By: Michelle Roth
Write what you know. This is what you will be told if you decide to become a writer. Great advice, except that if you only write what you know, you end up with a memoir. And in truth, unless you are already famous or have an exceptionally amazing life, no one except your mother cares a whole lot about your memoir. And even then, your mother has probably heard all your stories already.
My own stories were all I could write at first, but I wrote them anyway, even if only a handful of people wanted to read them. We all have to start somewhere. There always has to be a first step.
I could say that I chose to be a writer, but it would probably be more accurate to say that it chose me. Writing is so much a part of who I am and what I do that it was probably inevitable. I have come to believe that we all have gifts, a purpose in this life that we are supposed to be sharing with the world. It is a matter of finding what your gift is and then putting in a lot of old-fashioned hard work to sand off the rough edges and become good. I always wrote, but it was not always good. But if you do something, anything, hundreds or thousands of times, you will get better. We are all a work in progress.
It took me years to be ready to write a book, and then more years to figure out what I really had to say. And since I am not famous or ridiculously interesting, I decided to take what I know and make it fiction, adding some interesting tidbits along the way to make my point. I spent nine months writing my novel Dreaming Out Loud and about the same amount of time editing and creating new drafts. My novel took 27 total drafts before it was published this summer. Like I said, work in progress.
Writing a large work is like taking a long road trip, or being pregnant. It is not fast and it is not for the faint of heart, but it will teach you a lot about who you are. That is, if you are able to endure all those months (or years) losing yourself with imaginary characters in your head. I often felt that I was bringing my past and my dreams and my demons to life while writing my book. Regardless of the level of success a book may or may not bring, it is a soul-cleansing process.
I wrote my book about love, and about being a single parent, and about poverty. These are things that I knew well because I lived them. But a book is like a stew, with pieces of what we know added in with pieces of things we find intriguing or that help make a point, so that by the time you get to the finished product, you have created something entirely new out of many parts.
I wrote about being a mother, because I see how every one of us cradles our babies and comforts them and worries when they are sick. We all love our mothers and our children and our men. We all have times when the best we can do is merely make it through the day in one piece and we fall asleep exhausted in the place we call home.
I wrote about women, because I worry about how we spend a lot of time comparing our lives and our dress sizes and our cars and homes to each other’s. We share much more in common than what makes us different, no matter what each of our living rooms looks like. I believe spending too much time looking for our differences will merely separate us, leaving us all feeling lonely and disconnected in a time when our lives are more like islands than communities. I want to change that, to help us all to reconnect, even if it is one reader at a time. So I wrote about a variety of women, hoping to show some common threads among all of us.
Dreaming Out Loud is a story told in the first person by Sarah, Megan, and Lilly, three women battling with themselves – and society’s judgments – about their lifestyles of polygamy, single parenthood, and interracial marriage. The characters show us that regardless of how our families are comprised, we all have the same hopes and dreams, to love and be loved. Sarah is in remission from the same cancer that took her mother and suddenly meets the man she has dreamt of since she was a girl. Only after she falls for Jacob does she learn that he is a polygamist who hopes to marry her and give her the family she cannot create on her own. Megan, Sarah’s sister, is a single mother of three, struggling to find her place raising her children in poverty, working numerous jobs, and trying to outrun a nasty small-town stigma from her messy divorce. The third woman is Lilly, an 82-year-old who left the south in her youth to escape the prejudice stopping her from raising a family with the man she loved. A surrogate mother to Sarah and Megan, Lilly is the bridge to a hazy past, stringing secrets and memories together, choosing what is brought forward into the light.
I chose to write about polygamy mostly because I wanted to find something that would grab attention, something a little out of the norm and out of our comfort zone, and also because it is a subject of interest. I needed something unusual if I was going to get people to think outside the box. I feel that it is in the testing of the edges where we all grow and learn. I tried to do exactly that while writing this novel, not only for myself but anyone who chooses to read it. It is my sincere hope that I can encourage readers to find their own unique gift and share it with the world.
Readers are encouraged to feel free to get in touch with any questions or comments, as I would love to hear from you. My website www.michellerothwrites.com has regular blog posts about life, upcoming author events, and author contact information, as well as links to purchase Dreaming Out Loud. Amazon.com has print copies and electronic Kindle books available for purchase.
The first two chapters of Dreaming Out Loud are available as a preview at www.LocaLeben.com