Yesterday, I reviewed On Folly Beach, a wonderful story that intertwines the stories of two women during different time periods. It ties in family issues, love, loss, mystery and more. I'm thrilled to welcome Karen White author of On Folly Beach to share a wonderful guest post with everyone today. Karen will be talking about where she gets her ideas and characters from as a writer.
I’m Not Making This Up. Really.
Tomorrow I’m heading out of town for the second family funeral in as many months. The first funeral was for my ninety-five year old grandmother, who’d had a long and wonderful life despite her last years with Alzheimer’s. The second, my mother-in-law, was seventy-seven and like my grandmother, had a long life and left behind many friends and family members who remember them with smiles and love.
As sad as losing two family members is, there’s something about the gathering of family and loved ones that lends a certain gaiety to the proceedings; the impromptu family gathering becomes a celebration of the deceased’s life. It also becomes the breeding ground for story ideas in the head of a writer. I know, I know—but I can’t seem to help it.
My beloved grandmother, Grace Bianca, was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, in the small town of Indianola (where BB King also hails from). There are no hills, or even bumps in the road in the Delta—just flat land as far as you can see filled with cotton fields and catfish farms. My grandmother (MoMo as she was affectionately known by her nineteen grandchildren) knew everyone in the county, and they all knew her. She owned a successful shoe store in downtown Indianola and always gave us shoes as gifts.
MoMo was well-known for her penchant for what we call bling, but which she referred to as her “jewry.” (I didn’t know the word had an ‘l’ in it until I was in middle school). I never saw her sleep, and I never saw her without her hair brushed, her makeup on, fully dressed, or without a cup of coffee in her hand. And I never, ever saw her without her “jewry.”
At the viewing, MoMo looked beautiful (in a lovely red suit she would have loved). Long lengths of costume pearls hung around her neck, and a matching bracelet adorned her wrist. But she wore no earrings. Not even little studs (impossible since she’d never had her ears pierced). I was dismayed, as were my other cousins standing with me at the coffin. We knew MoMo would not want to meet Jesus without her earrings.
A small tussle ensued around the coffin between my aunt (who’d removed the earrings because she thought they were too big) and her daughter, my cousin, who insisted that MoMo would want those earrings on her ears. Luckily, my cousin prevailed and was soon leaning over MoMo and placing the earrings back on.
I’m not telling you this to be morbid. I’m telling you this so you can get a visual of nineteen grown adults arguing with an elderly aunt about a pair of earrings over the coffin of the deceased. It reads like a scene from a book, doesn’t it? And I sincerely don’t think I could make up anything half as good!
Tomorrow is the service for my mother-in-law. Her Irish brothers (her maiden name was Houlihan) will be there and I’m sure drinking will be involved. At least it was at my wedding. My husband’s uncles do seem to like to toast a lot and I can’t imagine this family gathering will be much different. Except this time my dad won’t be paying for it.
I married a Yankee so my children won’t need translators to understand their cousins or great-aunts and uncles (like they did during their Mississippi visit). My husband is the executor of his mother’s will and was the first to see how my mother-in-law distributed her estate. Right off the bat, my sister-in-law gets a lump sum, the rest to be divided between all three children. No explanation as to why one child would be favored over the other. Interesting, huh?
No, my husband doesn’t begrudge his sister a cent. She helped care for their mother during her illness and was truly a rock for all of us who lived far away and couldn’t help with her day-to-day care. Still, we wonder. Tim wonders if he did something to offend his mother in some way he wasn’t aware of. But he’s a guy, and a banker and therefore his imagination is limited. Because I’m sitting here and my mind is wandering far and wide as I contemplate her reasons for the uneven distribution: a stolen child, or an illegitimate birth, maybe a castle inheritance in Ireland, or a royal claim! Did I mention I’m a writer?
I’m about to head out on a book tour for my May release, ON FOLLY BEACH, and I know I will be asked more than once about where I get my ideas. That’s easy. I live my life just like everybody else, and take notes.
The hard part comes later when it’s time to use those notes to create a believable page-turner, filled with characters my readers care about and want to root for. Characters I swear come from my head and have no basis on anybody real like cousins, or aunts or grandmothers. Which is why I call what I write fiction. Because it is. Well, most of it anyway.
Thanks to Karen White for sharing this interesting story about where she gets ideas for her writing. You just never know who is watching you and taking notes! Check out Karen White's website, here.
I am excited to tell you that you have the opportunity to win your own copy of On Folly Beach! The publisher, Penguin, has offered to send a copy of the book to TWO lucky winners!
All you have to do is leave a comment, make sure to include your email address so that I can contact you if you are a winner. Otherwise, I won't be able to include your name in the drawing. Open to US & Canada only. Books will ship directly to the winners from the publisher. Enter by June 12, 2010.