Not Just One Thing
Updated: Jul 2, 2021
The most frequent question I get about the stories I write is, “Where did you come up with that?” It’s not really one thing that inspires my stories, but several. I can’t explain how a hurricane in this time, an act of discrimination and intimidation in the past, and the death of a friend braid themselves into a tale. As in life, we are more than one thing. It’s complicated. And so, the things I experience wind themselves into my mind somehow and come out when I sit down to write.
In retrospect, after the tale is done, I find in rereading it about twenty times, that several events have entwined themselves into the narrative. That is true in Birdie & Jude. These two women are the characters who will carry the words. These are the words from my editor: "You have beautiful dialogue, interaction between characters, descriptive scenes, and beautiful imagery in this story. The characters are wonderfully three dimensional and there are so many emotions running through my mind as I read it. Each character had their own personality which did not parallel another. Loved it!"
I started writing Birdie & Jude during Hurricane Harvey. So many things happened during that hurricane, especially in areas of the Texas coast. Rockport, Bayside, Refugio, and Houston were devastated. Galveston Island was spared the worst of it. It was a reminder of other storms I had experienced. The tales that came from it were wrought with fear and anxiety. The aftermath was also stressful for a large part of the coastal population. As in other natural disasters, it separated the heroes from the culprits. Many communities have not fully recovered to this day.
As I watched the news, people waded out of neighborhoods rescued by volunteers in boats. It struck me that some of them might have been forced to shelter in place, in homes not their own. I created a scenario where that might happen to strangers. That was the beginning, but every time I begin to write, other things crept into the story. New characters find their way into the tale. It was the same in this one.
A friend of mine confided in me about an event that happened to him when we were in high school in 1968. I knew of the circumstances around the event, but I didn’t know how he had been threatened. He gave me permission to dedicate this novel to him and our deceased friend, Sam Shaw. While Birdie’s experience is different, in many ways it resonates because of the time, 1968. She was a teenager and struggling with her identity. Rebellion and protests were common. In the flashbacks, we get a glimpse of our own memories and the prejudices that existed. It was almost half a century ago, but there are times it seems it was just yesterday.
My editor also commented on the dedication. She appreciated that it took her to a time in her own life that she knew was universal. This was her comment. "Heartbreaking, raw, and a truthful portrayal of what has happened, of what could still happen, of what does happen in today’s world. Very shocking first chapter. I’m interested in seeing what comes next."
The dedication is controversial because of the content and a secret--a secret I was given permission to share. That would put the burden on me as to whether to do it. I weighed the pros and cons, and ultimately I have to ask myself what the intention of sharing would be. It does weigh on me because it reflects on the community I lived in until I graduated from high school. However, it also reflects our larger community and our country.
The other things I have to consider is the privacy of those who participated in the events of the secret. Here is how I resolve that; I don't name anyone but the victims (with their permission). However, the bullies, and that's what they were, have to know the boundaries of what is acceptable and be on notice that they can do better. I'm personally working daily on doing better, and I have no claim on always making the right decisions. But, when something happens that goes against the values I try to honor, it serves no purpose to turn a blind eye and accept it without question. In my opinion, that normalizes the behavior. In today's world, there is too much of that going on. So, I will share a secret, but I can't make any sense of it. I will also say the only confirmation I have, is the knowledge of some of the events during the time, and I have the utmost respect and confidence in the person who shared the secret with me.
Not too long ago, a friend died. She was diagnosed and gone in a matter of a month or so. That experience also weaves itself into this novel--the fact that this occurs daily, lives are gone with little or no warning. I combined this friend with adult foster children I have known during my work life as a social worker. The flawed foster care system peeks into one of the character’s life. She dangles in her decision-making with very little foundation, a perspective many former foster children can identify with.
What happens to us after we die? That is the ultimate question. But, I have a theory, and wouldn’t you know, it comes through in this novel. I’m satisfied with my theory and I’m sticking to it. One of these days, I’ll find out if it’s true.
What I know for sure is Birdie & Jude was a fun novel to write. Birdie often surprised me with her moods and ideas, but she never disappointed me. It was an opportunity for me to give my old friend, Ollie, may he rest in peace, a starring role. Check out all of my novels on my web site: http://www.phyllishmoore.com.