Thursday, July 2, 2009
What Inspired Things Left Unspoken
I've been asked a lot lately what inspired my new novel, Things Left Unspoken.
Rather than repeat myself (because, really, who has time for that?), I thought I'd direct you to the answer I gave to author Denise Hildreth when she asked that very same question for her blog/website: DeniseHildreth.com
Well Eva, you know I love your new book. But I also loved your Potluck Club books too. You just make me laugh. But your new book, though it still has your charming wit, is a little more serious I think. Can you tell us how the story of “Things Left Unspoken” came to you?
I’d be happy to … when my great-uncle died, he left my great-aunt (they had no children) in the house she’d grown up in. She was unable to live alone so she came to live with my mother. My mother sold the house — now in a dying town — to a land developer who was going to restore not only the house, but the town. (It didn’t happen … ) Anyway, it snowed the day we buried Uncle Jimmy. Fleeting snow. Years later (about 10 years!) I was sitting on my back porch, rocking in one of the front porch rockers given to me from my great-grandparent’s estate. It was cold. February. Very gray. And I thought, “It snowed the day we buried Uncle Jimmy.”
I knew immediately I had written the first line of a novel. So, I ran inside and typed one sentence, then saved it. It snowed the day we buried Uncle Jim.
A few weeks later I wrote some more, then more, and then — as I thought about the restoration of the town that didn’t happen — a story formed. I wrote about five chapters and put it away. Some time later I was talking to my editor at Baker/Revell (Vicki Crumpton) and shared with her three ideas I had for a new line of Southern fiction. The story we now know as Things Left Unspoken was one of them …
The main character is on a search for herself in so many levels. You’re in those middle years of living, (can I say that without you writing me into the next book) do you find that you went through a season of self-discovery as well? And if so, when did that happen for you and what did it look like?
In part, this book had everything to do with my self-discovery, so to speak. I had been writing The Potluck Club books with Linda Evans Shepherd. These are great books, full of things that Christian women deal with. Though the subjects were deep, sometimes the approach to them was light. I’d been reading some deep fiction on my own and really wondering “what I wanted to be when I grew up” as a writer. I knew I was searching for deeper things. I wanted to write things that made a difference (not that TPC doesn’t!) and were more literary. Things Left Unspoken is my first stab at that.
There seem to be a lot of secrets that have been clung to with your characters. Any thoughts on why we can hold so tight to our stuff and cling to our secrets?
Because we are lied to. Call it the devil or your own self esteem issues … we hear the lies and we believe them. We think we are the only ones. Or that we are protecting someone, even putting ourselves at risk to do so. One of the characters — Stella — is holding on to more than one family secret. One, she thinks she is protecting someone she loves more than life itself. The other, the same … For Stella, it’s not about her, but about them. Then there’s the main character — JoLynn. Her secrets are so deeply engrained, even she doesn’t know what they are. She’s missed out on something she wants so desperately … so many things … but her silence will harm her spiritually and … in the end … maybe even physically!