Today, I'd like to welcome Jennie Nash to Booking Mama. A few weeks ago, I read and reviewed her latest novel THE THREADBARE HEART which I absolutely adored. It was a deeply moving account of a love, loss and family; and I highly recommend it!
I am so flattered that Ms. Nash agreed to write a guest post for me. I love getting this insider's look into her mind and how she comes up with her storylines for her books. I hope you enjoy reading this essay as much as I did.
People often ask where I get the ideas for my novels. It’s obviously not just me – people ask this of all writers, artists, musicians and inventors, because creativity is a very mysterious process. In the case of writing, it’s a process that is usually done by one person, alone in a room. It’s a slow process, and often not a very exciting one. The emotion that a good book can elicit in people, however, is so powerful – you feel as though you really know the characters, and know their world – that we naturally want to peek behind the curtain and see exactly how it was done. It’s as if we believe that because we loved the book, we can understand the process that led to its creation, as well. I’m as guilty of this as the next reader. My teenage daughters and I frequently debate exactly how much of Harry Potter J.K. Rowling had plotted out in Book #1. When I first read Olive Kittridge, and A Three Dog Life – books that just blew me away -- my first response was to go online and read interviews with the writers. What’s funny is that I know I won’t get any really juicy insights. Creativity is not only mysterious, it’s also kind of strange. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.
In the case of The Threadbare Heart, the first glimmer of an idea came from one of my previous novels, The Last Beach Bungalow. There was a widow in that book whose story didn’t really get to live on the page. She lived in my head, and in several drafts that got sent to the shredder, and I wasn’t ready to let her go. I wanted to tell her story. She was a woman who had loved a man for a very long time, and he had just died. That interested me – that one, simple idea.
The next thing that came into my head was a hat. Well, lots of hats, actually. I had the idea that this woman would be a hat maker. She would have a hat shop, and she would be renowned for making beautiful hats. Don’t ask me where this idea came from – I truly have no clue. I do know that I heard a lot of stories about hats on the radio, and they kept popping up in magazines and newspapers. The universe seemed to be telling me that hats were a good thing to be thinking about. Following the hats was an avocado orchard. I kid you not. I pictured an avocado orchard. And then I pictured a dog who had to earn the love of its owner.
These things came together in unexpected ways, pulling other things toward them like magnets. And I let them. That’s the thing I have learned how to do – to trust, to give into the process, because it works. Somehow, at the end of the day, they form a story with a specific shape, and point.
If you are reading The Threadbare Heart in a group, it might be interesting to see if you can figure out what happened to the hats – because there aren’t any hats in the story now, that I can recall. But their lineage can be traced, if you think about fabric and design and color and shape and donning something pretty for a special occasion. It might also be interesting to think about that dog. That dog was one of the very first things that came to me, and I think her story is the heart of the novel, in many ways. I wonder if you can see that. I wonder if you will agree.
Because that, of course, is what makes reading so magical – the fact that I can write a story and think one thing, and you can read it and think another.
A huge thanks to Ms. Nash for taking time to write this heart-felt guest post.
And now for the grand prize winner of Jennie Nash's Mother's Day Contest....Congrats to Melissa! Melissa wins copies of THE THREADBARE HEART for her book club as well as a rum cake and a telephone call from Jennie! I am so excited that she won because that means I "won" too. Since she submitted her essay to my blog, I also win a gift certificate to Powell's!
You can read her essay in its entirely (as well as the other finalists' submissions) here.