The things that matter the most are the hardest to do. Nanette Kirsch found this to be true as she researched, wrote, and released Denial: Abuse, Addiction, and a Life Derailed. Denial, a novel based on a true story, centers on David Wagner, a married father of five and millionaire entrepreneur. He’s the life of every party and seems to have it all together. Yet the effects of childhood sexual abuse linger, luring him into a secretive double life. His story is difficult but important, and it has already prompted adult survivors of childhood abuse to break the silence that binds them spiritually and mentally. How does an author even begin to tackle a book about abuse, addiction, and a life derailed? We decided to ask Nanette for insight. Here’s her story of challenge, blessing, spiritual battle, and God’s victory—and her encouragement for writers who, like her, are called to write on topics the enemy would rather we keep quiet about. Preparation, Interviews, and God’s Gift Spiritual battle and God’s work marked Denial‘s writing process from the very beginning. First, God prepared Nanette. “Mara first asked me to write this story in 2009,” she writes in the preface. “She sent me boxes of documents, letters, depositions, and other artifacts, which I kept unopened for nearly five years. That’s when I confronted challenges in my own marriage stemming from the lingering effects of sexual abuse I had suffered in high school. As God healed my wounds, he equipped me to tell David’s story with the empathy and compassion of a fellow survivor, one restored to wholeness by Jesus Christ.” Finally, Nanette was ready to begin. While the end product was a novel, Nanette began by getting the facts straight for the true story. Interviews with both David’s loved ones and with others who had insight into childhood sexual abuse were key. These brought their own difficulties, perspectives, and opportunities for healing: Obviously, [one] person I interviewed often was his wife, Mara. . . . That was a really awesome, God-led process. When we started the process in 2014, she was still really angry with him. . . . She moved from that place of being very angry with him to a place of compassion for him. God’s leading was apparent throughout much of the writing, not just the interviews. “I prayed through a lot of the process,” Nanette says. “Every day, when I sat down to tell the story, I prayed a lot that it would be God’s story, not mine. . . . So when people say, ‘You’re a gifted writer,’ it makes me smile because yes, I was gifted.” The Battlefield Spiritual battles accompanied every stage of Denial‘s publication, from research to launch. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Sexual abuse is not just an emotional and physical assault, but a spiritual one: those who deny their past abuse and its effect on them end up with a spiritual stronghold that impedes their relationships with God. “The basic idea is that God wants intimacy with all of us,” Nanette explains. “When you have been sexually abused, [you] make intimacy the enemy.” And since “intimacy with God is essential,” she adds, there’s no better way for the enemy of God to attack. The basic idea is that God wants intimacy with all of us. When you have been sexually abused, [you] make intimacy the enemy. When survivors of sexual abuse deny the effects of their past—including its barrier to intimacy with God and others—they can’t overcome it. For many, like the character David, these effects lead to broken relationships, addiction, and abuse of others. Such things add to the collection of secrets and shame that impedes relationships with God. Once a survivor acknowledges what happened to them and how it continues to affect their lives, they can break free from their past, embrace peace, and stop running from intimacy. Denial prompts readers to do just that. So of course the enemy was eager to discourage the message and Nanette, the messenger, at every turn—all the way up to launch. Victories Yet God’s work prevails. Nanette started to see this come to fruition even before the official book launch on June 29. The book impacted both the family that inspired Denial and its other early readers in ways beyond how Nanette herself could have planned. “My first goal was to write this for his family,” she says. So she’s blessed to see “the grace they have for their dad, and respect for their mom. If no one else had ever read it, I would feel I had done [what I needed to].” That might be enough for Nanette, but others have read Denial. Some survivors even, as a result, disclosed to Nanette their own abuse, shame, and misplaced sense of responsibility. Denial has helped them confront their pasts, and at least one has even started treatment. The Hard Things Are Worth Fighting For What encouragement does Nanette have for other writers who feel called to write on tough topics? “These hard things are worth fighting for.” She has seen evidence of this not only in the writing process itself, but in conversations. Two conversations in particular stand out: one at a conference, and one with her delivery man. Both took place at times she wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence. “It’s hard to tell people about my book topic,” Nanette says. “I went to the She Speaks conference, and everyone was writing these sweet, cute books [about loving your husband better or praying in the carpool line]. I was honestly embarrassed of my topic, I just hated to say it. I wrestled with God.” I was honestly embarrassed of my topic, I just hated to say it. But when she did talk about her topic, great things resulted. Nanette spoke with one young woman at the conference about the book and ended up getting an amazing blog post about forgiveness from that woman’s mother. This post is now featured on Denial‘s website. By writing and speaking about childhood sexual abuse, she opened the door for others to connect to and share the larger truths. “These hard things have a chance to impact people for the kingdom,” she emphasizes, “and that’s what we’re all here for, to serve that goal. Once caveat: not everyone is going to go there with you. I’ve had friends who’ve said they couldn’t get past Chapter Two of my book. That’s okay. Trust that the people God wants to hear this message will read it.” Sometimes, those people turn up when the least expected. Prepare for Opposition—and God’s Work “I had a whole season of opposition, during research and writing, and another one preparing for launch.” The prospect of selling her thousand copies of Denial was particularly daunting. “I could just hear Satan whispering to me that those boxes were just going to sit in the basement and shame me.” Delivery day came. The truck pulled up with the books. When the driver heard what the boxes contained, he said, “You wrote it? Congrats.” “Would you like one?” Nanette asked. “I have a thousand of them.” After she opened the first box, she recalls, “He looked at the cover and his eyes filled with tears at the title—Abuse, Addiction, and a Life Derailed. He said just about all of these had been part of his life.” “My wife has suffered from addiction for years,” he explained. “And people keep telling me to leave her, but I keep listening to [God] instead.” Nanette told him about Mara and suggested her part in the story might provide some encouragement for him. She’d had the books for mere minutes before she gave the first to a reader. So much for the boxes just sitting in the basement and shaming her. Now, she encourages fellow DRB authors with their own boxes of books to sell: “Stop looking at the boxes, and start looking at the books, because each book has a person it’s intended for.” Her final advice? “The thing I have found encouraging is to just keep writing,” Nanette emphasizes. “Everyone has a story, and God has a purpose.” So, write what matters. It will be hard, and the enemy will oppose you, but God will do his work. After all, as Nanette repeats, “These hard things are worth fighting for.” Further Resources Be sure to check out DenialBook.com for more information and resources. This includes a list of helpful books, websites, and organizations to support survivors of childhood sexual abuse and their loved ones. As we talked, Nanette mentioned 90 Days To Your Novel: A Day-by-Day Plan for Outlining & Writing Your Book by Sara Domet. She followed this “to a T,” adapting it to her own timeline, and recommends it for other first-time novelists.