Let me share a secret…I’m fascinated by my daughter. Thoughts of who she will be, what she will want, like, do…each new experience she’ll have is gold to me. of course, she already seems to have some strong preferences already. She’s not yet 12 weeks old, but she was enthralled by the music of the movie Burlesque with Cher and Christina Aguilera. Watched nearly the whole movie. She also likes Cincinnati Reds baseball…with a strong crush on Ramon Hernandez. She likes dogs and the cooking network. She does not like tennis shoes that tie and isn’t too fond of being put in her carseat. All of these likes/dislikes are clear already.
A hint of who she is?
When she was first born I would stare at her, trying to ‘take the parts apart’ and see who her chin reminded me of, whose eyes she’d inherited, did she have her daddy’s dimples? I’d look at her hair and try to describe perfectly just what color it was…Somewhere between my shade of brown and a golden warm blond was my guess…I thought it would darken as she grew.
It thrilled me when we woke up one morning and her hair was turning red. It was so unexpected. So different. So not what I pictured. How could this little being have surprised me so? I’m sure it won’t be the last time she surprises me.
I didn’t know who she would be or what she would look like while I was pregnant. In fact, I wasn’t even sure she was a she. She hid that from me until I was eight months along. Surprise seems to come with having a baby.
I can handle surprises.
Writing a book is a surprise each time. I don’t know who or what the book will be when I first start the gestation process. I definitely didn’t expect Olivia’s Journey to be a full-fledged novel. It started as an assignment for a creative writing class, actually. And I have no clue where it came from. Not really.
I remember being stressed during the class–my mother had been diagnosed with stage three breast cancer and we were dealing with that…I didn’t have time to be an adult student keeping up with classes and helping take care of my ill mother. I definitely didn’t care about my writing then. How could I?
But one night I entered that half-waking state where I could still think and remember but there were no filters…and the first line of Olivia’s journey popped into my head. So I wrote it. Then I wrote the next line, and the next. I stopped when I had a full short story. I think it was about 20 pages long then.
I was satisfied with it, proud even. And done. I hated the subject of the Civil War. I would read historicals, but was never brave enough to attempt one–mostly because of the research involved. But then..people kept asking what happened next. So I kept writing. And researching and researching and researching…
But finally, the baby was born. And I don’t mean Evie. I put a lot of work into my book, more than 300 hundreds researching and about the same writing the first draft. I lost track of the time spent on edits. The book took me over a year–around life obligations and all–but it was finally born.
When I wrote that first line I didn’t know what direction the book would take or if it would be a book. I am not a plot-n-plodder. I don’t create a map of where my story is going to go and plod through the writing. No, I enjoy the surprising twists that my characters want in the story. I don’t know where they’ll end up at all. I just write until I get where they need to be going.
I believe a writer needs to do this–to allow the book to take the path that the characters create. I believe a parent needs to let their child take the path they need to create for themselves, too.
I’m the one who likes Ramon Hernandez, not Evie. Her daddy is also a Reds fan. Yet if Evie wants to like the Cards, she can. If she doesn’t like baseball at all, that would be fine, too. I want her to be who she wants to be, just like I want my books to be the stories they need to be.
I’m fascinated with Evie’s hair and I’m half tempted to go borrow my 9yrold nephew’s toy microscope and put a lock of the baby’s hair under it to see if I’m not crazy…to see if she really does have red hair. Everyone is saying she does, but what if she surprises me again?