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What I Have Learned Writing a Novel: More Than a Story

When I tell someone that I'm writing a novel, the inevitable question I'm asked, "Is this about your life?" "Well no, but then again, yes," is my stammering response.  My novel's story blossoms from my imagination, but that imagination is influenced by my experience, perspectives, and observations. Jane Austin and Alice Munro, for example, wrote about what they knew; separating the author from the story, I believe would be difficult.

 

The Evan Marshall Literary Agency defines a novel as "a work of written narrative fiction that may be based on or inspired by a true story but does not claim to be a true account."  My first novel, 181 Blackhorse Road, fits nicely within this definition: it's inspired about what I know, and what I have experienced and observed about the challenges people face and how they come out on the other side of those triumphantly in a better state or defeated and depleted.

 

181 Blackhorse Road is a story of emotional maturation, love and betrayal and family intergenerational conflicts and influences that ends triumphantly for some, but not for others.  Working in imagination over the past twelve months, I have been amazed at how the book's characters continually surprise me as they evolve from my computer keyboard.  Luci did what?  What were you thinking, Chris? Berry, that was heavy!  Sean, you were brilliant!  Marie, how could you go so low?  Every day these imaginary people surprised me.

 

When I came to writing Part 2 of the novel, a lapse of eighteen years from the start of the story in 1966, it was if the switch of a searchlight turned on and the main character's emotional maturation danced across the pages.  What an absolute thrill!  I also found myself falling in love with characters I would never have anticipated and even being torn between love interests; pure satisfaction that made me smile as the words tumbled across the computer screen!

 

It has not been my recollections of 1966-1986, nor the locations chronicled in the book, that fueled sixteen-hour days of writing.  No!  It's been the supplemental research that has proved most fascinating; I'd take a shovel and start digging and couldn't stop, hungry to learn more and examine how historical events, politics, economics, philosophy, religion, and psychology would influence the challenges, values, and actions of the story's characters and ultimately their outcome.  The things I've uncovered, I've shared and exposed within the whirlwind of my imagination on the pages of my novel, and it is the backstories that I plan to share with my readers in future blog posts.  Stay tuned! 

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