When I first started writing Stella, she was just words. Words I threw down on a blank page I opened in Microsoft Word and saved as “MPennock – book.” She, essentially, was code. A bunch of zeroes and ones and nothing of significance.
I gave her Brian. I gave her Steph and Caryn. At the end of her tale, I gave her Tommy who struggles with his own demons in the final chapters as he’s kept a secret he promised to keep until it was time to share it with his brother.
And I gave Stella a whole lot of myself.
Some of those things are apparent to anyone who actually knows me, but most would think it’s simply the story, so I’m going to just jump right to it: I made her sad when she wasn’t pregnant … and then I gave her the pregnancies I lost. I gave her the baby I didn’t have in May, and the one I didn’t have in June. I wrote To Have through some of the most difficult months of my adult life as my family and I had to comprehend and attempt to understand not only miscarriage, but also molar pregnancy and all of the very scary realities that could come with gestational trophoblastic disease. I wrote through grief and hate and hurt. Stella was going to get pregnant regardless of the outcomes of the pregnancies I had last year, but it became so much more than just writing a tale.
Because Stella helped me heal.
She is the story behind the story that wasn’t supposed to be part of the story. Those things weren’t supposed to happen to help me. She wasn’t supposed to feel real to me and I wasn’t supposed to cry when she and her family cried. I did, though, and I laughed, too.
My writing, whether fiction or blogging, reflects real life. I take what can happen or does happen and put it out there. I have another blog that has nothing to do with writing. It’s about being a person. A mom. A wife. A person with autoimmune disease. A woman. A child.
The interesting thing is those posts could very well be like holding a mirror up to some pieces of fiction. An angry mother sitting in car line waiting to pick her kid up from pre-K who internalizes all the angst of watching other people not follow the rules. A woman dealing with anxiety and depression or hate or body image issues. The concern for a parent who, you realize as an adult child, is no longer a young man playing catch with you in the yard. The very idea that you will never ever get to the bottom of the laundry pile and when you do, there will he a dress with glitter on it thrown in with your husband’s dress shirts for work.
Life can be stranger than fiction, so when I wrote Stella, when I gave her Brian and Britt, I reflected on real life because I wanted people to connect and I wanted them to be normal … with normal problems. I gave him an ex-lover who never shared a side of herself (a side I hope to write about as part of the series) and I handed secrets to a brother who kept a promise. I don’t know any real life alpha men, and I don’t know as though they would get along with me if I did, so I didn’t write one. I wrote what I felt were characters others could relate to, and the overwhelming majority seem to have done just that.
There are plot twists in every day life, but sometimes if you put too many (which is up for debate) in a work of fiction it’s wrong of you. If you keep lovers from falling in love, you’re wrong. If they fall in love too swiftly, you know nothing about romance.
I’m okay with breaking the rules and I’m totally fine with not following a formula that’s been proven to work for other people. Doing things the hard way is kind of the story of my life.
I fell in love with my husband before I knew his name. I – me, a woman – asked him after six months of dating if he would marry me. He laughed. And then he. Made. Me. Wait. I waited and waited for that ring. I waited for a proposal. I waited through finishing my bachelor’s degree. Then I waited through the two and a half years it took me to finish my master’s degree.
And then I waited some more.
When my husband finally proposed to me I had just started my first job as the editor of my hometown newspaper. He was finally a full-fledged employee at the engineering company he works for. He made me wait until he had everything he could offer me as a husband … and then said, “I’m done waiting.”
You see, Brian waited and waited and waited to go back and try to find Stella because he NEEDED to prove he was worthy of her love. He needed to have his shit together so when he found her, if she could be his, he could give her everything he had.
Fiction mimics reality. At least, the fiction I want to write does.