Monday, May 5, 2008

Fabricating My Way to Publication


When I was a kid, my parents often accused me of "fabricating." I would be telling them a story, relating something that had happened in school or on the bus, and the story would take on a life of its own. Like the good parents they were, they would hang on my every word and then have the audacity to ask me how much of what I had just said had actually happened and how much had I added to make it a better story. The nerve of those people! I was just telling it as I had seen it. What was their problem? (Apparently, when I was in full fabrication mode, my eyes would grow wider and the hand gestures wilder. Whatever.)

With hindsight, I can see that the fabricating girl was sowing the seeds for the novel writing adult. All my life, my parents told me I should channel this storytelling capability into a book. For this reason, "Line of Scrimmage" is dedicated to the two people who always told me I should and to the three people—my husband and kids—who stood by me while I did. Yesterday, Mary Margaret talked about the epiphany she had one day during which it became clear to her that she could write a book. My story is a little different than hers. As I worked as a newspaper reporter (where it pained me to stick to the facts and only the facts...) and later as a writer and editor for a nonprofit, I always sort of suspected I could. But until you do, that's all it is—suspicion.

I'll never forget finishing my first book, "Treading Water," on the afternoon of May 18, 2005. Until the moment I wrote "the end," I thought I might have a book in me. As of then, I knew I did—albeit an overwritten monstrosity that took me a year to tame. I had, however, proven something to myself and answered the question of a lifetime. In tribute to this enormous accomplishment, I expected that the world might have the good grace to pause to recognize me, but alas, life went on. There was still homework to supervise, work to finish, dinner to make, and laundry to fold. But nothing has ever been the same. The only thing that detracted from this big moment was that my mother didn't live to see it. She died in August of 2004, but not before reading the first four chapters of "Treading Water" and telling me I made her cry. The only possible explanation I have for everything that's happened in the ensuing years is that she's channeling amazing characters and story ideas to me. Since they often appear out of nowhere, how else should I explain it?

Since I finished "Treading Water," I continued to write and write. "Line of Scrimmage" is the seventh novel I completed but the first to be published. I remain hopeful on behalf of the first six, as well as the four that have followed LOS. The idea for LOS came from one of those visions that appear out of nowhere (thanks, Mom). I pictured a pair of cowboy books landing in a marble foyer. How, I wondered, can I make it so those boots are not welcome in that foyer? Well, if Susannah Sanderson was entertaining her fiance and his parents, how upsetting would it be if her soon-to-be ex-husband, NFL quarterback and superstar Ryan Sanderson, showed up to remind her they still had ten more days as Mr. and Mrs.? "And guess what, darlin'? We're going to spend every one of them together."

Yep, that works! I loved writing Ryan, who comes across as a total jerk at the beginning of the book but redeems himself over the course of the story when you see that underneath all his swagger and bravado, he's desperate to save his marriage and to convince Susannah he's worth a second chance. I found out long after LOS was finished and out for consideration that writing sports heroes, rock stars, and actors is supposedly a big no-no. I love that! I'm so glad I hadn't heard that "rule," otherwise I might have buckled to convention and not written LOS or heard from scores of potential readers who tell me they love football books and can't wait to read it. I also have an MS that features a supermodel, which is another supposed no-no. However, my editor told me just the other day how likable my self-deprecating supermodel is. So there, rule makers!

In LOS, it was also fun to write the character of Henry, Susannah's high school boyfriend and now her fiance, who was dumped for Ryan when they were in college. Henry swooped back onto the scene after Ryan and Susannah split up and refuses to go gently into that good night when Ryan reappears. This was my premise, and rubbing hands together with glee, I called on my inner fabricator (aka the Muse) to make it work.

Right around the time I was starting LOS and trying to decide where to set it, I was sent to Denver for work. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2006, we found out that 60 Minutes would be filming something our company was involved in—not a scandal, don't worry. As the communications director, they asked me to go help out. I'll admit to being reluctant since traveling on that weekend is always a nightmare. Getting to Denver was no fun, but I ended up with a full day to kill before the obligations kicked in, and I used the time to explore a city I'd never been to before. LOS is set in Denver, and one of my favorite scenes in the book occurs at The Brown Palace Hotel where I stayed. And I managed to get my face on 60 Minutes!

What was ironic about my Muse presenting me with Ryan, every inch the NFL quarterback, was that I wasn't much of a football fan before he showed up. In fact, baseball is my sport (and the World Champion Boston Red Sox my team). In light of this lifelong fascination with baseball, I tried to remake Ryan into a star shortstop, but he wasn't having any of that. So, buckling to the Muse and this larger-than-life character she had dumped on me, I spent a big part of the 2006 football season sitting next to my husband on the sofa, peppering him with questions that were probably pretty annoying, especially since I had long disdained football as being barbaric. But he was a good sport about it and was right there next to me when I settled on the perfect name for this book about a husband and wife facing off at the "Line of Scrimmage."

The fabricator gets even. Take that, Mom and Dad!

20 comments:

  1. Marie,
    I think there are several of us in that "I didn't know it was a no-no" boat, and look where it got us!
    Congratulations on the book and a great post!
    Cheryl

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  2. Great post!

    My parents also noted my tendency to, shall we say, embellish. :-)

    I was intrigued that your inspiration was a "vision." It sounds like such a fun way for a story to begin forming. Does it usually happen that way for you, or was this a special case?

    Mary Margret

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  3. Thanks, Cheryl. You are so right about the no-nos. I love the idea of thumbing my nose as conventional wisdom.

    I've had a few visions, Mary Margaret, but not in the clairvoyant sense. Ideas just come to me out of nowhere. I don't know how else to put it. Then I set my imagination loose and let the chips fall where they may! That's how it happened for LOS, and a few of my other books as well. Other sources of ideas have included: music, things I see when driving, stuff I see in the news, etc. My very first character came to me over time, revealing more bits and pieces of himself to me for years before I wrote the first word of his story. As a result, I felt I knew him really well by the time I sat down to write his story.

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  4. That should be thumbing my nose AT conventional wisdom! Woops!

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  5. Ha, I love what you said about football! I've always watched it because I grew up with my parents watching it every Sunday, and I'd go the games in high school (but who really watches the games then anyway?). It wasn't until my younger brother started playing when he was in high school and he'd talk about the bond between teammates that I took an interest.

    Now I find myself making my own friends watch football who always though it was just another sport, and surprising even the most die hard football fans that "little ol' me" knows what's going down on the field.

    Great post, Marie! :)

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  6. Thanks, Danielle! I have a whole new appreciation for the sport after taking the time to understand it a little better. I am with you about HS football games--who watches the game?? My daughter (7th grade) and her friends aren't even aware that there's a game going on, which my son (aged 9) finds totally ridiculous! Wait until he discovers girls and the OTHER reason for attending HS football games! LOL

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  7. GREAT post, Marie, you prolific lil fabricator you! ;-)

    I know what you mean about "visions" since my ideas sometimes come to me the same way. My 2006 GH finalist idea came to me after listening to a piece of music. But nope, that hasn't happened to me again, at least NOT YET!

    Can't wait to read LOS!
    Cindy

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  8. Thanks, Cindy!! I had the music experience once, too! The Van Morrison song "Tupelo Honey" put me in a mood that led to my book, "The Wreck." In fact, the first line of that book is, "Tupelo Honey" played on the jukebox. It's a great song that for some reason led me to a dark romantic suspense. No idea why! LOL

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  9. I sooo can't wait for this book!

    Thank you for sharing with us about how it came about.

    With a dad who is a big sports fan and an older brother who played sports every year, I grew up at ballparks and football stadiums and watching sports on tv. My brother even turned his love of football into a career and is a highschool football coach. It is interesting to go to his football games now and watch the highschoolers... to most it is just one big social event where there just happens to be a game going on...LOL

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  10. Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer! The more I talk to people about LOS the more I see how beloved the game of football is in this country--on every level, high school to pro. And here I was thinking my glorious game of baseball was the nation's pasttime... What do I know? LOL

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  11. Hey, don't get me wrong, baseball is still one of my favorite sports and I watch it more than anything, but I enjoy football as well.

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  12. Great post Marie this book sounds wonderful a big football player determined to win back his wife can't wait to read it.
    I love hearing how you all got the ideas for your stories and how they got there and I agree Mums are always with us

    Have Fun
    Helen

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  13. Forgot to say what a big sports fan I am I love cricket and rugby leauge very Australian LOL

    Have Fun
    Helen

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  14. Thanks for stopping by, Helen. I'm glad the book has caught your interest!
    Marie

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  15. Marie,
    Did you ever have trouble with your Henry character, if you perhaps came to like him enough that you didn't want him to be the loser in the story? If so, did you have to find a way to recompense him? I only ask because sometimes I have to do that . . .
    Very good blog!
    Christina

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  16. Thanks for coming by, Christina! No, Henry was always intended to be a pain in Ryan's ass more than anything. I had no real affection for him, and you'll see that he doesn't deserve any if you read the book.

    I do know what you mean when you say that it can be a problem when you come to have affection for a character you had certain plans for. Sometimes the characters have other ideas and it's hard to ignore that.

    Great question!!
    Marie

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  17. Great story of your journey. And you are right I have heard the no jock myth from many folks, and no rock stars. But you know, it is all about the execution.
    Can't wait to read the book.
    Michele

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  18. Thanks, Michele. My jock and his bulge (see cover for confirmation) were great fun to write!

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  19. Marie,

    It was all meant to be. You showed them all!

    Linda

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  20. Super post, Marie, can't wait to get the book in the fall! :)
    I have to say that my parents never encouraged my writing, although I always loved to write, not until much, much later, but they did discourage me from painting. They were both arteests, as in artists, with the French sounding to make it seem fancier and told me to stick to sewing, which neither my mother or grandmother could do, so I made award-winning bears instead!!! But once I started concentrating on writing, both knew I'd make it...just as long as I stuck to that kind of art and not their kind! :)

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