A few weeks ago, in a bold and possibly stupid move, I decided to change my website address, and yes, lost the whole darn thing. So I’ve been rebuilding the site from scratch. But it’s okay. It feels appropriate to start over with the series coming out this summer.
But yesterday I realized I had not put an “About Me” or “My Writing” page on the website yet, so I searched through my old posts and stumbled on this one about how I got started on the series. It seemed appropriate for this new phase of my career, so here it is.
How and Why I Write
In June 2008, I had been writing travel articles for magazines with limited success, when I had a minor operation on my foot and had to keep it up for what turned out to be 6 weeks. At the same time, I got a new laptop and my husband went away for two weeks leaving me alone. Now this does not happen often since we both work at home, so I love it when he goes on a trip without me.
I could hobble for a few minutes at a time, so I was okay on my own. The weather was lovely and I remember thinking, gleefully if slightly timidly, that this was the time.
I started my first novel. Plunged in, working hours each day, foot up on the coffee table, the chairs on the screened-in back porch or further outside, almost unheeding of hummingbirds buzzing by me.
The premise? I didn’t really have one. I work a lot on visuals and that’s where I started. When I lived at Honeymoon Bay on Vancouver Island there was a cabin on the lake around the corner from our house (which was not quite on the lake). Like my heroine, I couldn’t really see the cabin.
“Her foot hit the brake when she saw the cabin by the lake. All that was visible through the trees was a crumbling chimney and broken window, half-hidden by overgrown lilacs . . . A rope hung across the head of the lane that wound through tall fir trees toward the cabin. Nailed to one massive trunk was a faded No Trespassing sign. Squinting to read it, she decided it was so faint, it could almost be considered and invitation …” (From the original version)
The cabin is still there, and I have still not seen all of it, which was probably for the best because for years I had half-heartedly been hanging stories on that chimney. There were other things that sparked stories for me too and I just started rolling them all together. I was a dark room photographer at that point making art prints, and so is my heroine, Maddie. In some ways, she is my alter ego, for instance she is on the brink of becoming a successful photographer – something that never happened to me, not in that way. In other ways, most other ways, we are totally different.
It was amazing to me how the story emerged from somewhere with what felt like no help of my own. Although the place, which I called Fortune Bay, was very like Honeymoon Bay, the people were not based on anyone I knew there. The characters emerged fully formed, and were revealed to me as the story progressed. I would say to people, “And it turns out she was”, or “had been”, or “her mother was”, and they would say, “What do you mean ‘It turns out’!?” So much of it came as a surprise to me. I couldn’t concentrate on other stories I tried to read, I just wanted to know what happened next to my characters. It was out there somewhere, I just had to sit down and type it.
Now this doesn’t mean the story came together quickly. I made every mistake in the book, in all the books. And I did read them all. In fact, I am still reading about how to write. They say to write about what you know, and writers out there have complied. If you are beginning writer and haven’t availed yourself of this fount of information, by all means do, either from the library or buy the books. Most are very inexpensive. In another blog entry I will list a few I found particularly helpful.
So what would I encourage someone else who has been playing with ideas for years to do? Plunge in. If worst comes to worst, there is always the delete key. And who knows, you might get carried away like, I did.
Now, eight years later, in June, I am publishing this first book, originally called The Cabin, now titled Summer of Fortune, along with the three other books that have come along in the Fortune Bay Series. Summer of Fortune will be available for pre-order on amazon on May 17, so stay tuned!
Thanks for stopping by.