I’m a fourth-generation Californian, and from birth we Californians are wired to play in the sun, to live in the moment. But while exploring the state of Pennsylvania some years back, I made an impromptu stop at the Chadds Ford house where George Washington had plotted his infamous Battle of the Brandywine—a battle the Continental Army lost—and in front of that old house something changed inside me.
Not only did I suddenly and passionately want to knoweverything about something old—what had happened in beautiful Chadds Ford over two hundred years ago—but I had a germ of an idea for a novel about 20th century characters also struggling for autonomy. In fact, I actually knew on that particular day that one of my characters would be a woman looking back on her life, and that her journey to freedom (in her case, freedom from a dysfunctional family) would be interwoven with another character’s similar journey, and analogously with Washington’s fight for freedom at Chadds Ford (keeping in mind that even though that battle was lost, the war was still won, and spectacularly—terrible cliché, but it works).
Doesn’t sound that hard, does it, buckling down to research and aregular writing schedule? Well, I wish I could tell you I slipped smoothly into historical research, but I’d be a big, fat liar saying I slipped smoothly into anything. I struggled to find my way, to find a balance somewhere in-between research, writing, a fulltime job, house, husband, dog, friends, extended family, my workout schedule—and sleep! It wasn’t always pretty. And without sleep I wasn’t much to look at, either.
And then there were those days when I was sure I was a total idiot, even thinking I could pull together a historical suspense story told by different narrators in divergent times— that is, until my husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness—which is where that word analogy comes back into play.
My husband (called DDF) always believed in me. If I said I was going to do something, I don’t think he ever, ever doubted me (if he did, he never let on). He wanted The AngryWoman Suite as much as I did—and so it was DDF who inspired my final push. I was determined to get a completed bound book into his hands before he died.
And it happened just that way. The Angry Woman Suite, a story about losing before winning, and a Discovery Award winner, was in DDF’s hands in March of 2012. He wasn’t able to read by that point, but he turned that book over and over in his hands, and he smiled BIG.
DDF died a month and a half later. The Angry WomanSuite is, of course, dedicated to him.