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!