What Inspired Me To Write My First Novel

Was It Lying or Embellishing?

I already had a “reputation” as a story teller. Why not write a book?

I, my sister, and some close friends, all started having babies within the same year, so there were a lot of little kids around. All parents are acquainted with the “why” phase that hits around ages three to four. We got hit hard.

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“Why is the sky blue, mommy?”

“Why is water wet, mommy?”

“Why does the mountain follow us, mommy?”

Hours of “why, why, why,” every single day, can drive a parent crazy!

At first I made the typical first-time-parent mistake; I actually tried to answer every question with facts! Did these little info-seekers care? Not really, so I started to embellish, if you will.

Embellishing Started as a Survival Tool

Setting: Driving with three little kids in the car

That was a 3 to 1 ratio, on an easy day. It was important that I stayed ahead of the game by whatever means possible, so when one kid asked, “Why does the mountain keep following us, mommy,” I had to be ready. The wrong answer could lead to more questions. I had to think quick. The right answer could turn their attention to one another, if they engaged in the pretend-land scenario I created for them and, in this instance, which I like to refer to as The Crab Mountain Plot, they didn’t discover the truth until years later so I got a lot of mileage out of it (although I did have to defend this tactic as The Santa Clause principle, to my sister and brother-in-law, who kept referring to my embellishments as, “lying” but I think their children are the better for it, after all, they are huge Harry Potter fans now and I shamelessly take credit for helping prime the pumps of their little minds).

An Example of Embellishing with Little Kids

Building on experiences

The mountain in question was Mt. Rainier. It’s huge and even little kids can see it from their back seat car windows. It’s on the left, then it’s on the right, then it’s ahead of us. Fortunately, a recent trip to the beach helped me clarify this in their little four year old minds.

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“Remember the crabs we saw at the beach, that had shells on their backs?”

A chorus of “yes” rings out.

“Remember how all you could see was the shell but then it started moving because of the legs hidden underneath?”

Three shouts of “yes!”

“Well, that’s how the mountain is following us around.” We were at a stoplight so I demonstrated by making one hand into a fist, covered it with my other hand, then dangled the fingers of the hand underneath to show how the mountain would pick up its shell and move around. It was magic!

“Wow, like a crab?! That is so cool!” (Yes, we taught our children to say ‘cool’. It was the ’80s).

And there you have it. I was off the hook. They ran with it and I was free, free from the incessant barrage of “whys” hurdled my way by the three little gang members in my back seat.

Other Embellishments

Captain Hook was once in my house

My little red-headed niece was obsessed with the Peter Pan story so one day she and I chased Captain Hook through the living room, down the hallway, and into the bathroom where I flipped on the ceiling fan to simulate his escape (that one sort’a backfired when said niece screamed and shook in terror…oops).

Then there was our talking cat who cleverly answered my (pre-scripted) questions, via a hidden tape recorder behind a door, or the multiple times my son wouldn’t go to sleep so I had to invent bedtime stories, on the fly. The list goes on and includes Mole People, and a pasture with a mysterious set of steps, concealed by a rock that is covered with blackberry bushes, that leads to another world.

My Timeline Covers 30 Years

Those three little kids are thirty years old now and we’ve cycled through the baby to toddler, to teenager, to adult stage, which manifested itself as little kids who loved fantastical stories, to pre-teens who thought mom was weird, to teens who plagiarized mom’s stories for writing assignments in school, to adults who think I should write a book.

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Writing a Novel is Like Having a Baby

Hard work but I love it

Creating the above graph was meant as a joke but it ended up being very enlightening. Having babies and writing a novel both ended up being 10’s. I suspect that a graph about my novel will follow a similar line with days/months/years that will tank then spike, or at least I hope it will end in a spike.

My Novel is Not About My Earlier Embellishments

I am saving those for children’s books

I studied other authors but they didn’t make sense to me. Did Stephen King or Michael Crichton tell little kids whopping tales, and did doing so prove they were great story tellers? How come C.S. Lewis was able to write such beloved children’s stories when he was rarely around children? There is no formula but one common trait is creative thinking, which I have, so I decided I would try both Sci Fi story writing and children’s books.

Leaving a Legacy

A good reason to write a book

I have read that everyone should write a book. My daughter responded to that comment by saying, “Yes, everyone should write a book but not everyone’s book should be read”, or would be read, but that’s where I ultimately win as a Mom and Auntie. I already have readers, waiting for my next story, and my books will be a small contribution to our family history. On my death bed I doubt I will care that I was or wasn’t a famous author, selling millions of copies  to strangers, but I will care about the legacy I leave behind for my family.

Last year I discovered a book written by my great-grandfather, on the internet. He was an architect and an engineer, an inventor, and an author. I only met him once, when I was very young, but by being able to read his written material I felt I knew him better which helped me understand myself more and my family of origin. It explained my tendency to want to engineer everything, or take things apart to see how they work, or to be relentless about fixing things.

I’m okay with the possibility that my books may not become Best Sellers, but I’m excited about the idea that thirty, forty, maybe fifty years from now, my great granddaughter might discover one of my books and wonder  who I was. Will she be like me? Will she feel inspired to become  writer because her great grandmother was? If so, that’s pretty good inspiration. I just wish I was going to be around to read about her embellishments. I hope she has a lot of them.







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