August 10, 2013

Origins of Inspiration...

            I get asked all the time what was my inspiration for writing Forty Years In A Day. Writing the book was a catharsis for me. I had some stories churning in my head for many years, sparked by the stories of my family’s past.  Writing it down cleared my head somewhat. Although I had started with the intention of writing a dramatic history of  my father’s family, it turned into a novel. The truth is that no one can totally piece together that puzzle of tales; there are parts to every family’s story that were pushed under the rug for fear it would tarnish the family’s reputation. The elders think they are doing their family justice by taking some of the more scandalous stories with them to the grave. When you come to terms with this, you are forced to conjure your own conclusions from the pieces of stories that you gather and add a dose of sensationalism to have some fun.

We don’t realize what our ancestors went through to make life better for themselves and for us. What they faced was incredible—the living conditions, poverty, disease—and their work ethic was admirable. I think of the characters and their motivation. For instance, Victoria was an amazing woman who wanted to do the right thing for her children. Without giving away the story, I often wonder where she summoned the strength to do what she did, and if I would have been so courageous. She did it not so much for herself, but for her children. She was the ultimate mother.

People are genuinely surprised by which stories are real and which ones were contrived. They look at me with pity now. There has to be something wrong with me if these were my relatives? I’m not escaping that genealogy psychologically unscathed. It’s funny. But seriously, there was so much I wanted people to know about this fascinating era.

I often think how lucky I am to be where I am, and I make a concerted effort to wake up grateful every day. As a friend put it after finishing the book, “I am so freaking glad I didn’t grow up during that time in the cityso brutal!”

It’s finding out where we came from that helps guide us to where we are going.