Inspiration behind my novel, You Say Goodbye

In author interviews I’ve read, one particular topic that
usually gets mentioned is the origin of the idea behind their story.  As
a reader I value this starting line information as it provides me a greater
appreciation for development of theme, characters, and plot.  From
something as common as a remark on the radio or observing people waiting for a
bus, to something greater in complexity such as the sights and sounds of a
foreign country, something ignited that creative circuitry for a
story.  For me, learning about that is akin to being privy to a
secret.

I’ve written two novels, The Poe Consequence and You
Say Goodbye
, and although there’s a definite building block history
with The Poe Consequence that I’d like to share one day,
because of the earlier timetable for its release with Black Opal Books, I’ll
describe the origins of You Say Goodbye, starting with an intended
cursory glance at the obituary section of the Los Angeles Times.

Other than with the passing of a family member, friend, or,
perhaps a celebrity, I wouldn’t think most newspaper readers care to look at
this section.  Back when I subscribed to the Times for daily delivery
I occasionally perused the obits because sometimes I’d discover lives that were
not only interesting, but downright fascinating.  And as fate would
have it, on a particular summer day in 2004, I decided to scan the obituary section.  Unbeknownst
to me, the genesis for You Say Goodbyewas about to occur.

A photo taking up nearly half the page showed a sweet looking
little round faced girl sitting at a table under a large hand painted banner
reading, ‘Alex’s Lemonade Stand.’  The unusual sight of a child
immediately drew my attention, and as I read the article my emotions fluctuated
from interest to amazement, all the while permeated with a profound sense of
sadness.

Alexandra Scott suffered from a form of cancer, and starting at
the age of four she decided she wanted to sell lemonade to raise money for
childhood cancer research.  Starting with that one front yard
lemonade stand at her home in a Philadelphia suburb, Alex’s Lemonade Stands
grew to be located in all fifty states, Canada, and parts of
Europe.  She died at eight years old.

I hadn’t heard of this charity, so her life story was new to
me.  I cut the photo out of the paper and taped it on my office wall
as a reminder that whatever bad days I think I’m having, they aren’t really all
that bad are they?  I’d look at her photo often, sometimes talking to
it as a source of strength.  And it was months later that I started
to piece the idea of a story together knowing that I wanted a starring
character patterned after Alexandra Scott.  But how? 

I eventually decided that the best way to utilize her
inspiration was to contrast her courage and appreciation for life with an adult
who complained a lot and felt his best days were behind him.  That’s
my beef with adults I observe sometimes, bitching about things that in the big
picture are petty; the slow line in a bank or supermarket, the summer heat,
slow internet service, etc. in comparison to things that are truly important –
like one’s health!  So while searching for that adult character, I
looked at my own life, at my own occasional complaints, and thought back to my
days as a song lyricist when frustration often left me feeling bitter about the
state of things.  And that’s how my
down-on-life-one-hit-wonder-ex-rock-n’-roll-star was born. 

Eventually realizing that the story needed something more than
the effect of two diverse characters on each other’s lives, a murder mystery
started coming into focus.  Books of this genre that I’ve enjoyed
reading definitely went into influencing my thinking such as Dennis Lehane’s
series of Kenzie/Gennaro PI stories, and The Girl on the Train by
Paula Hawkins.  After all, the more meat-on-the-bones material an
author provides the better the chance for an intriguing story.  It
was at this stage that I see-sawed from a years long back and forth between a
full novel, to a novella, (working title, Mr. Music and the 14th Laker)
to another novella (same title) back to the desire to write a full novel
again. 

As with The Poe Consequence, I write with the intent
of offering more than just a one-dimensional angle.  With the element
of a unique and consequential human interaction between two vastly different
individuals, a story within a story, my goal was to give the reader more than
the entertaining challenge of a whodunit murder mystery.  For those
who read You Say Goodbye, they’ll know if I succeeded.

2 Replies to “Inspiration behind my novel, You Say Goodbye”

  1. Thank you for giving us two compassionate and moving stories on one book. I loved both very much and I am so looking forward to reading ” the Poe Consequence”, when my chance arrives..hint..hint.

    1. Kathy, I didn’t know you after the release of You Say Goodbye but our back and forth communiques after you contacted me through my author FB page have been a very enjoyable bonus as a budding online friendship. I’m so grateful for the emotions you conveyed about my book and I don’t know if there’s anything more rewarding or validating than that kind of reaction from a reader. As for The Poe Consequence, it will be the third version and the best version so your patience is appreciated. Come March of 2020, the expected release date, I’ll look forward to your eventual response to a vastly different type of story.

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