When people ask me where I got the idea for 17 FIRST KISSES, I tell them I found a box of notes when I was cleaning and I wanted to write a book that captured different life stages and I thought of the title, and the rest of the book fell out from there. And it’s true, it really is. But it doesn’t get at the question of why I wrote the book, which is a much different (sadder) story.
The much different, sadder story of why I had to write 17 FIRST KISSES:
In January of 2010, my husband and I were sitting in a doctor’s office examination room practically giddy with glee. Five minutes earlier, we had found out we were having a son (a son!), and now we were attempting to agree on a baby name, discuss what his nose would look like, and text everyone we knew all at the same time. We were getting pretty far into our list too because the ultrasound tech had disappeared to find the doctor after having some “trouble visualizing the baby’s heart,” but who cared! We were having a son, and he was bound to be made of awesome!
And then the doctor arrived. And we found out our son had a heart defect, the worst one you can have. We went through all kinds of tests to figure out if he was a candidate for surgery. A few weeks later, we lost him.
I was wrecked. And even though I had my husband, my family, my friends, and they were all so wonderful it’s more than any one person deserves, I needed to do something, on my own, for myself, to take my mind off things. I needed to…write a book about LOTS of kissing. This is the point where you’re thinking, ‘Wait. What?’ But that’s kind of what happened.
I’m normally a very upbeat, optimistic person, so when I found this box of notes and the spark on an idea, writing 17 FIRST KISSES seemed like a good way to get back to someone who felt more like me. But the crazy thing is, even though I set out to write this fun, shenanigans-filled book, the stuff I was going through ended up on the pages anyway. The book is still fun and there are still plenty of shenanigans, but there’s a somber thread running through it all.
And the somber thread is what grabbed my agent’s and then my editor’s attention. It reminds me of something Stephen King says in On Writing, about how you have to have bad things happen to you in order to have interesting things to write about. Or something like that.
Writing this book helped me rescue myself from the dark place. And I’m not saying writing can or should be used in place of counseling or therapy or actual medical attention. I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re trying a lot of things, and you’re up for trying just one more while you’re getting through something terrible – write it.
Maybe for you that means journaling every painful thing that’s happening to you so the pain feels more manageable or maybe it means writing about a fantastical world of heroes and dragons because what you really need is a little distraction (and because dragons are awesome).
And maybe you can’t read and write your way out of everything, but the trying can ease the heartache.
Pull yourself out of the dark place because you have the power to do it.
Day 3 of the 17 days until 17 FIRST KISSES countdown. Other posts here.