When fiction hits a little too close to home

Authors are a notorious bunch of opportunists.  We tend to find plot ideas everywhere we look.  Someone buys you lunch?  They could be a hero in your new book.  That jerk that cut you off this morning?  Instant villain.

I have been guilty of this very thing, myself.  Those who know me can probably see glimmers of myself, my friend Janet and my other friend Stacey in Carson, Zandria and Rachel from my Luna series.  I borrowed Scarlet’s given name, Holly, from another friend.  Joselyn is an author who enjoys green apple hard candies – sounds a little familiar.  Little things that affect us on a daily basis will end up in our writing in some form or another.

I’ve been working on my latest project, Saving Olivia.  It’s going to be the first official book in my Operation Cerberus series about Alpha male SEALs and the women they love and support.  Although Protecting Joselyn is in the same general world, it’s not a part of this series because it’s in Susan Stoker’s kindle world.  At best, it’s a .5 of the series since it does mention the rest of the SEAL team a couple of times.  Oh and River and Joselyn make appearances in this one as well.  But I digress.

I knew from the moment I started to write this one, what the story was going to be.  As Joselyn before her, Olivia’s story flowed like water.  For the first 2/3 of the book, I had no issues. I was merrily typing along and enjoying putting the story down.

Then the big drama hit.

Olivia was on her way home from work one day and just vanished without a trace. She has a  younger brother that depends on her who is left devastated by her loss. Where is she?  Why did she leave?  How could she ever leave him behind?

As I wrote this portion of her story, things became familiar to me and finally it dawned on me why.

When I was in high school, I had a very small group of friends.  Janet and Stacy were the biggest part of that but also another young lady was close to me.  We were both in band together and when we went on trips, we stuck together.  Her name is Jennifer Jackson Floyd.

In 1988, just a few  years after graduating, Jennifer got a phone call while she was at work.  Upset and crying, she left her job.  Most would assume something was wrong with her 1 year old daughter.  She never made it home and  Jennifer was never heard from again.

This year has been 29 years since she disappeared.  Some think she left on her own, that she got tired of her life and just left.  If you ever saw her with her daughter, you would know just how untrue that is.  Jennifer would never, in a billion years, ever leave that baby behind.  Everything she was, everything she did, it was all geared toward giving her baby the best possible life.  She didn’t leave willingly.

So what happened?  We probably will never know.

As I was sending bits and pieces to Janet as a sounding board, she caught the theme immediately.  “You realize this is Jennifer?”

Yes, I realize it.  Though I had only recognized it a couple of days earlier, myself.  Olivia has become Jennifer.  With that realization, I was suddenly bombarded with doubt.  How can I ever portray her correctly?  How can I ever give any of the emotions surrounding something so life altering as a missing loved one any kind of justice.

Every word since then has been hard.  Last night, I laid in bed thinking about it and had come to the decision to rip out all the parts of the story that resembled Jennifer and start over.  I’d make it about something else.  I wouldn’t do her story an injustice.

Then today, it occurred to me.  If I do that, then I would be perpetuating a grave injustice to both Olivia and Jennifer.  This story needs to be told.  Jennifer didn’t have her HEA, but I can do that for Olivia.  I can give her the life she so richly deserves.

So I’ll continue on.  I have no idea when Olivia will be ready. I sincerely don’t know and I think that’s probably why I haven’t announced a publication date.  Now that I understand the story and it’s intensely emotional ties to my personal life, I should be able to finish it.  Maybe.

Sometimes our inspiration is found in the funny things in life.  Other times it’s something that touches something deep inside. I didn’t intend on telling Jennifer’s story through Olivia, but I’m not backing down.  This is what Olivia is.  It’s what I need to do.

Accept the inspiration, no matter where it comes. That is my new mantra. I think in this instance, even if I don’t sell a single copy of Saving Olivia, I’ve already won.  I won for Olivia and I won for Jennifer.

MelissaSign

One thought on “When fiction hits a little too close to home

  1. Janet says:

    Run the race for Jennifer, dear one. I am waiting at the finish line without my editor’s pen (smirk) but am ready to say “welcome home” to both Olivia AND Jennifer! Love you to the moon and back!

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