Is your mother still alive? Joseph Hansen, mystery writer
Joe Hansen taught at the Wesleyan Writers Conference and I was sitting in a college classroom, deserted for the summer, left to us aspiring novelists. I was writing regularly for The New York Times, but that was journalism. Fiction, I figured, had to be very different so I signed up for my one, and only, writer’s conference. Joe, a no-nonsense presenter, who told us “do not put people in cars, on buses or on the telephone because it’s boring” appealed to my writing sensibilities. Tell the story, keep it clean and non-cluttered. Slay your adverbs and be wary of your adjectives. NOUN – ACTION VERB. That summed it up.
But back to his mother comment. Someone was complaining of writer’s block. His point: fear hampers us. We are afraid of offending the person who is close to us. We are afraid to open the door to the unthinkable.
When I began writing NEELIE’S TRUTH, I knew I was opening not just any door. It was the door. The opening scene was inspired by my father’s hunting and trapping. As I let Neelie’s story unfold around me, I wove in threads of the tales told to me by my mother. I was writing fiction, but I had no doubts about the inspiration.
Joe Hansen, like my mother, has long since passed on. She never did read NEELIE’s TRUTH. I’ve written and published other works, but held on to this book until it felt like it refused to stay silently in the hard drive of my computer. I imagined I could hear it keening to be set free. I had excuses why I didn’t push it out into the light of day. An agent tried to market it as YA (which it is not). The ending was not where it needed to be (that’s been corrected). It would not do well in the market (not true).
When I opened the door to the story of Neelie, I opened the door to all my fiction writing. Stepping into the world with it now is like running down a new path that was outside the door, just out of reach.
I dedicated NEELIE’S TRUTH to my mother … I wish she were here to read it. As we approach Mother’s Day, a reminder to us all that we owe our mothers our truest selves. Open the door.