Last night I attended a small creative writing group meeting at All On The Same Bookstore. There have only been two meetings so far with just a number of attendees. Last night there was me, the bookstore owner, and one other writer who was new to the group. She’d finished a memoir about loss and the death of her parents and was very excited about hunting for an agent and tweaking her query letter. She’d already received several rejection letters, but was very positive about the feedback we offered.
This writer mentioned she’d searched the market for books about dealing with grief when she lost her parents, and just couldn’t find anything that satisfied her need. So, like many writers, she began to write the book she wanted to read. Those were the exact words from the bookstore owner: writers often write the book they would want to read, or the book they need.
That got me to thinking about who I write for, and if my three books reflect some element in life that I needed at that specific time that I was writing them. The answer to that concerning each of my books individually is: yes, no, yes. And even that middle no could be a yes; I just haven’t figured out what I needed from it yet. Maybe I’ll change that by the time I finished writing this blog post?
I wrote my first book, The Other Side of What, in 2001 shortly after moving to St. Louis for a new job. I was definitely the new kid in town since I knew no one outside of my coworkers, and being a bit of an introvert, writing a book gave me something to do at home when I wasn’t working. I pounded out most of it on a brand new Dell lap top that I had bought when I moved here.
Oddly enough, the book is about a young man moving away from home and to a big city where he discovers who he really is. In a way, it’s my story, the one that had taken place in 1995 when I myself left home and moved to Memphis. And by moving to St. Louis, I was sort of doing that all over again. While my book is certainly not a memoir and the storyline is completely fiction, there are elements of both of these transitions in my life rooted in this story. Though I don’t really know, it’s possible I wrote this book because I needed a memory.
My 2nd book, Stealing Wishes, is the “no” I mentioned. I’ve told readers before this was not the book I sat down to write back in 2007, but it was obviously a story that was easy to tell because I wrote the first draft in just 3 months. I had begun to “obsess” about turning 32 soon. The original title of the book was even “32 and Counting.” And the voice of Blaine, an obsessive compulsive coffee barista about to turn 32 himself, turned on inside my head and would not shut up. I had very little to go on and knew nothing about him, but we got to know each other quite well.
So, I sat down and started telling his story. The book has a lot of comedic elements that I enjoyed writing, and shares a lot of my personal outlooks on the world. So, maybe me writing it was just a way to share my own outlook on life while I was in my early 30s. I’m not sure if I’d consider it a book I “needed” at the time, but maybe in some way it was and I just don’t know it.
My 3rd book, Are You Sitting Down?, is a definite YES as far as being a book I needed at the time. It deals with family secrets and the expulsion of demons from the past. While the book pushes its characters’ emotional limits, my own personal dramas at the time were certainly not as extreme. But did I succeed at expelling them just the same? I believe so. Both in a fictional and nonfictional sense.
As for what I’m writing now, you know there are 2 projects on the table. One is a story that’s been harboring inside me for a long time and I think this is the year I will finally give birth to it. As for it being a book I need, I don’t really know yet. But I do know it is a story I need to tell because I’ve been carrying it for almost ten years.
The other is my sequel to my 2nd book and comes from a spark lit by a few readers and reviewers who liked Auden over Blaine, the lead character, after reading it. I had never thought of writing a sequel to tell Auden’s story, but after reading their thoughts I decided to give it a try. And much like Stealing Wishes, though it is not a book I set out to write, it is pouring out of me at a rapid pace. Perhaps I have a need for it as well and I just haven’t discovered what it is.