The Passions of Your Life

One of the things I always tell voice students is that we are all stuck with certain themes and ideas and motifs that will show up in our work.   As I’ve been going through backlist titles to get them ready for sale as ebooks, I’m struck by how much of my writing voice was there, even in the earliest books.

In the book I am finishing for Bantam, The Garden of Happy Endings (out in May 2012), there is food and a good, smart dog, and a woman who has some issues with the Church.  There is a pilgrimage that starts the whole tumble of events in the book, and a garden that provides a center of healing.

I recently reread A Winter Ballad, a medieval historical romance that was originally published in 1993 (and is now available again in e-book form) .  There is a woman who is at war with the Catholic Church, and a dog who has been a loyal companion to a knight, and the book culminates with a pilgrimage across France, to Avignon and beyond.  The main character is a healer who knows all the medicinal plants in the garden.  (There is also a cat named Esmerelda, which astonished me…that my cat, who only died in January, had been in my life THAT long!)

In virtually every novel I have written, in any genre, some major scenes will take place in a kitchen. There will be scenes written around food, the preparation of food, the feeding of people.   There will be dogs and/or cats, because it’s completely impossible to imagine having a life without the companionship of pets.  There are hints of the mysterious and the miraculous in them, too, and always a strong love story.   I am in love with England and Spain and walking and dogs and good food and the possibilities of faith and hope.  Those things all show up in my books, and have from the beginning.

Can you identify themes in your own life? Things you love that run through your work?

NEWS: The wonderful Sharon Schlicht and I are working on two collections of Girls in the Basement essays on the writing life, with a goal of releasing them by August 15th.   The first is The Care and Feeding of the Girls in the Basement, an upbeat guide to the writing life; the second is the GITB Year of Celebration.  Stay tuned!

8 thoughts on “The Passions of Your Life

  1. Family is always a big theme in my life and in my work – my characters always have some type of family struggle to deal with, even if it’s not the main focus of the plot. I also usually include pets.

    Place is also very important to me. Over the last few years, I’ve discovered that I can’t just live anywhere – it has to be a place that speaks to me, and is my very own retreat from the world.

    This theme is always present in my stories, too. Place is literally a character in my novels.

  2. Place is a big one for me, too, Melissa. It’s so powerful in shaping us!

  3. My work always has a woman who is a recovering alcoholic. Why? Because it is important to me to believe in and promote the idea that women can and do win over this terrible disease. I also have dogs and cats because they have been such an important part of my life. Creating a fictious world without them would be like painting only in black and white.

  4. I have recurring things–bad fathers, good mothere-in-law, a cat who is scarred. I never examine too closely why I have these things, but I’m comfortable with them.

    I re-read A Winter Ballad this week, then two St. Ives books I hadn’t read, and just finished In the Midnight Rain–what can I say? I’m a sucker for 99 cents and you’ve given me almost a full week of delight for less than $4.00. I don’t read as much as I did before I was published and every time I go on a binge, I remember how much I miss it.

    Oh, and I talk too much. But thanks for the pleasure of your company this week!

  5. I make art quilts and trees are always popping up. I think to do with new beginnings and another chance to do better?? I just know that they are part of my art.

  6. Ruthie

    Mine is music. The piano was basically shoved down my throat at the age of three. It continued throughout my high school-college years. I became a music teacher. I loved, yet hated this instrument because it monopolized my young adult life. So I abandoned it at 27 and didn’t touch it for 20 years.

    I found myself at Nordstrom(a department store) one day and heard the pianist play a tune that I loved. What grated me was the piano wasn’t tuned (as I have perfect pitch). Next thing I knew, I was sitting next to the pianist and telling him the piano needs tuning.

    To this day, I have no idea why that particular situation triggered me back to my piano. I now play leisurely, and only when the mood strikes. And I love this feeling.

  7. I really liked what Melissa just said, ‘Theme’ is really important in any story, it makes a story more vibrant and alive. I prefer reading such books are not ‘Larger than life’ but are more toned and directed towards reality

  8. I was very implicated theme of your drug. Communicate with them more, appropriate actually I read them. Regards

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