I get asked a lot how great it is writing romance and the immediate answer is: REALLY GREAT. But as you know, a really cracking romance isn’t all first kisses, butterfly tummies and lavish proposals. Within each romance there are profound emotional hurdles each character must surmount before they get that glorious, well-earnt happily ever after. I’ve been enjoying exploring character’s personal journeys in greater depth these past couple of years in the guise of my new writer name: Daisy Tate. They’re more women’s fiction than romance, but never fear – love is pretty good at triumphing over adversity in them. So! I’ve written a new book.
Every book has its ping! moment and, in the spirit of Annie Claydon’s previous post, I had offered myself a bit of cushioning to explore where my latest idea would go. So! This lightbulb moment. It was actually a string of lightbulbs – the first one being the title.
I thought of the title and loved it. That’s often how I start: A Bicycle Built for Sue. And then … who is Sue and what’s she going to do. Ride a bicycle, obviously. But not just round the block…Sue’s going on a charity cycle ride. A hard one. One with hills. Something she never in a million years would have dreamed of doing. She’s not an athlete. She’s not even all that fond of getting sweaty, to be honest. She’s going to have to have gone through something big. Something that blindsided her. Something that turns her into someone who wriggles into a pair of padded lycra shorts and rides. And rides and rides and rides until she can tease away the darkness and begin to see some light.
I’d done a run recently (and by run, I mean put one foot in front of the other, listening to “Defying Gravity” from Wicked on repeat for two and a half hours). (Another sidebar: Debbie Macomber was in town that day to see her beloved Seahawks play and I knew I would be running by her hotel so, as a fellow Seattlite, I wore my Hawks hat in the hopes she was leaning out her window and see me amongst the crowd. #NeedleInAHaystack) Nearly all of the fifteen thousand people participating were running for one charity or another. I spent the bulk of the event weeping as I read everyone’s t-shirts, imagining why and for whom they were putting themselves through the horrendous ordeal.
It was pouring with rain, cold, and very long. And yet…there were literally thousands of people running for every sorrow under the (not entirely visible) sun. Amongst the scores of organisations represented, there were a preponderance of mental health charities, loneliness charities, depression, addiction, bi-polar, and, of course, suicide prevention charities. And then it hit me. Sue lost her husband to suicide. I’ve known far too many people who took their lives and, a few months later, as I rode the route Sue would ride along Hadrian’s Wall, I met far too many people who also knew people who had taken theirs. It was a six degrees of Kevin Bacon I would’ve much rather ended with Kevin Bacon.
Writing about life in the vacuum of a loved one’s suicide is not easy. Finding a way to make it uplifting was even harder. I actually went out and did Sue’s cycle ride. Again, it was pouring with rain and utterly miserable, and also unbelievably helpful in terms of really being able to tap into what she experienced. It’s a lot of alone time. But I was reminded again and again that I wasn’t alone. There was the B&B woman who stuffed newspapers in my sodden shoes and made me the best bowl of porridge I’ve ever had. The cycling group that kept passing me, making sure I was okay every time I appeared from a hedgerow (read: outdoor loo). The woman who made me a cuppa at a tourist centre when I was ready to call it a day and encouraged me to keep on going, let my bum blisters heal (I know, TMI|) and sit down at the end of it all to write about Sue, Flo, Raven and Kath. Which I did.
I also wrote four Mills & Boon last year so prepare yourself for some of those! The first is a duet I wrote with the fabulous Scarlett Wilson and it’s set in ROME (OMG – ROME!!!!! Just thinking the word makes me hungry).
Okay – I’ll leave you be, but with a question. Is there something you’ve done that you never in a million years thought you’d do? That was me with the cycle rides and the runs. Let me assure you – I am no athlete – I’m like the Little Tortoise That Could. I’m slow, not very graceful, but persistent. I actively seek silver linings. I hope you do, too. xoxoxo Annie O’