A couple years back Aunt Barbara created a bucket list and one of the items was to write a book. A lot of people say they want to write a book, but nothing actually happens. But she did it! And her novel SOUVIENS is full of history, suspense, science, love, and plot twisting deceit. I flew through the book!
Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to write?
I frequently share with others that writing this novel was on my bucket list. I also use this endeavor as an example to my patients of “stepping out of the box” and trying new things. Writing this book helped me get through the “empty nest” sadness of my daughter leaving for college and my husband being on the road a lot. Researching and writing SOUVIENS was a creative adventure that re-energized me again!
I often hear people say they don’t have time to do something creative. Being a solo practice Family Doc, I work very long hours, seven days a week. Yet I was able to finish the book in two years. SOUVIENS was a novel written in stolen moments. While doing housework, I imagined character dialogue. While eating my lunch at Subway, I jotted down notes on paper napkins. I actually looked forward to standing in lines or waiting for appointments as precious creative time!
Before you created the Bucket List had you dabbled in writing before?
I have been making up stories in my head since I was a little girl in bed, afraid of insomnia. As long as I could watch “a movie” in my head, I would not dwell on being the only person in the world who was awake! Over the years, I came to enjoy “the movies” so much that I would forget to sleep.
And here is SOUVIENS! I love the cover!
SOUVIENS is part medical mystery, part historical fiction, with a tincture of romance. The novel explores the heroine’s belief that she has inherited actual memories from her ancestor. The plot revolves around the 1934 Hotel Kerns fire, a real life tragedy that killed thirty-four people, including seven Legislators, in Lansing, Michigan. The novel alternates between the present day and the 1930’s, weaving the two story lines together. SOUVIENS is a 2013 Independent Publisher Book Award winner.
What inspired you to write SOUVIENS?
Several years ago, while researching my own genealogy, I had this strange sensation that my ancestors’ stories felt familiar. One night while in bed, a idea popped into my head—could actual memories from our ancestors be passed down through the generations? Soon, I began making up “movies” on this topic.
Also during my genealogy research, I ran across the story of the 1934 Hotel Kerns fire in Lansing, MI, that killed 34 people, including seven Michigan legislators. Five bodies were never identified. I wondered who were these poor souls who never returned home. Soon, “movies” about fictionalized identities began to form in my head.
Then, one night, these two ideas—ancestral memories and the unidentified victims—morphed together in my brain, and the genesis for SOUVIENS was created.
What does SOUVIENS mean?
The word souviens is French for memory. This is where our word souvenir comes from –memory of a trip. The book explores the idea of ancestral memories. The characters also grapple with whether families are united by common memories or genetic material. Souviens is also the name of a memory research facility which plays a central part in the book’s plot.
When I write a novel, sometimes it's smooth sailing and sometimes It's an emotional roller coaster. What was writing SOUVIENS like for you? And if you did hit any roadblocks during the drafting process, how did you over come them? Are you a plotter or a pantster (write by the seat of your pants)?
I knew the beginning and the end of the novel, along with major milestones, at the start of the project. But I ran into several road blocks along the way. The most challenging problem was trying to make an imaginary idea, “ancestral memories”, seem real. I tried to weave enough legitimate science into the plot to make the premise seem plausible. Another writing challenge was placing fictionalized characters into a real tragedy. Many people in my community still have memories of the fire. I wanted to be respectful of those memories, as well as of the victims of the fire.
Any advice on how to write a compelling character (you've got a couple good ones in SOUVIENS)?
I talk to people all day long in my job, and I have discovered that everyone has interesting character traits and has an interesting story to tell. The characters in my novel are conglomerations of people I’ve met over the years. I mixed in my own experiences as well. For instance, one of the characters in the book describes discovering his direct descendent in the 1600’s was hanged in England for his religious convictions. This was also one of my own discoveries during my genealogy research that left an emotional impact on me.
Are you working on any other projects?
I continue to make up “movies” in my head most nights. But nothing yet has grabbed me enough to want to live day and night with these characters for two or three years. I greatly miss writing, and I hope soon my next idea will take hold! I have never enjoyed an endeavor as much as I enjoyed writing Souviens.
Thank you for spending time with us on the EDGE Aunt Barbara! And go check out SOUVIENS!