Today, my new novel went up for preorder. More than any other, this book has been a roller coaster of emotion for me. Usually, my writing process goes something like this: I get inspired by an idea (from a dream or random thought, it varies). I research said notion, think about it obsessively, listen to music that fits, try to work out the ins and outs of the character in my mind, and once I am truly and properly ready, I sit and write. I write quickly and in a fairly linear fashion. It’s rare I know where a book is taking me when I set out. Even when I think I do, it surprises me. I self-edit as I go, so what I hand my editor is often remarkably close to the finished product. (Let me just pause right here to say my editor on this one is a freaking SAINT.)
Elusive Magic has not gone that way even a little. This book has been much more, well, elusive. It did start with a dream, about 18 months ago. I wrote like a madwoman for a while only to stop short because it started toeing up to my own story, one I was still living, a bit too closely. Then I determined to push through. Then Covid hit and suddenly writing a story about a woman opening a bar felt futile.
Any time I write a book, there is something of me in it. In many ways, it’s my therapy. It’s how I work through my life experiences, how I process. The supporting characters are often mish-mashes of the people in my world. A dash of this person, a sprinkle of that person, a pinch of so-and-so’s wit…
This book, however, relies more heavily on my own story than any book since Tumbleweed. The last couple of years have been ones of intense personal growth for me—and that was before Covid hit. So many of those experiences had to be dealt with, processed, before I could move on. Before I could write about love again.
There was a time when I talked on my blog about The One Who Made Me Smile. It turned out that he was The One Who Broke My Heart. Dealing with that, with loving someone and knowing you must move on from them, has been a lot. (You know how people joke about “Break up with Taylor Swift and she’ll write a song about you"? Apparently, break my heart and I’ll write a book about you.)
I know my books are fiction. But my belief in love, hope, friendship, finding joy even in the bad—those are real. So when I began to question all of those things, I found I simply couldn't write, no matter how much I wanted to. This book, written in the middle of a pandemic while my heart was shattered, was my path back to that.
Sometimes, I’d hit roadblocks because I would be writing Josie’s story and I’d think, “That’s not how that happened.” And then I’d remind myself that this is Josie’s story, not mine. (I promise the character Wesley Dryden is a work of fiction: snippets of charm from a man I dated in passing, a mental image of Eric Balfour—sorry Eric Balfour’s wife—and a whole lot of imagination.)
Sometimes, it was uncanny how much things aligned. I’d already written much of this book when I caught Covid and lost my job. And the woman who was half of the inspiration for Brigitte, the book’s “fairy godmother,” was the one who anonymously stepped up to organize a GoFundMe that got us through that first month when my savings ran out and made sure my kids each had a Christmas present this year. (She tried to stay anonymous. Her elves totally gave her up, though.) Because even as I wrote those early pages, I knew she was the kind of person to go big for someone she loves.
In many ways, this book is a departure from my previous books. The language is a little coarser. There are words I debated pulling out because I know some of my long-time readers might be offended, but then I said to myself: Nope, that’s the word that situation calls for. Josie dates multiple men over the course of the book. She and her friends have very frank conversations about a whole plethora of things, some that might make a proper southern lady blush. (My mother is not going to be happy with me and I will hear about it.)
And Josie grapples with the natural cynicism that inevitably happens if you’ve been online dating for any length of time. I’ll tell readers right now: This book is classified as women’s fiction because she does not get the HEA with any of the men in her orbit.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a role to play in her happily ever after because they’re part of the woman she becomes. But more than the men who pass through her life, Josie’s love story is with the women she chooses to share her life with. Her love story is with herself.
So no, Josie’s story is not my own. But yet it is. And if you’re a woman reading this, her story is your story, too.
Elusive Magic: Now Available for Preorder
But achieving dreams is not an easy thing, especially when you’re dating over forty and helping friends through the highs and lows of marriages, babies being born and babies leaving home, and all the other things life throws at this group of women as they navigate modern-day femininity.
Both heart-wrenchingly sad and laugh-out-loud funny, this forty-something coming of age story teaches Josie that being a woman might not be a fairy tale, but it is an elusive magic all its own.
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