Lee Hough went home to be with the Lord today after a long bout with a gioblastoma brain tumor. He was 58 (my age) and one of my best friends. I got the news as I was driving to Illinois to see my parents. I’m not ashamed to say that I wept all the way through the state of Kentucky.
The reason I’m tell you, my readers, about Lee is because he has impacted many of you without you even realizing it. You see, Lee was my literary agent. He is one of two people who are primarily responsible for my writing career. One is Karen Kingsbury and the other is Lee. Karen opened a door for me. Lee helped me sharpen my skill and represented me with dignity and absolute integrity. My wife knows better than anyone how Lee helped me believe in my God-given ability. I have always struggled with inferiority, and would naturally be inclined to back away from opportunities out of fear. Lee’s constant cheerleading gave me the courage to take my place in one of the toughest industries there is.
As my literary agent, Lee was the bridge between me and my readers.
For example, one of my dearest friends is Jaja Ore. Jaja lives in the Philippines. She is a dynamic Christian that Marilyn and I love dearly. She even calls us her Florida mom and dad. The reason I know Jaja is because years ago she read my book, The Caleb Quest, and wrote to me afterward. The reason that book got published is because of Lee Hough. He took my idea and helped me shape it. He critiqued it with great insight. He challenged some of my thoughts. And then he represented the work with incredible enthusiasm and ended up negotiating a deal with Thomas Nelson publishers, who sent it all around the world…right into Jaja’s hands.
Please allow me one more story.
I was writing my first novel a couple of years ago. I’d written 9 nonfiction books at that point, but never fiction. Fiction is a different animal, believe you me. I had about one-third of it finished, about 30,000 words. I sent them to Lee for his critique. I’ll never forget the phone call I got about a week later. It was life changing.
Lee spent over an hour on the phone with me. He went on and on about how much he loved my writing and the idea of the book. However, he kindly told me that I was making a fatal mistake that would ultimately ruin the book. I got a pen and paper and took notes as he taught me one of the keys to writing good fiction and showed me how my manuscript was flawed. He said, “Turn to page 39…now turn to page 44…” etc. It was obvious that he had dug deep into my work and was trying as hard as he could to get important truths into my head.
Immediately, I went back and rewrote those 30,000 words with his advice echoing in my mind, and then kept going. That novel eventually won two literary awards. Those awards hang on the wall of my home office, but trust me, they belong to Lee.
I know there are lots of other authors who would tell similar stories. The man had a phenomenal gift, which is no doubt why, this past summer, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Christian Bookseller’s Association’s annual convention
But here’s what I loved the most about this amazing man: it was never, ever about the money. Not once did I ever hear Lee critique one of my ideas based on whether he thought it would make money. It was always about the message and how it might impact the Body of Christ. On several occasions I had writing offers that would have made us both some money, but Lee advised against them because he felt they weren’t right for the kingdom.
I am so full of love and respect for this man that I could write all night. Just know this: if you’re a Christian, you lost a good brother today. The kingdom on earth lost a valiant soldier. And if you know me through my books, the bridge that brought us together is no more.
Oh, but the angels in heaven are singing a happy song. And I know Lee is digging his new body, one that has no scar from ear to ear.
Next spring I have a new book coming from Thomas Nelson. It was my last collaboration with Lee. It will be dedicated to him.
Please be in prayer for Lee’s wife, Paula. She is amazing in her own way.
Thanks for reading, and for allowing me to go in a little different direction today.