The Ohio Arts Council awards grants biennially to Ohio poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers. When submitting material for the award, artists are asked to write a short narrative of one page or less. How in the world do you summarize your process, motivation, and subject matter of a 282 page manuscript in a page or less? After some thought, here’s what I came up with.
The idea for this novel was born out of my curiosity for celebrity biographies, my love of soap operas and theater, and my personal history in ballroom dance. I wrote the first draft as part of a challenge issued by my husband to participate in National Novel Writing Month 2011. I then spent the next year and a half working on subsequent drafts, further developing characters, adding details, and improving the story structure. Some might say that’s going about the process in a completely backwards fashion, but I am not a planner or a plotter. I am what many writers call a “pantser.” I didn’t start with a story arc or a character arc. I sat down and started typing, simply allowing my characters to dictate the direction the story. In the beginning, I couldn’t imagine I would have enough story to fill a book. As I developed my characters and told their story, they came alive in my head. Before I knew it, their romance filled nearly three hundred pages. It began as a fun little story about two estranged people unearthing an old friendship and recapturing a lost love. Along the way it became a statement about the importance of friendship, faith, and trust in a relationship. That same faith and trust allowed the protagonist to rediscover her own self-worth and overcome her fears. The love story challenges readers to choose sides between love and passion and moral responsibility, due to the adulterous nature of the relationship. Secondary characters confront societal norms and show support of marriage equality and gay adoption rights. These characters made me laugh, made me swoon, and, at times, brought me to tears. They led me across the globe from LA to New York and the on to France and England. Thankfully, my British characters also spoke French, even though I don’t! I’m extremely excited to think about readers enjoying the same journey.
If I’m lucky, the grant committee with like what the see from me. If I’m very lucky, you will too! Look for Once in Love with Lily by Cathryn K. Thompson — coming this fall!