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