Fiction, The Girls We Sent Away, The Last Carolina Girl, Writer's Life

Why I Write Instead of Cuss

During a recent book club, a reader shared how she cried while reading The Last Carolina Girl. She went on to ask if it’s hard for me to write those scenes. The short answer: yes. And it only gets harder with each round of revisions. Why? Because with each draft, I am going deeper and deeper into the characters, doing my best to see through their eyes and feel what they are feeling. And sometimes that means going to some very hurtful and heartbreaking places.

So, why do I write scenes that leave me crying over my keyboard for a character I invented? Why do I write emotionally-charged books? Or, as my husband asks, when am I going to write something funny? 

Those are all good questions. And I think I may have an answer.

Recently I was listening to the On Being podcast to an old interview with Eugene Peterson. He told that Bono once asked him something along the lines of what do you do with your anger. Peterson responded with, “We have to learn to cuss without cussing.”

And it hit me: that’s what I do with my fiction.

A story idea typically starts with some piece of info—usually an historical nugget—that catches my attention, makes me ask more questions, and want to dig deeper. As I research, I know I’m on to something if the idea continues to get under my skin and riles me up. That’s when a character starts forming, one who has been affected by that historical element. One whose eyes can act as a lens.

With my work, I like to take a close examination of how historical events forever impacted otherwise ordinary women who were pushed to the margins of society. Through my fiction, I work to give voice to women whose lives have been irrevocably altered by the consequences of historical events.

So why are my novels emotionally-charged? Because I’m typically fired up on behalf of these women. But instead of letting out a string of 4-letter words (other than a few), I create a story, one that I hope will evoke empathy in the reader.

Perhaps someday I’ll figure out how to tell a humorous story. But when it comes to The Last Carolina Girl and The Girls We Sent Away, buckle up. And grab some tissues. You’re about to embark on an emotional journey. 

The Girls We Sent Away hits shelves March 5, 2024! You can preorder your copy now from your favorite bookseller! Here are links to just a few booksellers to choose from:

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