Good News! The final installment of Socialites and Suffragists is in production. Carry On Her Dreams is expected to be available in February 2023. I'm very excited to bring this third book to readers. I think it is a wonderful conclusion to my heroine's journey. While I'm happy with it now, I got stuck on resolving the conclusion.
I finished the book at the end of August 2022 while camping on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington in the Hoh Rain Forest. It is a very compelling and inspiring location. It is documented as one of the quietest places in the country because of its remoteness, dense vegetation that buffers sound, and it's a no-fly zone - so no overhead noise. The peace and quiet gave me space to finish the story and felt satisfied. I expected to get the book into production in time for an end-of-year release and then I stopped. I spent all of September looking at the manuscript, unable to make the final edits. I realized I didn't want to let go.
I spent years with these characters and they become part of my life. Ending their story seemed to be too final. I had trouble letting go and saying goodbye. Their story, like any story of fiction, is the writer's story. My personal experiences and observations fuel my characters. Letting go seemed abusive to me and to them. By the end of September, I had found a path forward and said my goodbyes. I finished the edits and the book is now in the hands of production.
This is my first foray into fiction writing. I've been a non-fiction writer all my life, so writing is not new. But chronicling the world and events is quite different than fabricating people's lives. I hope I've done them justice and made them as compelling as I thought they should be. In our hyper-media age, we demand the details of people's lives be shared every second. We compartmentalize details and sometimes fail to see the whole of a person's life. Fiction allows us to get the whole picture.
I dedicated the first book, No Time For Regrets, to my Great Aunt Ruth whose life fueled the story. Truth is I had very little knowledge of the details of her life. I met her when she was in her late 60s or 70s. But she made a huge impression on this young lady when I visited her in the Wynnewood apartment which is the center of her life in the books. She seemed formidable and kind. She was elegant despite having a dowager's hump. She had style and spoke to me like a real person, not as a child. Her sister, Florence, my grandmother, is Maurine in the books. Maurine's husband, Frank, was my grandfather Frank. They lived in Wynnewood too. The matriarch in the first two books, Hannah, was my Great Grandmother Hannah. It was a challenge to close the chapter on real relatives who lived in real Wynnewood apartments, even as fictional characters.
The bigger challenge for me was letting the story go. It has become a part of me. I spend most of my time alone in campgrounds, living in my Airstream. Even when I am a camp host, the relationships are fleeting. I don't see my friends and family very often. So these characters took on a great deal of socialization in my life. Visiting with them every day as I wrote their stories was an important part of my day-to-day life. Writing that sounds slightly disturbing, but I think it is part of the writing process. The connection to my family and the reflection of my own life experiences that I wove into their fictional lives adds to the dependence. I wasn't prepared for this part of being an author. I suppose it is a crucible we all go through. Now that I have, I'm ready to put this final story of socialites and suffragists into the world.
This story is set in the early 1960s and Ruth is a grandmother. She's still in Philadelphia and so is her granddaughter, Kate. Like the turbulent times Ruth faced as a suffragist, Kate is at the dawn of the Civil Rights era and the liberation of women in the 1960s. None of these changes sit well with Helen, who you'll remember is Ruth's daughter and now, Kate's mother. Kate has to find her way in life and love, much as Ruth did, and as we all do. Ruth has to find her way in these later years of her life too. Being older doesn't mean that life is done, it merely enters a new phase. Helen has a vision for Kate to follow in her debutante footsteps and to live a socially approved life. Kate is not sure that should be her destiny. She would rather be like Ruth. But the family secret opens old wounds and gets between mother, daughter, and granddaughter in new ways that nearly derail everyone's hopes and dreams. The family drama is as spirited and fraught with conflict as the times they live in. I hope you'll come along for the ride!