maggie first sensed God’s call to write for the inspirational market, a call so strong, “I couldn’t be budged from it,” she said.

She immediately went home and poured her heart into finishing a story she’d been working on and let her brother read it. “He said it was great, so I sent it off.”

By spring of 2004, he took ill and died suddenly, and her world slammed to a stop.

But by God’s hand, six months later, the writer within urged her to the ACFW conference that fall where a divinely orchestrated mentor appointment helped instigate Maggie’s first steps toward healing.

“At that conference, I met with Colleen Coble, who had also lost her brother suddenly—he was hit by lightning,” Maggie recalled. She told Colleen that she would be leaving the conference to go see her brother’s farm and writing cabin in Montana. “She encouraged me to go, too. She told me I’d get healing for my heart there.”

She also said that was where Maggie would get her next book idea, adding, “I think that’s how God is going to use you.”

Deepening the dream

The cabin in Montana

So, Maggie left after the ACFW conference and traveled to Montana. Her husband, who loved her brother like his own, went with her.

“I went to his cabin, where he wrote,” she said. “This inspired me to write. Made me realize how short time is—You need to do what you can while you’re still here.”

Those precious afternoons are still vivid in her mind. “I sat at his desk, with access to his computer. I was able to look at his work, his screenplay, which was a suspense novel, and the current western he was working on about Texas Rangers. And just looking at his stuff, I felt very close to him. But it was tough, reading his work when he wasn’t there.”

She spent a week in her deceased brother’s cabin, reflecting on who he was and all he’d taught her—reflecting on how much he’d meant to her.

But she didn’t get her book idea, as she’d expected.

Day after day went by, with nothing. No inspiration, nothing but reading what her brother had already written and reminiscing on the incredible man that he was.

Memento for a dream

“Then, on the day we were leaving, my husband and I drove through a mountain town near Columbia Falls, Montana. It was a little bitty town with fun little shops. In each one, we found these beautiful rings—the yogo sapphire, which were mined in Montana.”

Because it was their anniversary week, her husband bought her one. She was excited and proud of the ring—a memento from her special week. But she still didn’t have an idea for her next story. Not until she passed another shop and saw a book on the history of the yogo sapphires in the store window.

“I bought it and read it on the way back to my sister-in-law’s, and said, ‘I’ve got it! I’ve got my book idea—I’m going to do a story about yogo sapphires.’”

When she returned home, she read that history book from beginning to end and then penned what became the CBA best seller, The Jewel of His Heart, a title as rich in meaning as the story behind it’s birth.

“That is one of the titles Revel kept,” she said. “It meant a lot to me, not just because of where I got the idea, but also because of what it symbolized to me.”

The dream goes on

Her brother’s daughter was attending the University of Kansas. For Christmas, Maggie had made her a scrapbook. In the scrapbook was a picture of her niece and brother and beneath this she’d written, “You are the jewel of his heart.” That phrase held a double meaning—her niece was the jewel of her father’s heart and of God’s.

When she got the contract offer, she instantly thought of her brother. “He was the first person I wanted to share the news with,” she said. “But I couldn’t. So I called my husband and my critique partner. And we wept.”

Maggie dedicated her first book, No Place for a Lady, to her brother.

She’ll always miss her brother. “It’d be great to sit down and talk about writing and the experiences I went through. We could write and brainstorm together—we used to do that when I lived in Denver.”

But in his absence, her office is filled with memories, with photographs of him smiling down on her. And with every word she writes, she remembers the one who inspired her and that bittersweet week spent in the cabin where it all began.


Novelist and speaker Jennifer Slattery, also writing as Jen Pheobus, uses humor, grace, and truth to inspire God’s children to live abundant, Christ-centered lives. She does content editing for Firefly, a southern fiction imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, and is a frequent contributor to

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