Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Book of Honor

As I've mentioned before, I lost my mom recently. Well, technically it was a year and a half ago, but most of the time it still feels like yesterday. I was at her side when she drew her last breath on August 28th, 2006.

I'm not telling you this to elicit sympathy. It really is relevant to writing. In my case, very much so. Three days after Mom's passing, I started writing a new book. A book of honor. The first draft took nine months, written in stolen late-morning hours while my youngest napped.

If, or should I say when, this book makes it to print, it will be dedicated to Mom.

For the main character is Mom. Well, not exactly her, but definitely parts of her. Good parts and parts not so good. For example, the heroine, Dianne, uses the phrase "wonderful" to describe something truly nice, or to describe something truly not nice at all, just like Mom did. Dianne is also somewhat of a worrier, like Mom was. Also like Mom, Dianne's life is dedicated to family, especially to motherhood. She tries to make the right choices. And she strives for honesty.

At least most of the time.

The main theme of the book, beyond the age-old good vs. evil, is grief and recovery. Dianne learns to live with the loss of her husband, then her Grandmother. I learned to deal with losing my grandmother several years ago, and am still learning to deal with losing my mom. There is, of course, a lot of myself in these pages as well.

So, is this the book of my heart? You bet your sweet bippy it is. And it was an emotional, yet healing process to write it. But penning such a book also poses its own set of problems -- a need to parry and thrust, trying to stab a target called perfection for one. This is illustrated by the fact that nearly a year and a half later (I did write a novella, several newspaper stories and essays, plus sketched out two other books during that time, but still...) I am just now at the end of the revision process on "Mom's book".

This book was written with so many tears, fears and memories that I am determined it will see press and binding. Even if I eventually have to turn to self-publishing to accomplish that reality.

After all, Mom's character deserves a permanent home between the covers of a real book, wouldn't you agree?

Have you ever thought of a loved one, alive or deceased, as you wrote? If so, how did it effect your feelings about the story? Did it help, or hinder your writing process?


Danita Cahill said...

Oops, meant to change the day of posting to Friday, which is really my scheduled day. But since tomorrow will be so hectic, Karen was kind enough to let me post tonight.

Thanks, Karen!

Paty Jager said...

Danita, with the care you have given this book first with the story and then the thorough rewriting it will shine.

It's been eighteen years since I lost my mom- and I think of her every single day. There have been some characters with a trait or two of hers, but the contemporary I'm plotting now, has a heroine with her name and her occupation. Lori said is this a book about your mom? No it isn't about her, but her traits are traits this character needs to survive. So the next contemporary will be a book of my heart, so to speak.

The other thing, a friend I've known since my children were small has read all my books. She says when she reads them she can envision either one of my daughters or myself as the heroine. Does that mean I'm putting a little of myself and my offspring in the books? Most likely after all they are the people I know best. And thinking on the Halsey brothers- there's a little bit of my husband and son in everyone of them!

Interesting blog!

Alice Sharpe said...

Danita -- Your Mom has already achieved immortality because she's so alive in you. When your book is published, I'll get to know her, too. Thanks!

I can't say that I have modeled a character after someone I love, but pieces of everyone I know are reflected in every book. My sister always says it's part of the fun of reading one of my books -- she catches glimpses of me. That's sweet of her.

As far as getting caught up in emotion while writing certain passages, that surely happens. And I suppose it's the fact that we've been afraid of the dark, for instance, that makes writing about walking down an empty, black street at midnight and hearing the fall of following footsteps behind us that makes the shivers run up and down our spine even if we've never been in that situation.

I bet patterning Dianne on your mom and borrowing characteristics like being a worrier helped you keep your focus on what makes her tick -- and that sounds like an excellent idea.

Thanks for a glimpse into your heart.

Danita Cahill said...

Yes, Paty, although I haven't known you as long as the friend you speak of, and only know one of your daughters a little, I do see glimpses of you in your heroines too. Tough on the outside, big-hearts throughout.

That's cool you are incorporating some of your mom into your next book. I can't wait to read it!

Danita Cahill said...

Alice, I enjoy catching those glimmers of you in your books too. A turn of phrase you choose, or imagining you falling in love with your DH as your heroine and hero fall in love. (To me, that is the strongest part of your writing, the moment one of your characters knows, without a doubt, this is love -- as you phrased it in one book, those thousand little keys in a thousand little locks. Beautiful).

And your comment brought tears, but in a good way, so thank you.

Danita Cahill said...

Oh, and here's an interesting bit of knowledge I've picked up since losing my mom: Most women hate to be told, "You're just like your mom" when their mothers are alive. I was the same. But now that she's gone, I am proud of all those things -- positive and negative -- that she and I share. So, I am happy to place those traits on to my character, Dianne.

Alice Sharpe said...

I've never understood a woman not liking being told she's like her mother. I always considered that a compliment. She has some obvious tricky traits, some of which I have, too. And I've heard my daughter being compared to me and it seems to please her.

However, the traits I can identify in my mother that are most disturbing to me I have made a conscious decision to change in myself. And I see my daughter doing the same with the annoying parts of my personality. So each generation is an improvement! My great-great-great-great-great-grand-daughter out to be Superwoman!!!!

Lori Barber said...

Danita, thank you for sharing your heart with us. You've given your book a big piece of your heart and I'm eager along with you to see it in print.

Your book sounds like a wonderful tribute to your mom. As hard as it was to write I'm sure it's been a labor of love too. The tender stroke of word upon word brings peace and comfort even in the midst of great loss.

For me it's hard to find and choose just the right words to give someone I deeply love justice. Their funny little quirks emerge much easier, than setting words to express their deepest passions, joys and heart-felt soul.

Sometimes writing what you know must be torn from the deeply knit lining in your own soul, generally a painful process, but the aftermath and growth bring renewed hope and strength.

Genene said...

I will be honored to read this book, Danita. It sounds like a wonderful tribute to your mother.

I don't think I've intentionally written a book with a loved one in mind. However, like Alice said, I know there are pieces of me -- and most likely people I know -- in each of my books.

Now I have started out a book or two with a former boyfriend in mind, but of course the hero is much handsomer and smarter and kinder and sexier. LOL!

Rather than therapeutic writing about specific people, I tend to write about situations, which helps me consider issues from different perspectives. But that also is healing and helps me resolve issues and move forward.

I'm looking forward to seeing this book in print, Danita!