How do you write a story? I hear this question all the time, and I never know how to answer. I don’t know that there is only one answer. I just know how I write stories.
The old advice is to write what you know. So when I decided to start my first book, I gave the characters a home in a place I knew well–Georgia. I’m an Alabama native, but Georgia is our neighbor. Our landscape, culture, weather, and history are closely linked. It helped me understand what might be going on in the characters’ lives. If it’s summer, they’re gasping for air in the humid three-digit temps. On the weekends, men are likely huddled around the TV watching college football or NASCAR.
Along the same lines, the characters and events in my stories are sometimes pulled from everyday life. When I wrote Keeping the Cowboy, Levi was five years old, and many of the funny things he says are from my nephew.
A few months ago, my grandmother called me. She wanted me to stop by so she could show me something. When I got there, she opened an old tote that was full of quilt squares. Each square had a colorful bonnet girl stitched on an old flour sack.
She told me that my grandpa’s grandmother and aunt started this quilt over a hundred years ago. When they died, my grandmother and her mother worked on it some more. Now, my grandmother has arthritis in her hands, and she can’t finish it. She knows my mother-in-law sews, and she asked if I wanted it.
Of course I wanted it! I didn’t know how to sew, but I was going to figure out how to finish it.
Last weekend, my mother-in-law and I pulled out the squares and started working on it. I love my family, and to know that so many generations of women had worked on this piece made me realize how blessed I am. One day, I hope my daughter cherishes everything from our ancestors. Quilt, knowledge, or memory, I hope we leave only good things for the generations to come.
When my grandmother gave me these quilt squares, I was in the middle of writing my newest book, Truth is a Whisper. The main character, Ava Collins, is visiting her grandpa and learning about the grandma she never knew. Guess what I had to include? A quilt.
The quilt that Ava finds is similar to the one I was gifted. The difference? She didn’t get the chance to know her grandma, and she cherishes everything that holds a memory she missed.
When I write stories, they’re a mix of things I know and things I don’t. I know the love of family, but I don’t know what it’s like to search for that connection. All four of my grandparents are just a phone call away or a fifteen minute drive. I can ask them about being raised by immigrant parents. I can see old photos of my great great grandparents.
When I was young, Nanny taught me how to cook and nurture flowers (sorry, those skills didn’t stick). Gran taught me to paint with oils and use aloe to treat burns. I watched my Paw Paws fix cars and bale hay.
Stories are wonders. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad there will always be new and amazing tales to read.
Now, time for the giveaway! One winner will receive either an ebook or an early audiobook copy of Truth is a Whisper. To enter, comment below and tell me about your hobbies. Do you sew? Do you like to garden? Or do you like to spend your free time reading?
I’ll choose a winner on Tuesday, February 15th.