I wrote my first novel when I was eleven years old.
So it was only twenty-five pages long and had twelve chapters. So it was written in pencil on lined loose-leaf paper. In my mind, it was a novel.
I wrote dozens of stories over the years, in spiral notebooks and on the backs of discarded printed copy paper and on a word processor, storing my work on floppy disks. I started and quit and started again. Got distracted by motherhood and work and survival. I couldn’t seem to finish any of the stories.
I went to school. Tried to focus on a major. Took some writing classes with Bob Butler and lit classes with John Wood and Robert Cooper. Dropped out. Got married again and had some more kids. Got divorced a second time. Went through another break-up and a move and a hurricane (or three). Re-enrolled at the university.
I remember vividly the spring break when I started the Brianag series. I was almost overwhelmed with my workload at school, struggling to feed and educate my children, commuting back and forth forty-five minutes twice a day, three to four times a week. I had projects and exams looming.
On a Saturday afternoon, unable to settle my mind to studying, and inspired by I don’t remember what, I sat down and started writing a novel about a group of friends living in the Carolina Lowcountry before it was called that. I wrote all afternoon and all day that Sunday. My studying didn’t get done but my stress was eased nonetheless.
Over the next several years, these characters became, in every way but physical, real to me. They lived in my head. I researched the period and the area for months, wrote papers for my history classes based upon my research, scrounged books from the university library sales and from half.com, literally dreamed of Cathy and Jessie and Augusta.
They needed me to tell them what to do.
The first novel, Cathy’s story, was terrible. The second, about Jessie, was better. The third, about Augusta, was the best yet. I was almost finished with the first draft when my computer crashed.
I had a lot going on at the time. I had graduated from the university but hadn’t been able find a job I could stick with. I had survived temp agency work and was starting as a substitute teacher. I felt I was going somewhere but I didn’t know where. I didn’t have time or energy to grieve over Augusta.
Life just kept happening. I fell in love with teaching. Went to school again for the teaching certificate. Ended up south of the border teaching writing in a private international school.
Back in Louisiana over the summer, I happened upon the hard drive from the dead computer. I looked at it and wondered. I brought it back with me to Mexico and asked my friend in the tech department at school if he thought it might be possible to recover the documents. He said, “Maybe.”
“Maybe” became a certainty. For the first time in over two years I saw August, the quiet, dark-eyed Irish girl whose innate serenity and faith will carry her from her wedding day with a man she barely knows to an opulent plantation in Virginia and back again to Brianag with two infants and and a secret that will remain hidden for two generations.
Jessie’s story, The Bairn of Brianag, is available on Amazon as a Kindle book. If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly that of the Colonial era of the United States, but you can’t stand bodice-rippers, maybe you’ll enjoy it.
There is still work to be done with August. I am so happy to be reunited with her and I’m looking forward to working with her again. I hope to have her story polished and ready for sharing by Christmas.
Meanwhile, I am learning new things every day about the world and myself and about writing. My classes inspire me and teach me useful lessons. My students remind me of my purpose to inspire others.
And I will keep writing. I will keep getting better at it, day by day. Poco a poco.
One day I might actually be good.