Over the past three months since the release of Arriving on October 5, 2011, I have marveled at the inquisitiveness of my readers, specifically in relation to my characters. Repeatedly in your congratulatory emails, and consistently during many conversations, you have expressed your curiosity and fascination with the memorable persons portrayed in book one of the Understanding Ursula trilogy.
Speculation abounds about the pictures on the book’s cover, the Werner family, and the details of their piquant lives. Your remarks have included:
- “Is that old photograph a picture of your great-grandparents?”
- “I am very curious as to the source of your information because I understand it’s a work of fiction, but historically accurate. I am conjecturing that you must have been reading diaries and letters.”
- “The historical background was interesting, but to me this is truly a character-driven novel. Well done!”
- “I wonder if the story is reflective of your family.”
The phrase “I am a part of all that I have met” has been in my mind for as long as I can remember; I was, indeed, born and raised on that “little German farm on the prairie.” Reading, and rereading, Anne Lamott’s enlightening book, Bird by Bird, during my initial year of research, I became captivated by her concept that by focusing on the characters, they would write the plot as the story unfolds. And she is absolutely right.
As soon as I became one with each of my characters—when I was with them at the kitchen table, in the garden, the field, at church, trying to capture how every individual felt, thought, or looked—my muse would come, and my words would flow. Regardless of how many years might pass, I knew that I would complete my trilogy because I desperately needed to find out where my characters, whom I suspect have a little of me in each of them, were taking me, and what was to happen with every single one of them.
When I began writing the Understanding Ursula trilogy, I believe I had only two basic premises: 1)Throughout my life I have read countless novels about winsome persons all over the world, but not nearly enough about Canadians, and I think that we are as interesting and intriguing as any other nation of people. 2)Secondly, I have always been convinced that individuals have shared similar characteristics and behaviours since the beginning of time; but now we are acutely aware of human traits, proclivities, failings, and foibles because of such phenomena as the Internet and social media. I was delighted when my colourful characters proved both of my theories.
I want to thank each of my avid readers for your insightful comments. When I was writing my trilogy, I used no diaries, letters, or other source of written documentation. Rather, I have been blessed with a vivid imagination, an excellent memory, and a creative and daring muse.