I’m taking a leap. A few weeks ago I wrote about the word Jump (thanks to Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday prompt). I said that jump made me think of standing on the edge of a cliff knowing I was supposed to take a leap.
Well, I think I just did that. I booked a flight to Ireland. Not a sightseeing trip. Not a getaway with hubby. Just me and my computer heading to the Emerald Isle to write. (It’s a dream come true and without an amazingly supportive husband, it wouldn’t happen. Thank you babe!)
So, why Ireland? A few years ago, I wrote a novel called, Where the Pink Houses Are, set in a charming Irish country town. Thankfully, it seems some people really loved the book. (click the title above if you’d like to read a review ) The comment I most often hear is, “When are you going to write the next one?” My response has always been, “I’m working on it.” And that’s true, to an extent. I have written some chapters. I have some ideas.
But for almost two years now the nagging feeling in the back of my head is that I can’t write book two until I’ve been to Ireland. I can only “fake” it so long. Anyone I’ve talked to who has read my book and also been to Ireland tells me they can’t believe I haven’t been there. But I think that’s because their minds fill in the blanks. They are seeing it vividly because they have already seen it! I haven’t. And it handicaps me.
When I decided to set my book in Ireland, I knew it would be difficult, never having set my eyes on the multi-hued green hills. I chose a fictional town and called it Millway. But I actually based it off of Millstreet; a real town, location-wise, so that distances to Cork city & Limerick, etc. would be consistent. I wanted a reference point.
I figured google would be my best friend. And it was. I was able to look up any locations my characters visited and describe the scene from pictures. But I didn’t even try to describe the actual town because it’s not a tourist area so I didn’t have pictures. I just used my imagination. It was the best I could do and it worked, mostly because my main character, Brenna, was an American tourist. She didn’t know the town well, either. It was fine. But this time around, she will have lived there for a few years. It will be her home and she will know it better, so I should too, right?
That’s why I’m going to stay for a week in the very town I set my novel in. How cool is that?? This time around, I will actually be able to infuse the real town into my book. I will have a feel for the “personality” of the place. It will still be fiction. But it will feel so much more real to me…and hopefully to my readers!
But confession time…I’m a little scared. Not of traveling by myself. Been there, done that. I was scared of driving on the wrong side of the road trying to leave the Shannon Airport, but Michael, the charming B&B proprietor, assures me I won’t need to “hire” a rental car. His wife will be on “holiday” and will gladly drive an hour to the airport to get me. Really? (I’m already blown away by the Irish hospitality.) He also assures me I’ll have “the life of Reilly” while I’m there. And I believe him. My father’s from Ireland, as are all his relatives. In a way, this feels like a home-coming for me. So that part…doesn’t scare me.
Why am I scared then, you ask? Well I imagine it’s a fear that every writer has at some point; what if the words don’t come? What if I spend the money and take time away from my family and I still don’t come away with my story? That’s the scary part. There’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to trust that it will be there. That my story is waiting for me.
Before I booked my flight, I was still a little hesitant to make the jump. I thought maybe I was just making excuses; I should just try writing book two from home. And then, last night, I was reading a book my sister, Sarah, recommended to me years ago. A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L’Engle (think A Wrinkle In Time…one of my fav books as a child) is a must read for any writer or artist. Sarah told me that back then but I never got around to reading it. Now I know that I was just saving it for the right time. I have highlighted it like crazy, but one particular line jumped off the page last night.
Madeline was talking about how her characters often do things she doesn’t expect. That even if she has everything mapped out, she will sometimes have to change huge sections of her book if the characters surprise her with something. (That’s one of my favorite things about writing fiction!) So, her point was that her characters were fluid, unpredictable, changing and that was okay. But the next sentence was, “But I do have to know, with all five senses, the places in which these unpredictable people move.” Yes! Yes. That is what I needed to hear. I need to know Ireland with all five senses. So I’m taking the leap. I’ve booked my flight and I’ll just have to see where it leads me…and my characters.