Mom, Readers And Writers Blog, waiting for spring, writing

I am not Tess Dyer

I know it’s not uncommon for a first novel to be at least semi-autobiographical, and judging by the sympathetic tone of some of the emails I’ve been getting lately, it seems that a lot of you think that’s the case with Waiting For Spring. Thankfully, I can say that it isn’t. Tess and I share some similarities: eye color, short stature, a tendency towards being a smart ass. We’re both avid Red Sox fans and both live in Small Town, Maine. I used my own ‘voice’–so to speak–for the narration. (Tackling the task of writing a first novel was much less daunting that way.) But the actual events of her life were in no way taken from mine. I sat down to write WFS over two-and-a-half-years ago with absolutely no plot in mind. I had no specific axes to grind, no confessions to make, no burdens with anyone’s name stamped in big, block letters to set down. Just thirty-five-and-a-half years of being a human being to sort through and a certainty that I had the talent to make something out of it.

I had been abandoned by someone who should have stayed around, then given the Someone who took his place a ration and a half of shit. Groaned about the minor imperfections of my mother, only to count my blessings when confronted with the gross imperfections of the mothers of some of my friends. I had loved and lost, then loved again. Shed tears with friends as they struggled with the heartbreak that comes when a mate has been unfaithful, and later thanked God out loud that it wasn’t me. Watched other friends who were too young being buried in the cold, hard ground.

I had known what it was like to wonder where my next meal was coming from when my husband lost his job, making due for weeks with mac & cheese and tunafish, grateful that there was such a thing as government aid to help us through the roughest spots; then grumbled as I watched people who’d never worked a day in their lives buying lobster with their food stamps. I had trusted people who didn’t deserve it, and turned my back on people who did. I found out what it’s like to not tell someone “I love you” in time, then vow to never make that mistake again; knowing full well that I probably will. I found out, too, that forgiveness works both ways.

There was a summer when it seemed everyone I knew who wasn’t in rehab should’ve been. An autumn when my brother was so sick that I prayed for God to take him away, to end his suffering; only to thank Him profusely as I watched my brother walk out of the hospital a week later. Moments when I looked at the ungrateful faces of the children I’d fought Nature to conceive and wondered why the hell I’d bothered; only to be followed by moments I couldn’t remember what life had been like before it had been blessed with their laughter. Dark times–even the happiest couples have them–when I had imagined what life would be like if I was on my own, single and carefree again; only to have those empty images blow away like ash when I heard the sound of my name in his voice…

So, although I can say that the novel is not factually autobiographical, I will admit that it is, perhaps, emotionally autobiographical. Still…I am not Tess Dyer.

Mom, Readers And Writers Blog, waiting for spring, writing

I am not Tess Dyer

I know it’s not uncommon for a first novel to be at least semi-autobiographical, and judging by the sympathetic tone of some of the emails I’ve been getting lately, it seems that a lot of you think that’s the case with Waiting For Spring. Thankfully, I can say that it isn’t. Tess and I share some similarities: eye color, short stature, a tendency towards being a smart ass. We’re both avid Red Sox fans and both live in Small Town, Maine. I used my own ‘voice’–so to speak–for the narration. (Tackling the task of writing a first novel was much less daunting that way.) But the actual events of her life were in no way taken from mine*.

I sat down to write WFS over two-and-a-half-years ago with absolutely no plot in mind. I had no specific axes to grind, no confessions to make, no burdens with anyone’s name stamped in big, block letters to set down. Just thirty-five-and-a-half years of being a human being to sort through and a certainty that I had the talent to make something out of it.

I had been abandoned by someone who should have stayed around, then given the Someone who took his place a ration and a half of shit. Groaned about the minor imperfections of my mother*, only to count my blessings when confronted with the gross imperfections of the mothers of some of my friends. I had loved and lost, then loved again. Shed tears with friends as they struggled with the heartbreak that comes when a mate has been unfaithful, and later thanked God out loud that it wasn’t me. Watched other friends who were too young being buried in the cold, hard ground.

I had known what it was like to wonder where my next meal was coming from when my husband lost his job, making due for weeks with mac & cheese and tunafish, grateful that there was such a thing as government aid to help us through the roughest spots; then grumbled as I watched people who’d never worked a day in their lives buying lobster with their food stamps. I had trusted people who didn’t deserve it, and turned my back on people who did. I found out what it’s like to not tell someone “I love you” in time, then vow to never make that mistake again; knowing full well that I probably will. I found out, too, that forgiveness works both ways.

There was a summer when it seemed everyone I knew who wasn’t in rehab should’ve been. An autumn when my brother was so sick that I prayed for God to take him away, to end his suffering; only to watch him walk out of the hospital a week later. Moments when I looked at the ungrateful faces of the children I’d fought Nature to conceive and wondered why the hell I’d bothered; only to be followed by moments I couldn’t remember what life had been like before it had been blessed with their laughter. Dark times–even the happiest couples have them–when I had imagined what life would be like if I was on my own, single and carefree again; only to have those empty images blow away like ash when I heard the sound of my name in his voice…

So, no, I am not Tess Dyer. At least, not really. Or, if I am, maybe you are, too.

*I feel especially compelled, now that Chapter 38 of WFS (aka the chapter in which Tess makes her Confession From Hell) has been posted at Readers and Writers Blog, to reiterate that Tess’ mother is in no way based on mine. (Yes, she has recently confided in me her fear that people will think this.) So once again…My mother is not an insane, selfish psycho bitch. She is an amazing, supportive, if slightly off-center, mother who gave up a lot in raising my brothers and me, and set the ultimate example of what it means to be a Mom.

In addition, Chapter 39 of WFS and chapters 14 and 15 of Ann M. Pino’s Steal Tomorrow have been posted in the New Works at R&WBlog. (If you haven’t read any of Steal Tomorrow yet, do yourself a favor and get on it. It’s that good.)

baseball, feedback, Mom, q and a, Red Sox, waiting for spring, writing

Writers love feedback!! So do mothers!!

I have joked in the past about the thousands of emails I receive each week from readers of this blog. Today, though, I speak the truth when I say I’ve gotten four different emails from four separate readers (none of whom are related to me by blood or marriage) in the past week with lots of feedback, and some questions, about Waiting for Spring. I’ll be honest…I’m wicked excited about that.

So far, the most commonly asked questions have to do with the characters; namely whether or not any of them are based on real people. The answer is a resounding NO. I especially want to make it clear, for the record, that Tess’ mother in no way resembles my own mother, who is the very model of a modern supportive Mom. She’s had a copy of a poem I wrote about banana bread hanging on her refrigerator since 1984. Or, to be more precise, she’s had the poem hanging on three consecutive refrigerators since then.

Another common question: Are New Mills, Brookfield, and Westville real towns in Maine? Again, the answer is No. Struggling mill towns are a sad reality up here, so it wasn’t difficult for me to create this fictional world, but Portland and Bangor are the only real places visited or mentioned in my novel.

Finally, a rather touchy subject: Yankee fans. I don’t hate them. I have a very good friend who happens to like…that team. We simply choose not to talk about baseball. This makes for very long and silent summers…

Stay tuned for more Q & A, and feel free to send me any of your feedback and/or questions. You can either email me at rjkeller.wfs@gmail.com or you can put ’em in the comments section of this post. Just one request: As a courtesy to those who are in the middle of the novel, please don’t post anything spoilerific here at the blog. Thanks!