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An Inkling to Write

Oakton woman pens novel on courtship in C.S. Lewis' Oxford.

Years ago, Melanie Jeschke of Oakton learned that her name 'Melanie' meant 'ink' in Greek. Since Jeschke is a writer, those who know her think the name fits her well.

"I always knew it was a dream of hers to write on her own. It was a dream she always had in her heart," said Jeschke's eldest daughter Katherine Craddock of Fairfax.

Through Jeschke's love of literature and the works of author C.S. Lewis, Jeschke has renewed her interest in writing fiction. Like many area women who had stayed at home to raise a family, Jeschke returned to writing several years ago as the youngest of her nine children grew older.

"It was challenging, but just a lot of fun to write," said Jeschke of her first novel, 'Inklings.'

A life-long writer, University of Virginia graduate, Phi Beta Kappa member and former English teacher, Jeschke began writing again after she went to a 1998 conference celebrating the centenary of Lewis.

At the conference, which she attended with her daughter Katherine, her interest in writing was renewed as she listened to Lewis' friends and colleagues relate stories about their late friend, who penned "The Chronicles of Narnia" among many other works.

"When I came back from that conference, I had this desire to give something back," Jeschke said.

BITTEN BY the writing bug, Jeschke returned from the conference and began writing travel articles for a local newspaper.

Yet an opportunity to write a novel came up in 2000 from Jeschke's church The Kings Chapel in Fairfax, where her husband serves as pastor. A church member who owns a self-publishing company approached her to write a novel. Inspired by what she learned about Lewis, she agreed to write a novel that involved Lewis and the Inklings, a group of Oxford scholars who would meet regularly to discuss stories they had written.

At the same time that Jeschke was talking with the publisher about writing a novel, her daughter Katherine was studying abroad at Oxford.

After some thought, Jeschke decided to write a novel involving the romancing of an American girl by an Oxford don who had been mentored by Lewis himself. Although the story doesn't use Lewis as a character, his presence and his ideas on writing and Christianity serve as background themes throughout the book.

"I got to incorporate all these great stories about Lewis from the conference, but in a fictional format," Jeschke said.

Once Jeschke had an idea of what to write about, she used whatever spare time she had to write the novel. For three months, after she finished with her mothering duties for the day, she would spend every night sitting in front of the computer and typing away.

Jeschke also traveled to England several times to research people and places, in order to create an air of authenticity.

"I tried to make it as historically accurate as I could," Jeschke said.

After finishing her first novel, Jeschke began working on the second one, "Intentions," which follows the young couple through their courtship.

ALTHOUGH A self-publisher published Jeschke's first novel in 2002, he worked with Jeschke to get a publishing contact with Harvest House, an Oregon-based, national firm specializing in Christian literature.

Harvest House combined Jeschke's first novel, 'Inklings,' and her second novel, 'Intentions,' into one book, publishing that in July 2004.

"It was kind of fun because it was a mixture. It was my story, mixed in with some of her experiences," said Craddock of the finished novel. "I really liked it, it brought back to me everything I had gone through."

Jeschke is steadily working on a sequel to her book, called "Expectations." Due in March 2005, "Expectations" will be the second book in the series "The Oxford Chronicles."

Although writing the sequel has been harder for Jeschke, she still enjoys the opportunity to let her creative juices flow.

Jeschke also enjoys taking her friends to England and Oxford, where she leads them on tours of her novel's settings.

"It was really cool. She's a good tour guide as well as a good author," said Jacqui Thomson of Centreville.

Thomson added that although she isn't drawn to romance novels, she enjoyed reading Jeschke's book.

"It's very refreshing to read something that wasn't explicitly sexual," Thomson said. "The characters were very believable. I could imagine it all."