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Posts Tagged ‘novelists’

Whenever I meet or hear from someone who has enjoyed reading one of my novels, I find myself quite blown away.  Each time, I feel so privileged that words I agonised over a few years back now still touch people’s hearts and hopefully even impact their lives as well.

Recently I met someone who had just finished reading my novel ‘Laura’. Her mind was obviously still full of the characters and storyline, so our conversation went something like this:

‘I found your book so encouraging, Jo-Anne. I absolutely loved your character Laura – but I loved her brother Jamie too.’

‘That’s great – so did I!’ I smile, delighted.

‘I think you could write a sequel and explore Jamie’s journey.  Margaret was doing the best she could – and I can understand why Ken acted like he did.  Then there was Elisabeth – now who was her partner?  What was his name again?’

[A moment’s silence before my new friend thankfully remembers it herself.]

Oh that’s right – Paul.  And Ian and Greg – well, they were just there, but I really loved Jamie.’

I have had such conversations before – conversations in which I valiantly try to remember who on earth this or that character actually is!  I endeavour to hide my confusion and embarrassment, however.  After all, how can I own up to forgetting someone I myself have created and fleshed out and journeyed with for months?  Yes, there are the more notable ones I loved and will always remember, but am I currently writing my sixth novel – which means I have created a cast of well over a hundred characters at this point in time.  I simply can’t store all their names in my head – and it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m getting older!

Some say novelists act like gods, in that they are in a position to create whatever characters they like to populate their own little fictitious worlds.  That may be the case – but they are nothing like the God I know.  I forget my less memorable characters at least, but I’m so glad God doesn’t forget us, however memorable or otherwise we are!  God says straight out in Isaiah 49:15: ‘I will not forget you!  And Psalm 139 tells me that God knows everything about me – when I get up, when I go out, even what I’m thinking and what I’m about to say.  I may forget those I have ‘created’ and what they did and said – but God knows me intimately and will never forget me.  And I’m so glad of that.

How about you?

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Someone once said that novelists are like bowerbirds, continually collecting glistening treasures or colourful scraps of material wherever they can and storing them away in a safe place, ready to weave into that next wonderful, creative piece of writing. Yet this isn’t something they necessarily do on purpose, I believe.  More often than not, it’s as if these treasures force their way unbidden into the writer’s mind and imagination and remain there, ready for the picking when the moment comes.

Two weeks ago, my third novel ‘Laura’ was launched.  ‘Laura’ was inspired by the life of a friend who happens to be blind.  Many early events in the novel grew out of snippets of information she shared with me about her own growing up years as someone with a perceived ‘disability’ – times when she learnt to be strong and to live life the same as her sighted brothers and sisters did.  But these facts are woven together with others gleaned from research, along with people, places and events that I created from my own imagination.  Now, three years after completing the novel, at times I find it hard to remember what came from where and to tell the difference between fact and fiction myself.

On the other hand, I’ll never forget where the ideas for some specific events later in the novel originated – for example, the moment when Laura first hears the words of the old hymn ‘Be Thou My Vision’.  You see, I was there when my friend did just that.  Then there’s the occasion when Laura helps a friend choose her wedding dress – and again, that is very close to the truth.  Let me tell you what really happened, as I remember it.

While visiting my friend where she now lives in the States, I needed to find a dress to wear to our son’s wedding.  One day at a huge clothing store, I tried on outfit after outfit, becoming more and more frustrated and embarrassed in the process.  Then my friend, who cannot see at all, held out a dress with matching jacket she had chosen from one of the racks and suggested I try it on.

It was not quite the kind of outfit I had in mind, yet, reluctant to offend her, I put it on – and immediately loved it!  I wore it proudly to the wedding and have kept it as a reminder of God’s grace to me ever since.  You see, while I know my friend chose the outfit by feeling the lovely soft fabric of the dress itself and the trimmings and pattern of the matching brocade jacket, I know too that all the time she was praying for just the right dress for me.  And God heard her prayers – and mine.

So yes, novelists are indeed like bowerbirds – but with good reason.  That’s how God made them to be, I reckon.  And if that’s the case, then I’m happy to join their ranks and admit to being a ‘bowerbird’ any day!

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