Although Liesel Litzenburger once was hesitant to share her writing with people who weren't family or friends, she moved past that trepidation to pursue her dream — being a published novelist.
"My shyness was outweighed by my thrill of seeing my name in print," she said. "That's sort of the trade off."
Overcoming that shyness has paid off for Litzenburger, who has published two critically acclaimed novels, "Now You Love Me" and "The Widower."
Although her novel, "Now You Love Me," was first published by a small press in 2001, it didn't garner much attention until it was reedited and republished in 2007 by Three Rivers Press, a Random House division.
"Only my friends and closest relatives read it," Litzenburger said of the first edition.
Since her other novel, "The Widower," was released before the revised edition of "Now You Love Me," the first book she wrote is often considered to be her second.
Now, both novels have received critical acclaim. "Now You Love Me" was recently selected as the "Pick of the Week" by Entertainment Weekly, while "The Widower" was honored with the Stuart D. and Vernice M. Gross Award for Literature and named a 2007 Michigan Notable Book.
Over the years, Litzenburger has received emails from fans throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and South America. Since facing rejection becomes second nature for most writers, Litzenburger said she has been pleased with the reaction to her books, especially her characters.
"I have been really thrilled that both books have gotten so much attention," said Litzenburger, adding, "you care abut your characters almost as they are family members. If someone said something mean about them, it would almost feel like someone said something mean about your mother."
To create her characters, Litzenburger draws from snippets of her life that, at the time, often appear insignificant. "That's the kind of thing that can inspire an entire character, just a line someone says," she said. "I try to just pay attention to normal, everyday life."
Litzenburger said her characters tend to be ordinary people who may be easy for readers to relate to. In "The Widower," Litzenburger explores the lives of two men — Swanton Robey and Joseph Geewa — who have both lived as prisoners. While Swanton Robey is imprisoned by the sorrow over the accidental death of his wife, Joseph Geewa is trying to readjust to living in society after being behind bars for 20 years. The story connects the two, and sends them on a journey together in a "profound story of loss and redemption."
In "Now You Love Me," Litzenburger took a different direction by exploring the innocence of youth through the eyes of her main character, Annie, a girl with a matter-of-factness about life. When she started writing the book about a dysfunctional family living in a small, summer-vacation town in Michigan, she realized that the girl's perspective was the only way possible to capture it.
"Annie's perspective of the adult world was interesting to me," explained Litzenburger. "At the time, you really don't have the language to articulate it, but you abstract it in another way."