In my last post, I started to delve a little deeper into the fusion of fact and fiction, and some of the literary techniques I employed in penning Water Signs. There’s also a bit of personal intrigue intertwined in the entire experience — things I haven’t previously shared on my blog.
First though, I want to take up where I last left off, namely the reconnection via letter and telephone between the two main characters after a 13-year absence. In the novel, as in real life, the guy made the call upon learning from his mother that a letter had arrived for him at her house — before he’d even had it in his possession. Neither Madeline, nor I had signed a name above the return address on the envelope, but the address alone is (was) apparently enough information for the recipient to know exactly who’d been trying to reach him.
That first night back from Disney, as Maddy listens to the sound of Ken’s familiar voice, even she is taken aback by her reaction:
Nothing could have prepared Madeline for the fireworks that erupted within at the mere sound of Ken’s voice. As if afraid of her thoughts displaying on some sort of celestial cloud for the whole world to see, she moved to the recliner chair in her sitting area, which was located at the extreme front of her home. After listening to his message a few times, she pressed “2” to save it in the archives, and then jotted down Ken’s cell phone number.
“It’s all yours, Mom,” she said as calmly as she could, handing over the cordless before taking her cell and retreating to the privacy of her bedroom.
She’s also cautiously optimistic and admirably pragmatic:
Here it was, nearly 11 p.m. on a Wednesday evening. He’d mentioned specifically that the cell number he’d given her was a business line. Did she dare dial the number now? After a brief internal debate, Maddy decided to go for it. After all, she’d been searching for him long enough. It was high time to just get on with it, knowing that whatever might transpire, she could handle the outcome well. Having successfully overcome truly horrific problems in the past—the most formidable of which had been panic and anxiety disorder, Madeline could now effectively cope with anything else life threw at her. She’d been thoroughly tested and proven incredibly stronger for the experience.
This is another area where real life differs from the novel. Because right after Maddy returns Ken’s voice mail with one of her own, the scene changes to Ken’s bedroom, where he’s lost in thought over the woman he’d first met as a much younger man at the Jersey Shore — and wondering if she’s aware of the fact that he’s now officially divorced. It’s also an example of the novel’s recurring theme of reconciliation:
Yes, he understood the purpose of her card, and it touched him deeply that she felt the need to apologize for past transgressions. And at the same time, he acknowledged that he himself was also guilty of inflicting pain on her. In many ways, he should’ve been the one sending a letter.
Strange also that this particular year had brought her so much clarity; he’d just signed his divorce papers the previous fall. Did Maddy somehow know that? If she had been aware of his marital status, she offered no indication in her correspondence. His last recent search of public records had revealed no information whatsoever, which was understandable, given that his attorney had advised him it could take up to a year for such records to be updated on Internet databases. With no mutual friends or acquaintances to spread the word, Maddy was most likely in the dark. And that made her gesture even more impressive.
Of course, Madeline really has no proof and no reason to believe he’s a single man once again, her psychic friend Ann Claire’s prediction notwithstanding. And to keep the suspense going for the character (unlike the reader), I purposely kept any mention of it out of their conversation the next morning — which is based on the very same one I had with “Ken”:
Neither one of them dared mentioned children, spouses or even possible boyfriends, though Ken had the benefit of near-certainty of her single status, which had been implicitly stated in her letter. Still, he hesitated to ruin the joy of this reconnection by speaking of Erin, even for the express purpose of revealing his divorce. Why remind either one of them of the pain of the past? For now, he’d simply savor this long-overdue conversation with Madeline; he could fill her in on the details of his marital break-up when they finally met face-to-face again.
However, he couldn’t resist “confessing” to Googling her and feeling frustrated when his searches came up empty. His admission sent shivers of excitement down her spine, proving Ann right on yet another point—Ken had ardently wanted Maddy to contact him. The psychic had been adamant about so many things, not the least of which was Ken and Madeline’s ability to “recreate the relationship,” now that he was out of his marriage. And though Ann’s track record had been nearly flawless over the years, Madeline still yearned to hear him speak the words as she held the phone to her ear and paced around her bedroom.
In real life, this was a very warm, friendly and welcome conversation. Like the novel, it did end with a request to get together, though it had been more of a vague “Hey we should meet up for coffee sometime” kind of deal. Unlike the novel, the invitation thankfully never did result in an in-person meeting, for reasons I will share later. In terms of the book, however, to keep up a good pace and heighten the drama, Chapter 29 picks up with a nervous Maddy hastily applying lipstick in the ladies room of her corporate office building.
At this time in my life, I was working as a content writer in downtown Fort Lauderdale for a large financial firm, which provided plenty of inspiration in terms of settings for Madeline and Ken’s long-anticipated reunion. My co-workers and I used to frequent a nice restaurant called The Samba Room, which is actually a popular chain in South Florida. The real Ken at the time was working in Fort Lauderdale also, though not anywhere near downtown. So that gave me the idea of arranging a lunch date for my characters in a place I’d frequently shared good food with work friends. And it’s here where Maddy finally finds the strength and courage to forthrightly ask about his marital status:
That was Maddy’s cue to finally end the suspense. Folding her menu, she set it aside and, leaning slightly forward, politely but firmly demanded the truth. “Kenny, I need you to level with me, please. Look, nothing will ever change the way I feel about you. No matter what you tell me, I will always be thankful for this opportunity to reconnect. It’s so good to see you; especially since there was a time I thought I never would ever again—at least not in person.
“But for my own sake, I want to know right here and now exactly where things stand. Is there a woman in your life whose world would be torn apart if she knew you were looking at me this way? Is it really appropriate for you to say these things, knowing how much I—”
“Madeline Rose! Do you honestly believe I would toy with you like that?” Maddy’s heart leapt in her chest as he went on. “Sweetheart, I told you on the phone I’d been trying to find you. That wasn’t just because I missed an old friend; it was because I realized how much I missed my one true love. Once my marriage ended, I knew I had to at least look for you, though I also knew I was risking a huge disappointment. I mean, for someone like you to still be available—I just didn’t think it was possible. Surely some guy would’ve scooped you up by now.”
Here’s where I couldn’t resist adding a commentary on the dating rituals of this tropical paradise, something about which Ken himself is lacking in experience:
“Obviously, you are completely unfamiliar with the South Florida dating scene,” she smiled as a rush of excitement coursed through her body.
This leads to a renewal of their relationship in every way — emotionally, spiritually, mentally and, eventually — physically (following her acceptance of his marriage proposal in Chapter 33).
But I am getting ahead of myself.
This scene is purely fictional, a product of my imagination, based on real people and places. However as I mentioned in another post, some serendipitous things did occur in real life on the way to getting Water Signs published.
After that initial conversation, nothing much happened for a while. I kept writing my book and nearing its conclusion. And though I’d mentioned it in passing to “Ken” during our initial conversation, as the website began to take shape and I started to mobilize social media marketing efforts, I felt he should know the extent to which he was featured in the novel. That there wasn’t simply a character based on him — there was a character based on him who was the hero of the story. And that the story culminates with his character divorcing his first wife and eventually marrying my fictional counterpart.
In my mind, if he’d already admitted to “Googling” me, what would prevent him from doing it again, knowing I was working on my first book? He’d seemed pretty excited to hear that news — and understanding that certain contents might not go over too well with members of his family (particularly his wife), I figured I’d nip any potential unpleasantness in the bud.
This is where my friend “Elyse” disagreed with my decision, but true to form, I followed my instincts.
More to come in the next post.