Our Siblings

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My sister lived with my parents, and now that Mom’s gone she will in all likelihood stay on just with Dad. She’s six years younger than I am. She is also, shall we say, “troubled” (and hasn’t worked in years), and we have had a rather “rocky” relationship over the years (to say the least), but I really shouldn’t go into why and won’t here.

Suffice it to say because of her “issues” seizing and holding most of my parents’ attention, and because she never moved out, I had come over time to feel increasingly like the “fourth wheel.” The three of them grew “closer” due to the simple fact of shared housing. Meanwhile, I was naturally on the “outside” of their “bubble,” usually living across the Atlantic in Europe.

Occasionally “troubles” were kept from me, which when I found out afterwards led to “spirited discussions” with my parents, especially with my mother. In several “heart to heart” chats we’d had over the years I’d tried telling my mother how I felt, but we’d often end up “spiritedly discussing” even more heatedly and resolved nothing. To the end of her life, Mom insisted how I’d felt was wrong.

Yet think about that, though. She presumed to know how I felt. Ludicrous, right?

Free Stock Photo: A cup of coffee with a stack of books.
Free Stock Photo: A cup of coffee with a stack of books.

As authors, our life baggage invariably infects our writing. I pound on that point here time and again, I know, because I firmly believe it. Having been knocked around a bit by aspects of life certainly aides in the depth and resonance of your writing.

I had started working on Passports haphazardly. I tapped away at first in secret, and of course lacked this blog (back in 2012-2013). As a result I had been unable to share its writing’s ups and downs on a daily basis (as I’ve been able to on here with Frontiers and Distances).

Early on, the manuscript was all over the place characters-wise. Frankly, it was a mess – several characters had different names, there were ones I decided to combine, or discard entirely, etc. However, I had also outlined the story overall in advance and had a good idea where I was generally heading with it, so it took shape pretty quickly.

Kindle cover of “Passports.” [Photo by me, 2015.]
Kindle cover of “Passports.” [Photo by me, 2015.]
I also wrote a lot of it out of order chapter-wise. So without appreciating the oversight, I was chapters and chapters and chapters deep into the draft before I realized “James” lacked a sibling. That realization hit me one moment in front of my PC: “Oh, shhhhhhh-t,” I thought.

Because, by then, rewriting him a brother or sister would have been soooooooo much trouble, I felt I couldn’t be bothered. Moreover it would’ve felt as if I were inventing an “unnecessary” character just for the sake of having a sibling for him. I believed I had planned enough characters already.

So as we see here between “James” and English “Natalie” in Distances, I decided to make a virtue out of that “necessity”:

Excerpt from "Distances," on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.
Excerpt from “Distances,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

Thus my own experience is why “James” is an only child. My sister and I had become so “estranged” that when I realized “James” was “alone” it dawned on me that I hadn’t even missed having overlooked an adult sister or brother for him because I have not really had one myself with whom I’ve ever been close. Indeed, as I wrote I had likely subconsciously even blocked my own sister out of my mind. When I consciously realized it, perhaps I also felt deep down that I could also reasonably write characters who feel a bit “sidelined” in their families, and that led me to decide even to introduce that issue also among some of those fictionalized friends.

But not all of them, of course, as you see at the very end of that snippet above.

It’s amazing. Sometimes accidents lead you down creative paths you never imagined, and also tell you something about yourself. There’s nothing wrong with admitting it. 🙂

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