You’ve heard it a million times. Write what you know. I’m sure the reasons behind the saying are sound. You can bring knowledge and authenticity to any subject you are on familiar ground with. But for most of us, we don’t write what we know. We take what we know and expound on it. We delve deep into unchartered waters, searching for a story unlike what we know, because we think what we know is, well, pretty boring.
Most of my books have nothing to do with my life. Yesterday’s Tomorrow takes place during the Vietnam War. I was itty bitty at the time and really knew nothing about this era. I researched like crazy, God put a story in my heart, and a book was born. I’m sure for a lot of authors, that’s how their books come to life as well.
Not so with my upcoming second novel, Hidden in the Heart. While I often say that Yesterday’s Tomorrow was the book of my heart, this book is the story in my heart. In essence, it is my story.
In 2001, I made the decision to search for my birth mother. I grew up knowing I was adopted, never really wanted to search, even after I was married and had children of my own. Curious? Sure. But not enough to do anything about it.
And then my Mom died. My dad remarried, and suddenly life wasn’t so simple anymore. Suddenly I wanted to know where I came from. I wanted to know what genes I had passed on to my children and whether we had anything to be concerned about medically. I made up a dozen excuses for the reasons behind the sudden need to know, but mostly it came down to this.
When I looked in the mirror I wanted to know who was looking back at me.
“You existed before you were adopted.”
This is the tag line for Hidden in the Heart. I found the saying on one of the adoption search and reunion websites I frequented while I was looking for information. My search did not take long, and I connected with my birth mother fairly quickly. What I didn’t know and was in no way prepared for, was the emotional roller-coaster ride I was about to embark on. A ride that lasted almost three years, full of ups and downs, twists and turns and sudden plunges that make The Tower of Terror look like It’s A Small World.
At the end of it all, through the grace of God, I had a story to tell. A story of heartache, hope and healing. Of forgiveness and the freedom it brings. At first I was afraid to write it down. Afraid to let my feelings out. But I knew I needed to. I knew somehow, that it was to be part of my healing.
Hidden in the Heart is a work of fiction. I have taken artistic license with many of the events that happened along my journey, and I have made some up. But the emotion throughout this book is real. And still, eleven years later, a little raw.
They say write what you know.
Not knowing whether this book would ever be published, I wrote it anyway. This year, hopefully in the next few months, it will be. And I hope it will minister to others in the adoption community or anyone who wrestles with family struggles.
I thought I’d share with you an excerpt – a particularly difficult scene for me to write – as I said, this is from my heart. To yours.
“So, it’s true then? You think I’m your birth mother?”
No, I know you are. Claire blew air through pursed lips and tried to summon rational thought. “The facts line up. And there appear to be physical similarities.”
“When were you born?”
Claire rattled off the date, feeling numb.
“My papers say Hartford Hospital.”
The pause that followed gave Claire time to catch her breath. Time to think of a thousand things to say but she lacked courage to speak them. The silence dragged on and again she thought Michelle had hung up.
“I was thinking about you on Friday.” The words slammed Claire and took her breath away. “But I was too afraid to call. Too afraid my mother was right. And then I got the message about Darcie…I don’t know what’s going on anymore.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sure it’s a shock.” Claire couldn’t voice her feelings.
“Why did you want to find me?” Michelle finally spoke again, her initial cool tone returning. “Does the fact that I gave you up not tell you all you need to know?”
Claire recoiled at the cold, clipped words and shrank back in her chair. “No. Not really. I wanted to know who you were. Where I came from. I wanted…I want to know why you gave me up.”
“Why do you think? Because you were a mistake! Does that answer your question? I was a stupid college kid who didn’t know any better. That’s all there is to it. You had a good life, didn’t you? I was told your parents were very wealthy.”
“I had a good life, yes,” Claire replied, almost whispering. “My parents loved me very much. But I always wondered.”
“So you figure you have a right to mess with my life just to satisfy your curiosity, is that it?”
“No. I…I’m sorry. I didn’t think about it like that. I thought you…I thought you might…want to know about me too.”
“Well, you thought wrong. If I wanted you in my life I would have looked for you. I didn’t. I kept my end of the bargain.”
Copyright © Catherine West – Hidden in the Heart – 2012
Have you ever written ‘what you know’? If not, why not?