For those of you who’ve never had the chance to write a book, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. For most of us writers, there doesn’t come a time when crowds of people start following us through the street for our autograph (that’s not the secret). For most of us, a royalty check has not yet arrived in the mail that we look at and say, “That’s cool – now I can pay off the house” (that’s not the secret either).
Here’s the secret.
In my experience, for every book I’ve written, there’s come a moment in time when a light has fallen down from the heavens and a voice has whispered in my ear, “This is why you wrote this book.”
Seriously. I’m not kidding.
Sometimes that moment happens before the book is ever published. When I wrote Think No Evil, a book about forgiveness in the midst of the Amish schoolhouse shooting, that moment came as I sat across from first responders who had the chance to talk about what they experienced on that horrendous day. As they wept and talked and processed, that little voice said, “This is why you’re writing this book.”
During work on a recent family memoir, a daughter of the lady the book was about looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I never knew my mom went through all of this stuff. Thank you.”
At a book signing I attended with Tim Kreider for the book Refuse to Drown, more than one person leaned in close to Tim and I and said, “My relative did something horrible, and it had a huge impact on our family. Thank you for writing this book.”
This is why you wrote this book.
* * * * *
If you look inside my recent novel, The Day the Angels Fell, you’ll see that it’s dedicated to the following people:
Cade, Lucy, Abra,
Sam, and Leo,
for being the main characters
in my favorite story.
And to the families of
Peter and Jason are two high school friends of mine who passed away in the last sixteen months. They were both in their 30s. Jason was an incredible man, raising his daughter, determined to live a good life.
Peter’s family, the Perellas, played a huge role throughout my childhood. His cousin Johnny is one of my very best friends, and his uncle was my little league baseball coach when I was six years old (as well as my 4th grade teacher). His aunt was also a teacher at my elementary school. His father was my music teacher in middle school, and his two brothers played soccer with me and my cousins. His mother is a librarian at our local library. The name Perella has provided a wonderful backdrop to my childhood.
Peter died of cancer earlier this year.
* * * * *
On Wednesday night, I got a message from Peter’s brother Tom asking if I’d sign and write notes in three books for Peter’s three children. I don’t know Peter’s wife or his kids, but I feel like I do. I signed those three books, thinking quite a lot about my own children as I wrote to each of Peter’s children. If I was gone, what would I want someone to write to my own kids?
And as I signed each of those books, I thought to myself,
This is why I wrote this book.