Angels Among Us
by Fran Fawcett-Peterson
Catherine Lanigan has no fear a trait exhibited by every heroine in each of her 26 romance novels. Perhaps an unfailing faith in the face of all circumstance marks the essence of the romance novel. It’s certainly the essence of this author’s books. Books that have been translated into 23 languages and produced fans the world over.
With the world at her fingertips, Lanigan chose Houston as her home, first arriving in the 1970s. “Houston has become my home. I just dug in and sank my roots,” she says. All the same, it took a little while for Lanigan to realize just how deeply her roots reached. The writer returned to her native Indiana for a few years to help take care of her ailing mother, and that’s when she discovered that, as much as she appreciated her home in suburban Chicago, she had fallen in love with Houston. “I mean, I missed the dirt,” she says. “My heart is here.” So, with her belongings packed in a U-haul truck, she set out for the Lone Star State, stopping only briefly at the state line to kiss the Texas earth.
Always a storyteller, Lanigan was the eldest of four children. She routinely made up stories to entertain her siblings because her mother was ill, and young Lanigan wanted to keep the household quiet. Her father didn’t believe in the so-called “idiot box,” so there was no television in the household, leaving the children instead with books and their imaginations. For years, Lanigan dreamed of becoming a writer.
Sometimes dreams are snagged in the nets of everyday life. For the true believer, however, they remain only temporarily tangled. Lanigan’s dream was “snagged” during her freshman year of college. She was enrolled in a creative writing class taught by a visiting professor from Harvard, a class typically reserved for upper classmen. After the first writing assignment, the professor called her into his office and threw her story across the desk at her. It landed unceremoniously in her lap. She was stunned to hear him say she had no talent and would never be a writer. She was crushed, and worse than that, she believed him.
Lanigan didn’t write again for 14 years. During that time, she married, had a son and became a businesswoman, owning a swimming pool company in Houston among other ventures. Then, in 1979, she met a journalist, Hugh Ainsworth, beside a swimming pool at a hotel in San Antonio as she played with her son.
“I always wanted to be a writer,” she told Ainsworth.
“If you wanted to write you’d be writing,” he laughed.
“Oh, no, I have it on good authority I have absolutely no talent,” Lanigan said and proceeded to tell him about the professor and the abrupt termination of her dream. His answer to that would change the course of her life.
“I’m ashamed of you,” he said. “You haven’t even tried.”
The statement hit a nerve in the soon-to-be novelist. Lanigan’s mother had always said that, and Ainsworth’s words echoed in a part of Lanigan’s soul that would not stand still for it. The journalist gave her his card and told her he would read anything she produced. Lanigan did indeed write, and, true to his word, Ainsworth read it and even recommended her first story, a World War I historical novel, to his editor. Her very first effort, “Bound by Love,” was a success.
Other successes followed. “The Promise,” set in Houston in the late 1800s, features a gutsy heroine who makes it on her own in the rough and tough world of the day, up to and including the devastating turn-of-the-century Galveston storm. “The Legend Makers,” set in the steamy jungles of the Amazon, offers the tale of a Texas geologist on a mission that will change her life forever. And then, there’s “Wings of Destiny: An Epic Saga of Self-discovery.” “This is the story,” according to the book jacket, “of every human being’s struggle to embrace the haunting secrets of their heritage and utilize them as catalysts to unearth the fortunes of their own soul.”
Notably, Lanigan’s most recent works are factually based. “The Evolving Woman’s subtitled, “Intimate Confessions of Surviving Mr. Wrong.”
“With this novel,” states Romantic Times, “Lanigan introduced “The Evolving Woman” heroine who, given a set of circumstances, makes choices that enrich who she is as well as the world around her.”
Then came “Angel Watch,” subtitled “Goosebumps, Dreams, Signs and Divine Nudges.” In it, Lanigan reveals a great deal of herself, including the fact that she believes that an angel appeared to her father before he died and told him to tell her to write this book. It contains stories from her own life and the lives of others in an illustration of divine intervention.
Lanigan says she believes God has put her on Earth for a very specific reason and that her guardian angels are helping with her mission. “You know, Ayn Rand said that literature must have “an underlying moral thematic structure,” and I have always tried to have that. But now I?m taking it a step further and saying literature must have an underlying moral and spiritual thematic structure.”
Lanigan currently is busy with a series of books for young adults, several screenplays and, not to disappoint her romance fans, she says she’ll continue to create in that vein as well. Thanks to faith, Lanigan is watching her dreams come true and taking us along for the literary ride.