Well, in the last nine months I’ve researched and written another book. This one is very different than my typical women’s fiction fare. Writing comtemperary fiction, for me, was hard and easy at the same time. First, I was fully invested in writing about the world as I see it, as I feel it as a woman. I enjoyed it. BUT, what I enjoy about the contemporary world are the small things that create character rather than the big things that make for highly conceptual/big plots.
Some comments from my agent and others were that my novels were quite good, but small and quiet. Meaning, not enough plot, sister. I never understood that. Who cares? There’s a plot there—Sideways was small, right?
Well, fate intervened in the form of my mother. She handed over the 125 year old love letters written by my great great grandmother to my g.g. grandfather during the year of their engagement. They were unbelievable, moving, sappy, bizarre, optimistic, and totally engrossing. I think they could stand alone as a book as they have their own story arc…but we all know what the answer is to publishing letters of people of zero consequence.
Completely compelled by the content—my g. grandparents subsequent pioneering life, the birth of six kids and shocking divorce as my grandfather left her for another woman—I couldn’t get the characters out of my mind. So, I’ve taken some famous events that occurred while they were pioneering and built a story around huge plot elements, making use of tremendous characters that literally came to me through these letters.
It wasn’t until about halfway through this process that I realized (hit on head with frying pan kind of thing) what my agent and others meant by big plot. In the past I understood the difference between say, Mission Impossible and Sideways, but for me there seemed to be a subtle middle ground that was so interesting. But with this book under my belt, with characters who have environmental and internal obstacles to overcome, I get it. I suddenly, fully get it.
Here’s to learning—the process that hopefully never stops for any human being. And fate, I guess. My mother had been waving those letters at me for years and I ignored them…then one day I sat and read. Boy, I’m glad I did.