“I need to ask you a question,” I said as my esteemed friend stood holding the large volume of Bartlett’s Quotations she had just selected from the library’s discard table. I began a recap of the general story line of my novel and asked this sweet lady, who is in her early nineties, if she would be interested in reading it.
A few moments into my spiel, she interrupted to ask, “Now, is this the one about the ‘bend’?” She also wanted to know if Bend in the High Road would leave her hanging, in terms of plot, or if it is a complete story in itself. She knows I have been working on a sequel.
I explained how the main character drives from Atlanta to Tennessee on the spur of the moment to stay for several days in a cabin her good friend has had to vacate due to a family emergency. “Joan,” I said, “gets acquainted with some of the townspeople where she is staying, and she learns about a situation that has puzzled one of them for a long time. Joan’s curious nature and her pattern of helping others lead her to get involved in trying to help resolve the matter.”
I told my potential reader that Joan and her husband are “sometime churchgoers” who have great respect for Christian faith, tradition, and basis for societal values. “But,” I added, “there is a gap between that and how faith in Jesus manifests itself in each of them on a personal level. Book one ends as Joan is just beginning to examine that gap and to be dissatisfied with it.”
Later that same afternoon, a certain song came around in my iTunes, performed by Fiddlin’ in the Parlor, a talented husband/wife duo who hail from McCalla, Alabama. I chose the song to be a part of my novel; I have it being played by a bluegrass band during a fundraiser concert to benefit the family of a young girl with a serious and expensive medical situation.
When the fiddle strains of that plaintive Scottish air reached my ears after I had just verbally resurrected people and events that exist only in the pages of a manuscript that sits unpublished, I was touched in a way that really caught me by surprise. Tears welled as I relived the scene in chapter five where the musicians have put the lyrics of a familiar children’s song to that Scottish tune in order to perform it as a tribute to the sick girl. Together with my earlier conversation, that moment produced in me a surge of affection – and even longing – for the story, the location, and the people I have created in this novel that took more than six years to write.
Bend in the High Road was completed nine months ago. In that time I have imagined, outlined, and written several complete chapters of, a sequel. Working with such focus on a brand-new story had distanced me from those days of intense mental and emotional involvement in the first book’s characters, setting, and events – until it all came rushing back. Now, more than ever, I can’t wait for Bend in the High Road to be published so others can meet Joan and go with her to Tennessee and back!
I’ve read that authors need to love the characters they create. I am just getting my feet sufficiently wet as a fiction writer to find that happening. Now, as in book two I develop Zach and April and Albert and Grace and Raymond, these people are becoming “real.” I want to do my best by them. I want their lives to seem very real to everyone who reads my books. My goal is for the characters – and the readers – to be shown two essential truths:
“No one has greater love than this, that someone would
lay down his life for his friends.”
(book 1, Bend in the High Road)
“Apart from me, you can do nothing.”
(book 2, The Wrong Type of Love)