Reading audience: I need your help. But I’m not going to tell you for what until I finish this blog. You see, I’ve been promising Genilee I would write a blog for a year and a half. I haven’t been able to get there, partly because I just couldn’t make myself do it during this year of significant events and partly because of writer’s block.
Today, I am determined to answer some of the questions often asked of me at book events and during discussions with readers. The single most frequently asked question is: What made you start to write at the age of 83? The truth is that writers don’t always just write on paper. I have been writing books in my mind for over 70 years. I wrote my first novel in the seventh grade about a boy in Paris who lived in a castle. The next year I started to carry “Danny,” the protagonist in Twist of Fate, around in my story-telling brain. Danny was based on a movie character played by Gene Reynolds. He was a homeless young man with no parents, no home, no family, no education and no real friends. Unless you consider me, that is. I carried him around in my mind for the next 70 years. He “talked” to me all the time, and I was determined to put him down on paper. But this particular task was daunting. How can a person survive the world of living on the streets without giving in to crime or addiction? My Danny was strong and honest. I couldn’t, however, find a way to take him off the streets and get him on paper.
What inspired me was that my youngest daughter, Allyn Stotz (http://allynstotz.blogspot.com/), wrote her first children’s book (she now has five and several more on the way!) and got it published. That was a wakeup call: If I was ever going to write a book, I needed to get with it. So five years ago, I sat down at my computer and the story began to unfold. Somehow through the act of actually making myself do this routinely, another character was born: Gus. Gus became Danny’s mentor and once he was around, the stumbling blocks began to fall and the story unfolded.
Book two, Wretched Fate, began with me looking at myself in a mirror, which is a crucial scene in which the main character begins to desire more for her life. Book three, Violet Fate, was the story of what might have happened to Danny if there had been no Gus (you’ll note the strong role the criminal plays in the plot). Book four, Treasured Fate, started as an exercise for seniors we developed for a class Genilee and I gave. The main characters: Elmer Jones and Maud Novec, were names I said aloud to the audience and asked how they saw the characters who fitted those names. We got some fascinating responses, and those of you that were in the audience will recognize some of the traits and descriptions. Treasured Fate is due to come out this summer.
It wasn’t until book five, which is likely going to be called Family Fate, that I began to have real trouble again with writer’s blocks. This time I started with a character that is a far cry from my usual protagonists. And the plot has a lot of complications and twists. I also rewrote the first 15 chapters at least four times. I would stop for a month, and then, because it was a mystery, have to begin at the beginning again to get it to flow. I did this for well over a year—partly because, during that time, we put out our book of short stories—Holiday Connections. I finally forced myself to trudge forward to the end, and that book is now in Genilee’s domain, which means it has to wait for us to get through publication of book four, Treasured Fate.
Meanwhile, I am now working on my second short story book, and once again engrossed in a new character. He’s a modern day Paul Bunyan–standing 7 feet tall, weighing 275 pounds. He has long black hair and a full beard covering his face. He reminds me of a bear but inside, I intend for him to be candy cotton fluff.
But now it’s time to ask your help. I am also seriously considering writing book six in the Fate series, which would be a deeper investigation of Gus’s background and maybe even Danny’s from the original book. To those of you who have read the series and our short stories, I ask: what is your opinion on this? Should I let well enough alone with The Fate Series or try to explain some of the past?
I’ll be interested in hearing what you have to say.
–F. Sharon Swope