Authors are mysterious people.. Citizens who live in secretive places .. with secretive lives.. right?
Well …that isn’t me.
I am just an average Joe (or Joe-etta)! I’m the mom who donates all her daughter’s old books to the school library.. in a sweatshirt and jeans.. and a messy ponytail. (gasp– shocking I know).. I’m the lady who you pass on the road, singing her heart out. I’m the stranger who smiles at the toddlers in grocery carts… and yes.. I am the lady who cries in the lobby of the school when her son has a hard day.
I am NOT mysterious at all.
So maybe I can’t really be an author?!?
HOWEVER… I have written a book.. Shadows!!! (note the extremely proud.. and excited smile.. almost like it is my newborn child)… and four months later?!? Four months after contacting a publisher .. it is published. On that day? The day that my book, Shadows, went “Live” online? YUP… I was the lady doing the happy dance .. in her pj’s! I was so happy to have that long process done.. and so happy to be able to introduce my beloved characters to the world.
Now if you are looking for spoilers for Shadows?? Then you would be in the wrong place… I love that no one expects the twists and turns in my book. I love that readers say they (literally) can’t put Shadows down. I love that my friends call me to say they love where Shadows leaves off.. but that they couldn’t have predicted the ending. And if I gave you spoilers?? Well that would.. umm… “spoil” the surprise for you… So in a sense.. by not giving you spoilers.. I am giving you a gift.
But this morning? This morning as I sit here, sipping my chai.. all warm and cozy in my favorite sweater and my thick.. warm.. wool socks.. I realize that I can really identify with Emma..
Shadows follows the life of Emma.. Emma Fern Wells… Emma feels she is plain. Plain with no distinguishing characteristics. Everything about her is average… and she is ok with this. Add to this that Emma is busy.. so busy that she feels like she has no identity.. no chance at being noticed by anyone. And she accepts this.. content for now. It sounds dramatic.. but it isn’t! Emma just… exists…
I can relate to Emma… In my life I don’t stand out.. and I like it that way. Why? Well.. because I like to watch people and observe their natural behaviors. When you don’t stand out? Well… everyone relaxes around you. It’s a wonderful life! And I understand busy.. (Ok.. my husband says I crave busy.. While I don’t know that I would go so far.. I will admit I volunteer my time freely.)
But here is where our similarities stop..
For one.. Emma is young.. (alas.. with 2 children taller than me.. I cannot claim youth.. Although I am not sure at what point I became “not young”.. hmm?? I seem to have missed the transition)..
Beyond that?? Emma stays focused on her work long enough to finish each task.. She lets her mind wonder while she churns her butter .. but her feet stay firmly planted. Me??? Well the chapter in Shadows .. the one where Emma burns the cookies? Sigh.. that describes me much better.. especially when I am in the mood to write..
Now.. I placed this young (and focused) girl in the community of Vermontville, Michigan.. shortly after it was settled.. so 1850 era. I used common names in this valley.. common family names… and the fact that it was a farming community.. Then? Then my book took flight… the characters came alive… I laughed with them.. cried with them.. and fell in love with them..
But the storyline? I have had that in me for awhile.. long before I moved to this picturesque valley. Where do my stories come from? Sometimes from a section of a song.. you know the phrase that has you wondering what happened in the songwriter’s life that would make them write it? My ideas are sometimes born in that moment. Sometimes when I see people in public.. with happiness or love.. or worry.. painted on their face.. Ideas are sometimes born in their emotions. Sometimes when I read other books.. by other authors.. the characters that are overlooked.. the storylines they leave undeveloped.. ideas are just waiting to be born there.. Sometimes during research, I will come across old traditions, commonplace crimes of the times, historic events, natural disasters.. weird unexplained phenomenons… I have found these facts to be a lot stranger (and more unpredictable) than fiction. In these facts.. stories are just begging to be told.
But a lot of the time? Ha.. a lot of my story ideas are born from my dreams.
I have some of the craziest.. most vivid dreams.. Dreams that seem so real.. I am still thinking about them when I wake. In fact, well into my day.. I will still be wondering how they would have ended. From these dreams? YUP.. the best of my ideas are born.
But storylines aren’t straight.. they curve.. and stop… They veer off.. and merge with other storylines.. THIS “maze” of storylines? This is what makes a good story.. This is what kept me up typing until my eyes wouldn’t stay open.. This is what prompted me to take a notebook with me to every appointment.. every meeting… every spare second that I could jot down notes…
Ok.. take my life… I am so excited about my book being published!?! So excited that I do a crazy book lady dance every time there is a “first” in my life.. First book sold online.. first blog read in a new country.. first book sold overseas.. first review posted online… etc.. you get the picture. But my excitement? It doesn’t overwhelm me like you would think.. Why? Because life doesn’t travel in a straight line. I have kids.. I have a family… I have responsibilities.. ha…. I have LAUNDRY… and right now I have a 3 year old nephew who has to have 18 months of chemotherapy. If those things didn’t affect my excitement? Well? Then I would be a robot..
In order for Emma to be realistic? In order for this character to seem ALIVE… she has to let her surroundings affect her. She has to let her friend’s life-changes affect her thoughts. She has to let her previous encounters effect her future actions. She HAS to let her emotions affect her choices…
If I can make Emma comes “alive” for a reader? Then they won’t be able to put her “life” .. her story.. down. They will want to keep reading until they know how her story ends..
.. and for me… life doesn’t end..
So neither does Emma’s story….