How Matt Maher Impacted My Upcoming YA Novel

Wednesday night I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Matt Maher in concert, and it got me thinking about how I first became a Matt Maher fan and how his music played a role in my upcoming YA novel, Angelhood.

I can tell you almost the exact date I became a Matt Maher fan. It was late November of 2011. As part of National Novel Writing Month, I was working on my first draft of Angelhood. The beginning of the book had come very easily, but the ending was proving a bit more difficult. I knew basically how the story needed to end, but I didn’t know how to make all the pieces fit together.

On my drive to work one morning, I was mulling over the climatic scene and absentmindedly listening to K-Love on the radio. Suddenly, a line from a song struck me:

“‘Cause even in the dark, you can still see the light.”

And I thought, “Yes, that’s it! That’s exactly what I’m trying to say in my book!” I forgot about my plotting problems for a moment and focused in on the song:

“This is the first day
Of the rest of your life.
This is the first day
Of the rest of your life.
‘Cause even in the dark
You can still see the light.
It’s going to be alright.
It’s going to be alright.
 
And love will hold us together
Make us a shelter
To weather the storm
And I’ll be my brother’s keeper
So the whole world will know
That we’re not alone.”

 

I nearly started weeping in my car. This was exactly what I wanted the end of my story to say. If my book were a movie, this would be the song I’d want playing over the closing credits. Rather quickly, the ending of the story crystallized for me. I knew now how to make the pieces fit together. In fact, the whole idea of being able to see the light in the darkness made me add a new scene earlier in the book so that the ending would fit even better.

After work that day, I went home and, with only a few lyrics in memory, looked up the song. That’s when I learned the song was called “Hold Us Together” and was by Catholic musician Matt Maher. I was an instant fan.

Two years later, I got to see Matt in concert at a local church. The concert was fantastic. My friend and I got to sit in the fourth row. When the show was over, I was wondering if he’d come out for photos and autographs, but after hanging around for a bit and buying another CD, it didn’t seem like it was going to happen.

When I heard he was coming back in town, I gathered up a whole crew of friends to go. This time I decided to be a bit more proactive in my attempt to get a photo with him. After all, I’d just come back from pilgrimage in Rome and had my picture taken with four celebrities from the Catholic Channel (Lino Rulli, Fr. Rob, Fr. Dave, and Brett Siddell). I figured 2014 must be the year of the Catholic celeb photo for me. 🙂

So I tweeted Matt Maher to see if he might be willing to take photos after the concert. Here’s our Twitter exchange:

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Yeah, you can imagine my fangirl squeal when I got his response.

The night of the concert finally rolled around. It was a crazy busy day: summer school teaching, a meeting with my spiritual director, and then dashing across numerous suburbs to meet up with my friends.

After a quick dinner, we arrived at the church. The place was packed. The concert was awesome. I mean, blow-the-roof-off-the-place awesome. I mean, shake-your-soul-to-its-spiritual-core awesome.

IMG_1210When the encore ended, my friends turned to me. “So now what? Is he coming out?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. He just tweeted me a thumbs up.”

So we milled around the church for a bit, and then decided to take a photo of the five of us near the front. Slowly, the crowd began to thin out. A bunch of teens still milled around, and in the narthex, people were heading into a room where Matt’s CDs and t-shirts were being sold. After a while, my friend Katie decided to be brave and asked one of the roadies if he knew whether or not Matt was coming out. The roadie said to ask Kyle.

“Kyle?” my friend responded.

“Yeah, the guy who’s about to be a priest.”

Oh right. The seminarian who opened the concert with a prayer and by orchestrating the wave. So Katie and I head over to Almost-Father Kyle, and Katie repeated her question.

“Oh no, I don’t think he’s coming out,” said Almost-Father Kyle. “I think he’s getting right on his trailer.”

“But . . . ” I stammered. “But he tweeted me!” I held up my phone in proof.

Almost-Father Kyle shrugged. “Sorry. But I did get a hug from him before the show!” And with that, Almost-Father Kyle walked away before I had a chance to say, “Well, way to rub that in, Almost-Father Kyle! All I want is a photo and you got a hug!”

I was crestfallen. So that was it? No photo with Matt Maher???

“That was a good try, Amy,” my friends said.

“Yeah, you made a really good effort.”

What was I going to tell my spiritual director? She had made me promise I’d show her the picture of me and Matt next time I saw her.

My friends and I started to head out, but before we left, Katie said, “I want to buy a CD,” so we headed to the room where they were selling merchandise. Before we could even step up to the table, Katie nudged me and said, “Um, Amy, isn’t that him over there?”

Matt had just walked out of a side door, and a bunch of kids had rushed up to get his autograph. Well, I totally got my fangirl on then. While I’m pretty sure I didn’t knock over any old ladies to get in line, I wouldn’t entirely have put it past me. Only one adult guy got to Matt before I did. As the guy was talking to Matt, Katie offered to take the photo with my phone. The other friends and I set our purses down to the side as a long line quickly formed behind us.

When the other guy finally stopped talking and Matt turned to us, I got about as tongue-tied as my pilgrimage pal Lino Rulli gets whenever he meets a pope.

I was so excited that the whole thing’s a little fuzzy now, but I think I said, “Hi, can we get a picture? I’m the girl who tweeted you.”

Matt graciously obliged, and this photo was taken.

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I look just a tad bit happy in this photo.

I know I thanked Matt for the photo, but it was one of my friends who had the good sense to say, “The concert was great.”

Oh, duh, yeah, I should say something about how great the show was. So I quickly spit out, “Yeah, it was awesome!” And then I was very conscious of the long line behind us and got out of the way without saying anything further to him!

Hello? How about telling him how much his music has meant to me? How about commiserating over trying to get into St. Peter’s Square for the Canonization Mass? (Lino had told me Matt ended up at the Colosseum. I ended up at Castel Sant’Angelo.)

So, Matt Maher, you may never find this little blog post of mine, but if you do, please know that your music has meant a great deal to me. This is the public thank you I wasn’t quite able to spit out when I met you. Call me star struck! 😉

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2 Responses to How Matt Maher Impacted My Upcoming YA Novel

  1. Beth Steury says:

    Great story, Amy!! 🙂

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