It’s kind of ironic the last book I wrote was about a young woman who struggled to find her way back to who she had once been, to doing what she had once loved. I say it’s ironic because that’s exactly what I’ve been going through for the past couple of months. I have not written a word, or even had the desire to do so. There has been an illness in my family and things were looking pretty dire. It’s amazing how your creative juices can be completely doused when your entire being is consumed with the uncertainty and fear of losing a loved one. When we write, the words come from our heart, from our soul. If those parts of you are already at capacity, there is little time or desire to tell a story. My son, who is an aspiring writer himself, was told by a co-worker that his book was not good. I wondered if that person knew how painful that can be to a writer who has just put part of themselves on a platter for the world to dissect and hopefully treat kindly. I have a feeling not. Anyway, for as dire as the prognosis of my loved one was, there is a new ray of hope. He is responding to an experimental treatment and the dark cloud that has been hanging over our family has scuttled quietly to the west. Still there, still within our vision, but moving far enough away to allow a little bit of light into our world. So for now….I can write.
I’m so happy to announce the release “The Return” which is the final installment of “The Gift Trilogy.” I have to be honest, writing a trilogy was a lot harder than I thought it would be. You have to stay true to the previous stories and fact-check constantly. When I write, it’s kind of like letting horses run wild and I let my mind go wherever it wants. Writing a trilogy, though, demands a bit more discipline. I just loved the characters so much in the first book, I wasn’t quite ready to say good-bye to them and felt the secondary characters had a story to tell. Beyond the obvious pride in a finished novel, there is something very special about this book to me The cover was shot by my brother, Tim Harding (@4thandWoodPics on Twitter). Like me, he works in the medical field, but photography, short films, and writing are his true loves. Just like me, our jobs feed the family but our art feeds our souls. One more side note about this book. My husband, Mike, is always asking when he’s going to see himself in one of my books. He would never recognize himself, I’m sure, but there were certain aspects of the main male character, Sean, that I patterned after Mike. Easy-going but stubborn, very physically driven, and the ability to put up with a moody female…yep, that’s my husband. Also, I put in this short scene where Angelina finds out macho Sean uses custom-ordered French-milled soap. My husband ordered a case of coconut-lime shampoo and conditioner that was not available in stores and I haven’t stopped teasing him about it. I hope you enjoy my new book and have a peaceful holiday season filled with books.
Who of us hasn’t gotten lost in a book? I remember once I carried a book in my car and every time I hit a red light, I read another paragraph. Isn’t it the most delicious feeling in the world to be sucked into the world of your characters? As a writer, it is the best compliment ever to tell a writer that you stayed up all night reading their book. “I couldn’t put it down.” Bam! Writer nirvana. When you write, you fall in love with your characters and you want your readers to feel the same way. You want the reader to care. Tears are always good, too. When one of the main characters in “The Happiest Day” passed away (no spoilers!), I cried like a baby. I really hope someone besides me cared that the character died, otherwise I’m just a weirdo. BTW, I think the above picture is me in another life.
I hope you take a look at my newest book, “The Torment.” It is a sequel to “The Gift” and the first time I’ve written a sequel. The character of Brendan, introduced at the end of “The Gift” caught my attention and I felt compelled to tell his story. I’m not really sure why I couldn’t shake Brendan but I have a confession to make. I’m a priest-lover. In my other career, I have had the opportunity to work with several religious-retired and I have yet to meet a priest I didn’t like. I’m fascinated by the choices that they make and the grace and dignity with which they face health crises. In my newest book, Brendan tells Angelina that he became a priest because his father had wanted him to, having been denied his own desire to enter the priesthood due to family responsibilities. This was the true story of one of my patients, a retired priest, who was quite content with his choice in vocation. His father, had been the one who had really wanted to be a priest but he was called upon to help support the mother and siblings by taking over the family business. My patient, and all of his siblings, entered the religious life almost as an homage to their father who had died early in life. Again, the man I knew loved his life and had no regrets but I went a different direction with Brendan. I had some difficulties with his character development, I must admit. Brendan suffers from an addiction which prevents him from forming relationships and I had to do several re-writes to make sure that he remained strong and masculine in the face of his weaknesses. It will always amaze me how just one word or one phrase can entirely change the perception of the character. I hope you enjoy “The Torment” and keep your eyes peeled for the third in “The Gift” series, coming soon!
I saw a great movie tonight, Christian Petzold’s Phoenix. It’s set in post-war Germany and tells the story of a concentration camp survivor. It was well-acted, heart-wrenching, and had the perfect ending. I really love movies. Some people like to go out to eat at over-priced restaurants or dance the night away at nightclubs, but I’m an easy date. Just plop me in front of the big screen—as a matter of fact, I’m just as happy in front of the small screen with Netflix—and you’ve guaranteed me a great evening. I will admit, though, I am one of those annoying people that says, “It wasn’t as good as the book” when the movie is based on a novel. It makes me wonder: if I am ever lucky enough to have somebody want to adapt one of my books into a movie, would I even be able to go watch it? Would I be able to accept the changes that are necessary when adapting a book to film? Would I hate the choices of actors and actresses? When I wrote Wait For Me several years ago, I knew exactly who I wanted to play Kevin. I had seen Jim Caviezel in a movie called Frequency and he was who I saw in my head while I developed Kevin’s character. Well, that movie is 15 years old and while I still love Jim Caviezel, he is now in this mid-forties and is outpacing the chances of my book being made into a movie anytime soon. Stephen King has made no secret of how much he hates Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining and for anyone who has ever seem the film, you might think he’s crazy. It’s a classic. As a writer, though, I get it. Kubrick didn’t carry out King’s vision. He saw something different and King felt betrayed, I’m guessing. Someone met his baby and totally didn’t understand it. To make things worse, the world loved Kubrick’s version of King’s baby. Ouch. I would have felt the same way. So, if any of my books ever become movies and you notice a middle-aged redhead leaving the theater early, you’ll understand.
I was thinking this weekend about the emotions of reading and writing. I love when I read a book that brings me to tears. It means that the author has pulled me in to his/her world and I’ve become invested in the characters. Isn’t it disappointing when you’re reading a book and it’s almost a chore to turn the page? You want so much to care about the characters but you just don’t. I know that it must be the intent of almost all authors to make you care about their characters, but where does it go wrong? Is it the failure of the author by keeping the characters too one-dimensional or is the failure of the reader to not find anything worth connecting to? I had a literary analysis teacher many years ago that told us that we connect, in movies and books, to what we are going through in our lives at that moment. While visiting my aging parents who are currently going through a health crisis, I saw an older man in the grocery store, his red-tipped cane announcing his lack of eyesight. His cart held only one item….a sleeping bag. By eavesdropping on the cashier and bagger, I found out that he is a homeless man who comes in to the store often to have a place to sit and relax. The man had gotten turned around in the store on this particular day and had to be directed to the bench. My heart was in pain, a cloud had come over the day. Was it because I’m overly sensitive because of what my parents are going through? Did I make a connection to the poor man’s plight because of my own situation? No matter the reason, my way of dealing with my pain is to put him in one of my books; give him a voice and provide him a happier ending than his reality.
I hope you check out my newest book, The Gift. This is the first novel I’ve written while not working full time at another job. I was shocked, and pleased, at how the book seemed to almost write itself. Whether it’s the 9+ hours a sleep at night, the smell of the Gulf of Mexico in the air, or the empty house while everyone else goes off to work and school, writing this book was fun! This story focuses on a six year old child, Angelina Landon, who has a special gift. She can see into the future. Her mother, Keri, is an overwhelmed single parent who just wants her daughter to be normal. Angelina’s psychiatrist, Dr. Nick Armstrong, is dealing with issues of his own. A sick wife and a burgeoning drinking problem interferes with his ability to remain professional in his relationship with Angelina and Keri both. Tragedy and a breach of Nick’s ethics lead to the removal of Angelina from the home and is the catalyst for Keri to take control over her own life. I love the character of Keri. She starts off as passive and easily manipulated but matures into an independent woman who knows she can survive on her own. She wants love, she wants intimacy, but she’s not afraid of being alone any longer. She’s driving her own success. I would like to be Keri’s friend. This book also marks the first time that I’m considering writing a sequel of sorts. The last chapters of the book introduce a character, ex-priest Brendan McLaren. I truly did write him for one purpose only, but he grabbed my attention during his short stay in my book. I think he may have his own story to tell. I still have another month before I return to work, so I’m going to lounge on the beach and see what Brendan McLaren has to say. In the meantime, enjoy Angelina, Keri, and Nick’s story in The Gift.