August 14, 2012

How “A Different Kind Of Normal” Came To Be

I am speaking at the Cedar Hills Powell’s Books in Beaverton, Oregon on Thursday, August 16th at 7:00…













Each book I write starts with a journal.










Sometimes I glue photos from magazines into the journal, sometimes I write right through it. Words, thoughts, partial sentences, full paragraphs, scenes, random ideas, bad ideas, creative ideas, ideas that will work and ideas that will definitely not work.

I did this for A Different Kind of Normal, too. There were many thoughts rambling and kicking and pushing through my head at the time.












Sometimes in my journal I’ll jot out notes about other books I’ve written to make sure that each book is going to be completely and utterly different than the last.












I’ll start to play with occupations for my main character. That’s always one of the first things I do, because what a person is doing for work is key to who they are. Now, they may hate their job, but it says something about where they are in their life. They may love it. I have to find out who they are and part of that is their employment. I actually love this part of writing because I can start to live vicariously through the character.










With Jaden Bruxelle, I made her a hospice nurse. For people who know me, they know that I have been on the receiving end of the kindness and extraordinary competence of hospice nurses with my dad, my mother-in-law, and my father in law as they were critically ill and then died.

I will never forget how hospice nurses called me on the phone repeatedly when my beloved mother-in-law was dying, as my own mother had died eight months before and they knew I was struggling with losing both beautiful ladies in such a short time.

I also heard such miraculous stories from hospice nurses about people who were dying, the things they said to indicate they were seeing heaven, dead relatives coming to chat with them as they were in their last days, or how patients now and then packed up suitcase and said they were going “on a trip.” Even in their delirium, their illness, they knew they were leaving.










So, I have a special place in my heart for hospice nurses.

I gave Jaden a son, a boy with a big head. He’s brilliant and writes a blog, something I was trying to do at the time on a regular basis. He loves basketball, as my son does, so both went in.

I also was really interested at the time in my ancestors, so I put an ancestral theme in there, taking the reader back to London in the 1860’s, and for fun I threw in a story about how Jaden’s ancestors believed they were witches. In fact, I start the story with a curse that has been cast through the generations.










I had images in my head of a 150 year old home in the country that her ancestors had built, antiques that could tell stories of the ancestors if they could talk, a greenhouse, and herbs and spices that Jaden smells death in when she mixes them together. As always, I was thinking of food, so I tossed in some delicious recipes that I could never cook myself, but they sounded yummy.











I love all my old books from my parents. My father – in – law’s harmonica is up there, too, and a bit of the chain holding my dad’s dog tags from his time in the Navy. In A Different Kind of Normal, Jaden, too, treasures all of her old books from her ancestors and pictures them reading them, as she does.

I know how a story will end when I write, I have an idea of where it will it will go in the middle, but I always leave a ton of room to follow the characters around and let them breathe.

The themes I was working with for A Different Kind of Normal?

– Letting go of children when they need to fly on their own. (Yes, that’s been hard for me as a mother).

– Appreciating and learning from the seasons of life, the ups and the downs, and how those life-seasons change week to week, month to month, year to year.

– Accepting that death is a part of life, grief is a part of life, and loving the happy memories of a cherished family member or friend when they’re gone, the gift of their presence in your life, is priceless.

I truly hope you enjoy A Different Kind Of Normal





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8 Comments to “How “A Different Kind Of Normal” Came To Be”

  1. Sherie Nash says:

    This is very insightful, I’m reading this book now, love all your books by the way…and I often wonder how a writer writes and why? I volunteer as a VON hospice worker, so this speaks to me, I’m just starting out and am a little nervous. My beloved mother in law is in the end stages of parkinson’s and I’m so scared of living without her, your words have helped me a great deal. You have a gift. I love your character’s (most of them…lol…) and how do you pick the names of character’s? And why the wedding dress in the tree for you! I shouldn’t have a favorite but since that was my first book of yours, it is!

    thank you Cathy

    • Sherie,
      I write because I can’t NOT write. I’m compelled, have been since I was sixteen. I love writing and telling stories. Sooo sorry about your mother in law. I just loved my mother in law, too, and still miss her! I pick the characters’ names out of the sky…or when my kids’ friends walk in the door, or neighbors or friends or people I used to work with…

      I have an odd imagination and I live in it WAY too much.
      Take care.

  2. Dona Kelly says:

    Dear Cathy,

    I just have to tell you that I love your books. I am currently reading “a different kind of normal” after a couple of weeks of reading, and re-reading, your books. Your books are great – about women struggling to “become” and outrageously funny. As a woman struggling to rebuild a life for my son and myself after nursing my husband during a hideous disease (ALS) and his death I’m finding your books inspiring, laugh-out-loud funny (which some days is what’s getting me thru the day), and thought-provoking as I continue on my journey to me and the life that I want to make for us. I just need to let you know how much I am enjoying your books and to say, “Thank you!!!”


    • Dona,
      I am very sorry about your husband and I hope that you and your son are doing better. I am so glad you enjoy my books and that they’re giving you reason to laugh during this time. I hope all the happy memories you have of your husband give you comfort…and laughter, too. I miss people who are gone, and all the memories I have of them don’t hurt quite so much anymore, but they do bring a smile to my day.

  3. missy gleneck says:

    oh my goodness..i just finished a different kind of normal. i am in love with tate! i have been a pediatric nurse for more years than you want to know about. i know and love so many tates, and you have given them a voice. you have given their boss mom’s a voice…which they desperately need. like so many of us i want good to win, and i literally jumped up and down throughout this story when love, and humility, and humor, and forgiveness won!!! thank you for this story! my old favorite book off all time was henry’s sisters…but nope…not anymore… is a different kind of normal

  4. I have read all of your books , I always say oh this is her best book then I read the next and I say Oh this is her best book ,I loved Its a different kind of normal I loved Tate. and witch Mavis ,what a tear jerker of a book ,it also made me laugh as all of your books do,write more please!!!

    • Thank you, Connie!

      I’m glad my books make ya laugh and cry. I do the same while writing them…I am working on my next book now. It’s about lingerie…

  5. Cathy you are such a refreshing voice and I absolutely love that you have given be so many creative writing tips to share with my students. I hope they too can visualize there characters cavorting through the caverns of their minds getting into mishchief and mayhem. Many blessing to you for sharing some of your writing process and producing such wonderful real reads. My daughters and I always look forward to your next book.


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Cathy Lamb
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