How long did it take you to write this?

FrontCoverforTheTenant-1My new novel, The Tenant: A Love Story, was published in February. It’s not your usual fare of rampant violence, blood-thirsty vampires, and unbridled sex. If that’s what you’re looking for, it’s not your book. It’s just a simple, heartwarming story about a beautiful man, who feels self-conscious about having to walk with a cane after an accident. Having long given up on love, he constantly sabotages his own happiness, because he can’t imagine that any woman in her right mind would think him a good catch. But when he rents a cottage to a young woman, who struggles to survive with her ten year old boy, he is in for an emotional roller coaster. 

You can check out the book at Amazon, The Tenant: A Love Story,  or at your favorite bookseller. 

Once I had published the book, a good many of my readers asked me how long it took me to write it. The question always surprises me, because why should it matter. Would it be less of a great read it if I had written it in a week? Or if I had labored over it for twenty years?

But once I thought about it, I wondered myself just how long it took me to write it. It certainly wasn’t the five months I actually spent sitting in front of the computer, stealing time to write among the hundred other things there were going on at the same time such as the plumber, the computer crash, the laundry, the cooking, the company, the days I felt out of sorts, the paying the bills, the phone calls, insomnia, running errands, and a good many other things that come with living life.

The book actually began about sixteen years ago, only I didn’t know it. I don’t consciously keep track of a scene I’ve witnessed, a revelation that’s come to me, or an image that stands out. I don’t think: Oh, one day I will write a book about this. But I am in the habit of writing down things that intrigue me, because—well—they intrigue me. Sometimes, not always, I think that one day, I might work this moment into a book. I might. But I might not.

Trying to follow The Tenant back to its beginnings, I can see that it began with an observation—the interaction of two brothers I know who don’t like one another very much. The underlying enmity in their otherwise very civil encounter intrigued me enough that I wrote the scene down and even wrote a couple of chapters about the possible root of their rivalry. Then I put these musings side, because they didn’t really go anywhere in terms of a story. I just found them interesting. Once in a while, in my dearth and desert moments of writing, I’d pick them up and work on them a little, and let them go again. What’s interesting to me is that the name ‘Sam,’ though fictitious, offered itself quite naturally as that of one of the brothers in my little draft piece.

A couple of years later, I met a man who had to give up flying, because his eye sight had begun to fail him. I wrote that encounter down, and some months later, I met a man who had a construction accident. The fates of these two men almost immediately connected themselves to Sam. I have no idea how and why my mind determinedly makes these connections that, later on, prove to be dead-on in something I write.

A couple of years later, I happened to look out at a cabin that is way up near the top of a mountain that I can see from my window. It may well be a house, because that mountain is so far away, I can barely make out the house. And it’s not as if I hadn’t looked out at that cabin/house for years. But that day, it caught my fancy, and I thought how lovely it must be to live there with the phenomenal view of nearly the whole of the Shenandoah Valley in one’s lap. Instantly, I remembered a friend of mine, who had rented a cabin, because she had no money. The cabin had no electricity, and she and her young son had to bring in water from a well even in the dead of winter and haul in wood to keep warm. Just how this cabin instantly became Sam’s, I will never know.

But some months after I was done with my novel, Diary of a Naïve, I played around on my computer, looking for what I could write next. That’s when I found these seemingly disconnected pieces: a cabin (which suddenly struck me as awfully romantic), a young woman and a boy, and two brothers, who didn’t like one another very much. How all these pieces connected themselves, I will never know. But connect they did, as if it all was meant to be.

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