6's & 7'S
and all things crazy
I often write about families, because those primary intimate relationships seem to be at the heart of human existence. Even people who seem independent are often strongly connected with their family members, though they may be separated by time, geography, or death. These relationships may be positive or negative, but nearly always they are critically important. They teach us how to interact with others, how to feel about ourselves, and how to express love.
Imagine a series of concentric circles, with the innermost ring made of just those few people who you can stand next to fully exposed, your real self, completely vulnerable, and still feel safe. These people are usually family members, or others who act as family. Admission to the inner circle is a rare privilege, only for a handful of trusted individuals. If something goes wrong with one of these relationships, it can be utterly devastating. It shakes the circle apart and everyone is hurt. If the problem isn’t resolved, it can poison the circle for generations and make the family totally dysfunctional.
Here lies fertile inspiration for authors of family stories, like me. The drama at the center of family gatherings makes a fabulous backdrop, and the tension between various conflicted family members energizes dialogue. Add some mystery and a pinch of romance, and…poof! We have my latest novel, THE TASTE OF AIR (Red Adept Publishing, September 2016). It’s the story of two sisters who discover their mother has been hiding a secret life for over forty years. She has a lakeside cottage in Vermont and a series of complicated relationships with people they have never met.
When my sister and I found out that my mother’s name didn’t match the one on her birth certificate (a small thing compared to what Nell and Bridget find out in my book) it set me off thinking. Did I ever really know her? What was she really like, when she was my age? What did she go through, that she kept this secret from us forever? What if there was a lot more to the story? What if…?
That real event influenced the creation of the fictional Reilly family. And the real families of lots of people in my life contributed to bits and pieces of other characters. It seems that everyone I know has at least one family saga in them. Some people have so many melodramatic things happen in their lives, a fictional version would be criticized as unbelievable. So writers like me pick and choose from among the tidbits, trying not to overdo it.
In THE TASTE OF AIR, Nell and Bridget must learn to accept a new picture of reality as their assumptions about the past are challenged, and their own lives take on new meaning. Their inner circle is shaken, and when the earth settles into place again the landscape looks different. It’s vibrant and glowing with color, and the air tastes sweet.
If you ever wondered what your mother is really like, you should read my book. Mary Reilly’s cottage is vault for family secrets never suspected, and the gateway to change for all three women.
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