The story behind the novel, “The Common Hours”


I am often asked who “The Common Hours” is about and how much of it is my life. The story which unfolds in this novel is a story which has been forming in my mind for many years. It was shaped by observations and experiences in my life but was not written to represent anyone specifically. There are parts of me in many of the characters along with family and friends who have influenced my life.

The story began to take shape when I experienced an event that changed our family. I was twelve, when the pastor of the church which my family attended and where my father was youth pastor, resigned one evening. His resignation happened very much in the manner that Reverend Claythorn in “The Common Hours” resigned (page 9,10). I didn’t understand at first what was happening when my pastor read his speech to the parishioners. The scene in the book of Reverend Claythorn’s exit from the church, is taken from memory of the chaotic scene that happened after our pastor left the building following his speech. I remember making my way to the restroom in the back of the church where I overheard choir members crying and talking about what had happened. It was from those conversations and talking with my family later, I realized our pastor had been caught in an extramarital affair.

At twelve I learned pastors sin too. My family experienced the ripple effect that such an event has when it happens. Eventually the aftermath resulted in my father losing his job as youth pastor. Our family left Texas and we moved to a small town in Pennsylvania where life was very different from anything I had experienced before. The valley in which my family lived, until I left for college, is the valley where “The Common Hours” takes place. The Pine Creek gorge is a beautiful place full of wilderness and wildlife. At the time, the only other children in town were my brother and sister and the total population was 35. My sister and I would occasionally ride our bikes (during the summer) seven miles to a town south of us where a girl our age lived. Her family had a floating dock in the creek and a really cool two-story tree house. It was a carefree life, but at times a lonely life for this very social (at the time teenage) girl.

The impression of those events and the experiences I lived in the Pine Creek gorge became a story about Mary, John, and Sarah Richardson. A story about the mess of life and God’s grace through it all.

The Pine Creek Gorge in the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon
The Pine Creek Gorge in the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon

Below are some behind the scenes of “The Common Hours” (I won’t give any of the story away):

I used the name Sarah for the daughter. When my husband and I were first married we chose the name Sarah if we had a daughter. We never did have children of our own, so I gave the name to my first character.

Aunt Katherine and cousin Kassie’s names are the names of my two oldest children’s birth grandmother and their mother’s nickname. Their birth family is part of our unique and special relationship with my children’s birth family.

The character Mason is named after my oldest son. The first time you meet Mason in the book (page 50) is exactly the way I met my son for the first time. We knocked on the door of the foster home; He came running to the door, swung it open and hollered out “She’s pretty!” then ran the other way.

The hotel/restaurant in Slate Run was inspired by the modern day Hotel Manor in Slate Run, PA.

There is a kitten in the book (page 126) named Nevi. I has to put a black and white cat down, named Nevi, while I was writing this book. She crawled right into the pages of the story as if she belonged there.

Sometimes I am asked about panthers in that area. Historically, mountain lions or any other large cats were referred to as panthers, so I kept with the term of that time. Some of the people in the valley still use the term panther.

My post’s will be limited now to once a month as I look to my Pennsylvania book tour in October. I am also beginning work on book two in “The Common Hours” series, called “The Waking Hours”.

For full tour events visit my website at

Tina Stephens

author of “The Common Hours” available on

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