A glimpse behind the veil
In honor of the upcoming release of the final book in the Girls’ Night Out Series, I thought I’d do a few blog posts on where I was at in my life when I wrote each story.
The first book in the series was Someone Special, set in the Silicon Valley area, and focused on Nick and Dani’s love story. Nick is a recently returned US Army veteran struggling with PTSD. Dani is a young woman who has been caretaking for her beloved aunt and is left bereft after her passing.
This was the first book I ever finished. I started a historical set in Venice, Italy and the south of France when I lived abroad during college, but that ended fairly quickly when I wrote myself into a historical corner. (Damn you, Napoleon!) The second book I started was the story of a teacher who worked in a rough neighborhood falling for the neighbor. You’ll see echoes of this story in Someone Special. They say write what you know. So as an elementary school teacher who fell for a guy who lived in my dorm, this was a natural fit. Sadly my now hubby was not a Broadway playwright like my hero, but he is still my hero. Sigh…but it was all for naught. I didn’t get the conflict right, so the story kind of fell apart at the end.
Several years passed in a blur. I kept teaching through the arrival of our first child, moved to California, became a stay at home mom when baby #2 joined us, and promptly lost my mind. After years of rigorously using my brain, I spent days on end, cooped up in a house with no a/c, two small children, and seemingly endless piles of laundry and dishes. I had no family nearby. I had no friends that first year. My husband was working insane hours at his new job. I had little contact with other adults at all, and I seriously felt like I was going crazy. Sleep deprivation is a special kind of torture.
Throughout my entire life, I have relied on books to soothe me, to entertain me, to make me think deep thoughts. Romance novels are my happy place to retreat. I was so exhausted that I wasn’t even able to read a book by the end of the day. I was struggling. And then one night I slept long enough to have a dream. I don’t know what higher power kept both babies asleep on the same night, but I will be forever grateful. That dream was the bar scene in Someone Special. It was so vivid, so real, that it stayed with me. I kept having the dream, and during the day I would let my mind think about who these people were, why they felt the way they did, why they were hurting each other. Eventually I decided to start writing their story down because I had to get it out of my head. I haven’t looked back.
When my oldest started preschool two days a week, I taught for one and spent the other holed up in a Peet’s coffee shop scribbling away, while a sitter watched the baby. Sure, I could have gone grocery shopping alone in that time. But the writing felt so vital that I would forgo that pleasure. It was filling my well, and Lord knew I was scraping bottom. Over the course of a school year I finished that book.
Much of the book is set near where I lived at the time. The technical location is Menlo Park, but I lived in San Jose. The park where they go hiking and rest in the lovely meadow? It has a great playground and a child accessible trail. The doughnut-shop-turned-Sunshine-Café is based on the small place around the corner from our old house that had seen better days but still turned out delicious doughnuts, day after day. The surf lessons in Santa Cruz? I’ve observed them, but haven’t been brave enough to try them, yet. Maybe this summer…
Dani and her theme of grief grew largely out of me losing my own grandmother the year before I started writing this. I was hitting my first holidays without her, and my second child’s first holidays knowing she would never be there to meet her namesake… All of those emotions poured right into Dani and onto the page. Nick shares characteristics with several friends who have served our country and returned from war with heavy souls. Their happy ending is the one I would love to write for my cousin, who is still searching for his happily ever after now that he’s back stateside.
I often say that I labored over this book, that it took longer to gestate than two of my pregnancies combined. It feels like another baby of mine. Sending it out into the world has been almost as nerve-wracking as sending my real kids out into the world on their own. But I’ve also never been happier. Thanks for reading with me.