I'm happy to announce that my new book is finally out, available in both ebook and print editions through Bookbaby and on Amazon Kindle. Other print-buying options through independent book stores and online sellers will be available February 1st.
No, I did not hunker down last Spring at the start of the pandemic and knock out Family Trees--I think most writers got the word about Shakespeare writing King Lear while he hid out from the plague--but the focused time at home did allow me to concentrate on finally finishing it.
I actually began work on this novel in 2009. That September to be exact. If I got out a calendar I could probably nail the day and hour the story sparked to life in my brain. My husband and I had gone up to Dallas to attend a large church funeral for a logger who'd recently been working for us. A question I often ask myself when starting a book is whether it's really my story to tell. Could there be someone better positioned? That hot afternoon as I watched slides of guys with their hunting trophies, it hit me that maybe I was the writer uniquely suited to tell a story set against the backdrop of Oregon's timberlands and the business of tree farming. Because, look—I was in the middle of it all. My first grade true love was cul-de-sac neighbor Bruce Shepherd, whose daddy logged in the area around Valsetz. I'd grown up knowing the families who owned the timberlands, and now my husband and I were among those who tended small acreages of trees and knew each other through the Oregon Small Woodlands Association.
My parents took me camping and taught me to love the forests, but figured trees were for walking under, never for cutting down. I don't think they ever quite understood why my husband and I would want to use planting and limbing trees as our excuse for being out there in the fresh air of the forest. Why not just go fishing and have happy-hour martinis at a lake-front campsite? But now, here we are, card-carrying members of the Nature Conservancy, but also people who sometimes hire loggers to cut down a patch of trees. Like I said, I'm in the middle of it all.
Family Trees is set in 2009-2010, and I wrote it in real time so that the concerns of the day for my characters were true to the current issues. After a couple of years, my work on the story ended up being sidelined by real life and personal stories that felt more compelling for me to write, but when I revisited it a decade after I began, I found my beloved characters waiting for me, and I was newly intrigued by my pre-pandemic depiction of life in Benton County, Oregon. Now my job was only to improve the telling of the story, adding the nuances that only ten rather difficult years of living can add to a writer's sum of wisdom.
My characters feel like real people to me, and I've enjoyed spending time with them so much, it's hard to finally put them into the computer and hit SEND once and for all. I've noticed, though, that characters only truly come to life when you commit them to the page and the bridge is formed between the writer and the reader.
So, it's time. To let them live, I need to release these characters to the page and the world. A trusted writer friend once called Family Trees "a good read." That was about 27 versions ago, so I hope my loving labors have done nothing but improve it in the interim.
This isolation has been rough. On everybody for their own reasons. They say it's going to be worse for awhile. I'm hoping my book might serve as a comfort-food-type read for these coming dark days.
Hang on, everybody. Stay well. It's going to be the best Spring ever!