A little before midnight on the very last day of 2017, I emailed the revised manuscript for my next book to the publisher. As the document whooshed its way toward New York, I felt a little thrilled and a little lost. Having been totally immersed in editing this story for the last two months, the realization that I was finally done was both liberating and terrifying. My first thought was, it good enough? That thought was immediately followed by, now what?
People often ask writers where they get their ideas. The obvious answer is that we get them from life, from our experiences, and from the what-ifs that hit us in the shower or the grocery store or while driving. (All places, by the way, where you are least able to write them down.) But beyond the spark of ideas there needs to be an inner voice nudging us to tell a story. Not just the story we want to write, the one we must write.
The idea for my debut novel was gifted on a platter, nay, a silver-plated communion plate. As the daughter of a rural evangelical minister, I teethed on the back of church pews. I think I always knew I'd someday write this book.
From the Author Notes in THIS I KNOW:
Every story begins with "What if...?" and here's where truth and fiction part ways. What if my dad had been a bit of a tyrant rather than the loving, compassionate, imperfect man that he was? What if instead of a rebellious teen with a wild imagination, one of his children was born with something that challenged his deeply-held convictions?
And from there, a story about a clairvoyant preacher's daughter who comes of age in the 1960's Midwest took hold.
My next book, the one I just sent off to the publisher, was borne of a lifelong fascination with the cultural revolution. Having grown up just a beat behind the peaceniks and flower children, I missed out on Woodstock, Haight-Ashbury and the idealist generation of hippies who turned on, tuned in and dropped out. I used to fantasize about living in a commune, learning from enlightened masters, and living off the land. In writing my next book, I turned those imaginings into the story of a young boy who grqapples with invisible loyalties as he comes of age among a ragtag group of offbeat characters who live at the Saffron Freedom Community in Northern California. There's a guru, a midwife, a Vietnam deserter, a surfer, a yoga enthusiast, a tarot card reader and a runaway teen, among others. All that's missing is Ken Kesey's bus.
Now that the first book is about to launch and the next one is written, I've discovered that the ecstasy of accomplishment is sometimes encased in a thin shell of panic. Unlike the first two novels, book number three hasn't burst forth from my consciousness, screaming for attention. I have a few ideas germinating but they're just tiny seeds. I guess you could say it's the winter of my creative cycle. But the thing about seasons is that they change, and I have to trust that those riotous roots are conjuring up a hell of a good story. In the meantime, I'm pretty excited about the one that's about ready to be born.