Saturday, September 21, 2013

What's in a Name


My copies of My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall arrived this week. So odd to finally hold copies in my hands after all this time working on them. The feeling of opening the box and actually seeing the new book never gets old.

The opening scene in My Sister's Keeper finds my protagonist Anna Sweet in the oil town Kermit, Texas. Now, you might wonder how I came up with this location - a glimpse into my thinking process, perhaps. This can be a scary journey, but here goes the geography lesson:

I decided to have Anna, a thirty-two year old retired cop, on the run from her life in Ottawa after a few traumatic events. She would be waitressing her way across the U.S., living the bohemian lifestyle with no ties. My first thought was to have her in a Florida town, but after studying the map, I decided she should be further west in an industry town. My other stipulation was that the town have a two-syllable name since the books are for adult literacy. I pulled up a map of Texas on my screen and read out names until I found Kermit in the north west corner of the state. Of course, I thought of that famous frog and so was intrigued. I did a search on Wikepedia and discovered that Kermit is an oil town with a population of just over 5,000. Perfect!

I invented the Dude Bar, and gave Anna a room to rent upstairs and a job waiting tables downstairs. Anna is called back to Ottawa to save her sister from a killer, but Kermit becomes a symbol of freedom and her life on the road. She longs to return whenever life back home gets too complicated.

Amateur psychologists might see links between the freedom of my own childhood growing up in a one-industry mill town and my life in Ottawa with all of my adult commitments and responsibilities. Well, I guess we all have a place in our minds of a simpler time and place. My first paid contract for a story was about my home town vs. life in the city. Canadian Living published "True North" in 2001. No matter where we come from, our home town always holds a special place.

Of note this week, my daughter Lisa's curling team is playing in their first bonspiel in Brockville and they are now three wins and zero losses, playing again this morning. This promises to be an exciting year as they gear up for the Olympic trials in December. You can watch their afternoon game live on Youtube although the 3:45 start might get pushed back if games back up during the day. An interesting coincidence - Lisa happens to look a lot like Anna Sweet . . . .

I've got a little jump on my next full-length manuscript for Dundurn and hope to get more written this weekend. I'm kind of happy to see the rain, which will keep me indoors. It feels like a day to brew an extra pot of coffee, put the feet up and listen to some music on the stereo. Time to slow down and kick back for a few hours.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

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