As publication day quickly approaches for my new book, THE ANSWERS YOU SEEK, I’ve been thinking about the question that someone always asks: “Where did you get the idea for this book?” There’s never a good answer. It’s always complicated.
I admit I started writing this book out of anger. In November 2018, my mother told me something about my father that made me quite angry at him. She didn’t want to tell me, but I coaxed it out of her. A bit of back story…
My father died in December 2016, and my parents had been divorced since April 1994. Throughout their 30 year marriage, my father was not faithful. I knew this at the time of their divorce, and I held quite a bit of animosity toward my father for it in the beginning. We made up before it was too late, and we were close in the end.
What my mother told me was just a small detail that really made me hurt for her. It made me angry at my father all over again, which I admit wasn’t fair since he’d been dead for two years. I knew it was just grief boiling up in me all over again because there were so many unanswered questions that my father never had to face. And the best way I know to deal with grief is to write about it. So, that’s what I did.
I started writing a story about a young man named Toby Kipton who has to return home to bury his father, and he sees a strange woman at his father’s funeral. Upon trying to find out who this woman is, he discovers his father had a long-time affair. This is where the lines of real life and fiction blend together. Yes, there was a woman my father saw for quite some time. No, she did not show up at his funeral.
I wrote myself into a corner. I didn’t know where to go with the story. It became just a series of flashbacks and Toby trying to piece together parts of his families’ past that he never knew about. Again, partially true. My mother hid the truth for quite some time, and there are still details I don’t know about to this day. I guess you could say I made up my own version.
Anyway, needless to say, the story wasn’t anything new and it was just kind of depressing. It was my way of grieving over all of this, and I knew that. So, what did I do?
Around the same time I was writing this, I began to obsess over the unsolved murder of a woman from my home town. It’s a crazy story that even involves a local swingers club! It inspired me to have my lead character, Toby, began to stalk his father’s ex mistress after the funeral.
Toby wants answers about her affair with his father, but he soon discovers she runs a local swinger’s club. When a new neighbor soon disappears and the body shows up a few weeks later, Toby tries to unravel the mystery all while seeking out the answers to his own questions about who his father really was.
I’d never written a murder mystery before, but turning this story into one really helped drive the story forward. So, there’s a tiny bit of truth in there, but the majority is fiction. Details about the real murder mystery were heavily fictionalized, of course. I even changed the victim to a male character.
But, like I said, writing is therapeutic for me and I admit, in a way, writing this book helped me to deal with my grief. I haven’t been back to my father’s grave since before that conversation with my mother back in 2018, but near the end of the book, Toby returns to his dad’s grave to have that conversation that I know I will have to have someday. I owe that to my dad and to myself.