Growing up as the daughter of best-selling author Gerald N. Lund, Rebecca Belliston heard the question countless times:
“Are you going to be a writer like your dad?”
She had watched her father's fingers work the keyboard for hours and was entertained by his books. But like her mother, Belliston was more interested in music. She often replied, “No, that’s his thing.”
That changed around 2008 when Lund received an unassuming email from his daughter, asking if he had time to review a manuscript she’d been working on.
“I said, ‘What?’ That was the first inkling she had given me that she was doing anything with writing,” Lund said. “Once I got over the shock, I was delighted to think we might have another writer in the family. When I read it, I thought, ‘She’s a good writer.’ I can’t remember the feedback I gave her, but it was pretty minimal.”
Three novels later, with two more in the works, Belliston, a Michigan mother of five, has embraced the author’s life. Father and daughter have always been close, but their shared interest in the written word is evidence that cultivating common interests and spending time together can strengthen family relationships.
“We all love our families, but that love is developed and maintained as we spend time together,” Belliston said. “Having common hobbies or interests provides a chance to let our relationships flourish. It gives us something to talk about, laugh about, brainstorm over and just enjoy together. It gives us a chance to bond.”
In the world of LDS publishing, Gerald Lund is a household name. In addition to a 35-year career with the LDS Church Educational System and serving as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Second Quorum of the Seventy from 2002 to 2008, Lund has authored 29 books of historical fiction, general fiction and nonfiction. Three movies were made from his popular The Work and the Glory series. “Only the Brave: The Continuing Saga of the San Juan Pioneers” (Deseret Book, $21.99) and “Fire and Steel, Volume 1: The Rising Generation” (Deseret Book, $21.99) are his two most recently released books.
Lund’s father was a smelter worker at the Kennecott Copper Mine and considered himself an uneducated man, Lund said. Yet he consistently read to his children and taught them to love books.
In turn, Lund regularly read to Belliston and her siblings when they were young. They turned the pages of books like The Boxcar Children, The Chronicles of Narnia, “Charlotte’s Web” and “A Wrinkle in Time,” among other classics. He also liked to collect quotes from great writers that he shared with his children. One that stuck with Belliston was anonymous.
“Good books aren’t written, they are rewritten,” Belliston said. “As I get a first draft done, I think, ‘This book is awful.’ Then I think, ‘It’s OK, it will be rewritten and rewritten. It will get better.’ ”
Lund’s wife, Lynn, who passed away in 2014, was equally influential as a musician and composer. She taught her children to love and appreciate good music, Belliston said.
“Mom was a composer; dad wrote books. They were both creative people,” Belliston said. “They encouraged us kids to try things and be creative … and it gave me the courage to explore my own creativity. They have been supportive every step of the way.”
Belliston didn’t mind discussing her father’s story plots over dinner and was flattered when her father named characters in his books after her (Rebecca Steed in The Work and the Glory series and Becky Lloyd in “The Alliance”), but she was more interested in composing piano and vocal music.
Then about six years ago, Belliston became intrigued with a story idea of her own about a girl who flees a bad relationship and finds new love and faith. When the idea persisted, she began writing it on paper and found she couldn’t stop. When it was finished, the manuscript became her first novel, “Sadie.”
“I haven’t stopped since,” Belliston said. “I just love it.”
Belliston has since published “Augustina,” which is a sequel to "Sadie," as well as "Life," the first book in a series titled Citizens of Logan Pond. She is under contract with a publisher to write the next two books in the series. Each novel has been categorized as "clean young adult fiction."
She’s not the only aspiring writer in the family. In 2010, another daughter, Cynthia Dobson, a mother of seven, published a children’s book called “I’m Trying to be Like Jesus.” A brother, Matt, also recently emailed a few chapters to his father for feedback.
Belliston admitted it was a little intimidating to venture into the publishing world as Gerald Lund’s daughter. She also didn’t include the name “Lund” because she wanted to make it on her own merits. While her father did introduce her to a few people at Deseret Book, he was proud of her for not trying to ride his coattails.
“I didn’t want readers to pick up my book and think they were getting a Gerald Lund novel or doctrinal dissertation. I wanted to be published because the publisher liked my book and not because they liked my dad,” she said. “I feel more comfortable now, but in the beginning it was definitely intimidating.”
In fact, Belliston’s experience now benefits her father. She maintains his Facebook page at facebook.com/geraldnlund and author website at geraldlund.com. When he needs feedback on his latest manuscript, he sends it to Belliston, his other two daughters, two daughters-in-law and an old friend.
“It’s been an increased dimension that I consider a partnership,” Lund said.
The biggest lesson Belliston has learned from her father has been the importance of family and faith over any project. It has always been humorous for family members to read Lund’s long biography of accomplishments with a sentence at the end that mentions being the husband and father of seven children. His true legacy will boil down to a testimony of the gospel and love of family, Belliston said.
“I would laugh because that’s not really him. He’s really a family man. We felt that as kids,” Belliston said. “You do have to make time to write, but not at the expense of your family. Writing is a fun hobby, but at the end of the day, it’s just a book. Books can wait. Kids grow up too fast.”
Lund added to his daughter’s thought with a personal experience that taught him this lesson. The day after he prayerfully decided to begin working on The Work and the Glory series, Lund was called to be a bishop in his LDS ward. With his full-time job, church duties and family responsibilities, he wondered when he would find time for this historical fiction series with an annual deadline. He remembers looking up to heaven and thinking, “What’s going on here?”
Whenever he attempted to work on the book, someone would call for the bishop, or something would happen like the washing machine breaking down. With deadline pressure mounting, he found himself getting sharp with his wife and kids. In the midst of that frustration, an epiphany came.
“One day as I was thinking about it, I said to myself, ‘Writing is not the most important thing in your life.’ I accepted that, and the frustration went away,” Lund said. “That became an important turning point for me.”
Lund made the time to complete his books by taking advantage of “slivers of time” normally wasted. Sometimes it was only an hour's worth of work. He met his deadlines, and the series was successful.
In subsequent projects, Lund has involved his family, including the grandchildren, in doing the research. For example, he and more than 40 family members followed the southern Utah trail used by pioneers as part of his historical novel "The Undaunted: The Miracle of the Hole-In-The-Rock Pioneers."
“In other words, we created shared experiences together," Lund said. "We’ve done many similar things, not necessarily related to my books. And the children still talk about those times. Now, they are doing it with their own children. Focusing on the family and putting things first has been a blessing to me as a writer.”
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