You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are. – Joss Whedon
It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is just having written.
I’ve enjoyed a lifetime of reading novels, and for the past few years, I’ve devoted my energy to writing them. A shift of focus, closer to my heart. Previously, my writing life had been devoted to nonfiction. As a young child, I recorded the events of each day in a diary (a habit that I’ve continued to this day!) For a decade, I made my living as a technical writer in the Information Services division of Los Alamos Laboratory. In the early 1980s, my love of hiking, running and bicycling resulted in the guidebook Santa Fe on Foot-Exploring the City Different. The fourth edition was published last year by Ocean Tree Books.
In 1991, another nonfiction book followed: The Santa Fe Trail by Bicycle, an account of my 1,000-mile bicycle journey from Santa Fe to New Franklin, Missouri. Fifteen of us cycled from Santa Fe to New Franklin, Missouri. We biked from dawn until afternoon, camping every night. My book began as newspaper articles. After each day of bicycling, I’d handwrite an account and fax it to The Albuquerque Journal. The quest for a fax machine took me to some unusual places. I’d bike around whatever town we’d camped near looking for a business that had a fax machine I could pay to use. The most offbeat fax machine location was an undertaker’s showroom, the friendliest was a bookstore.
Other nonfiction books came, one after another. From Calcutta with Love-The WWII Letters of Richard and Reva Beard; The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries. My true love, from adolescence forward, was fiction. At long last, I’m realizing that dream.
I began the journey into the world of fiction-writing with a WWII suspense novel Beast of Bengal. It was inspired by a comment my brother John made about our father Richard. After Daddy died, I asked John to send me all the letters from WWII that my parents exchanged. “He didn’t DO anything,” John grumpily replied. “Nobody will be interested in these letters.” My brother was dead wrong. People were very interested in the archived letters, and From Calcutta with Love sold out. Texas Tech University Press, the publisher, returned full rights to me, and the book is currently being considered for re-publication by Pajarito Press.
In 2017,Pocol Press published my second novel All the Wrong Places, a page-turner set in a fictitious Native American school. Teacher Clara Jordan has to run for her life when her duplicitous lover Henry DiMarco realizes she is aware of his criminal activities. Moreover, she must draw upon inner strength to help her students survive the ragged remains of the school year.
One book just leads to another. Clara Jordan, my heroine, has more to tell. In All the Wrong Places, she lost her best friend, broke up with a bad boyfriend, and learned that the birthmother she’d been seeking died in an accident.
In Clara and the Hand of Ganesh, my girl moves from Red Mesa, New Mexico to Santa Fe. She meets Arundhati “Dottie” Bennett, a fellow adoptee, and they become close friends. Clara decides to help Dottie search for her origins. To do the necessary sleuthing, the two women must travel to Southern India. A daunting challenge, but as I left Clara and Dot, they were plotting and scheming for a way. What happens next? Though I have a general idea, I’m waiting for my characters to guide me. Throughout the day, I write down ideas that pop up while I’m in the dentist’s chair, in the middle of a hike, in the shower – or sometimes when I’m officially “writing.” My job is to collect the ideas and show up at the computer every day. This showing up feels like what I should be doing. Writing fiction is what I’ve been working toward for decades. In answer to the question posed by poet Mary Oliver
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
My answer is to listen to my characters and do their bidding.
Join adoptee Elaine Pinkerton on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to propose a guest blog. Comments are welcome!