I will be back to regular book blogging soon. This has been a very hectic time, between starting a new, long-term writing contract for an internationally known tech company (through a third-party vendor), learning their systems and processes, and attending various trainings via my new company laptop, I’ve had little opportunity to share more insights on the writing process. There is so much more I want to explain about the means through which Ken and Madeline came into being as Water Signs’ two main characters, along with some important plot points, but it will have to wait until a few personal housekeeping items are also taken care of. Thankfully, by the end of the week, everything will be handled and I can breathe a sigh of relief.
Ah, the life of a political activist, blogger, editor, speaker, internet host and now, content proposal writer!
Inevitably, a few crucial elements get lost in the mix, like keeping up with the birthdays of family and friends, properly filing away paperwork and cleaning house — all of which I’ve been diligently rectifying, while I also plan for another road trip, this time to Nashville, where my twin niece and nephew are graduating high school.
Where does the time go?
I was at the hospital the day they were born nearly 18 years ago, (an event that provides plenty of dramatic fodder for a future novel, complete with premature deliveries and a near-tragic outcome for one baby ) and it hardly seems possible.
As a much younger woman, I used to laugh when relatives and/or family friends would remark, “I can’t believe you’re (fill in the blank — 18, 21, 25)! I remember when you were a cute little baby.” Guess it’s time for a new generation to be on the receiving end of such nostalgic observations. In any case, I am thrilled to be able to make the trip and am looking forward to a much-desired family reunion of sorts.
Funny, but the graduates do appear in my novel as “Ava” and “Tommy”, adorable infants in 1992 when the story opens, and Sweet 16 adolescents by the time it ends. In Chapter 35, I include all of my 10 nieces and nephews in an engagement barbecue scene that reunites many of the characters. For my oldest brother’s girls, I chose to use their real names — Alexa, Julianna and Sophia — since they are all such distinctive, sweet and outgoing personalities; I couldn’t imagine calling them anything other than the beautiful names bestowed on them by their parents. As for the remaining boys, ironically, my real-life nephew Mark’s (my oldest brother’s eldest child) character became “Greg”, which is the actual name of one of my sister’s boys. Thus the character based on Greg became “Mark”, while his older brother Chris retained his real name in fiction.
Whew! It was tough to incorporate so many characters, but there was no way I could overlook anyone without hurting someone’s feelings. What can I say, that’s the life of a writer who also has a large, close family!
Anyway, most family members and friends got a kick out of being immortalized in fiction, although I am not quite sure about at least a few living, breathing character-inspirations (one of whom happens to be a protagonist). And I may never know, which is fine with me. No matter how the actual humans feel about their fictional character portrayals, I do hope all of them realize that characters do take on a distinct personality and life of their own during the creative process. That while you as an author begin with a real person in mind, it’s just that — a starting point. By the time you’ve composed 435 oftentimes humorous, oftentimes heart-wrenching pages, your characters have more than come into their own as “people”, so to speak.
I will delve into this in more detail in a future post when I am feeling much more alert, beginning with Ken Lockheart, who by the time I was done writing, had gone far beyond his real-life counterpart in many critical ways. Partly because I had to outright invent outcomes (the reality of which are, to this day, unknown to me), and partly because I purposely wanted the Ken character to be larger than life, he bears little resemblance (other than his US Navy service, some physical traits and a few personality quirks/mannerisms) to the guy who inspired him.
In fact, recent events have seemed to confirm that the memory is a very subjective phenomenon. Let’s just say, I am forever grateful for the sudden, unexpected rush of nostalgia that put an end to my selective amnesia and enabled me to finally become the novelist I’d always dreamed of being. In that sense, it doesn’t really matter how inauthentic or overly romantic my remembrances of this person might’ve been — they served their purpose. And as lovely as a few phone conversations in the not-too-distant past might’ve also been, perhaps they too, were just a mirage.
Sometimes in the moment, we sincerely believe the things we say, or maybe we say them simply because we think it’s what the caller on the other end of the line wants to hear. Was he doing either when he affirmed my observation about the one New Year’s Eve we’d spent together? Or when he noted how alike we both are? I’ll never know, although I choose to believe the former.
Having never been one of those opportunistic, chameleon-like humans who can alter their emotions to fit the circumstance, I am stuck with an ingrained habit of authenticity and honesty. I just don’t have it in me to pretend I feel something I don’t. And whether the caller on the other end of my line during those few fairly recent telephone interactions truly meant the things he said, or simply possesses the ability to feign raw emotion to serve whatever unknown purpose, I am grateful for the opportunity to clear out the past. In the final analysis, I have gained a new career not only as a novelist, but as a blogger, political commentator and internet radio host; a fairly wide readership, thanks to social media; the respect of my peers; and the satisfaction of having accomplished a cherished childhood dream.
And it’s only getting better from here.
More to come in another post.