When you have children, the more helpful among your relatives and friends will tell you to make sure and enjoy them, because time is short, and one day your babies will grow into young men with whiskers and leave home. Sort of depressing to hear, when you’re sitting with your arms full of that precious miracle, your firstborn…
My mother-in-law, a woman I loved dearly and miss daily, expressed it somewhat differently. “We only borrow them,” she said, smoothing a lock of bright red hair away from my daughter’s brow. “Remember that; they belong to themselves, and you only have them on loan.” Which, IMO, explains just what parenting is about: to nurture the unique person entrusted to you so that they grow into their – not your – potential.
A lot of people get that wrong. Very many parents see their children as an extension of themselves, which is why you have wannabee football player dads yelling at their kids from the side-lines, when said kid really only wants to build Lego. A parent must be careful so that the weight of their unfulfilled dreams don’t squash their child to death. In fact, a parent must encourage their child to dream their own dreams, no matter how different from the parent’s.
It’s a bit the same way with characters. The writer shapes them to be someone based on the needs of the storyline, but at some point, the characters have developed into beings of their own. No longer can the writer say “jump” and the character will jump, instead they will ask pesky questions, like “why?”
When you’ve written EIGHT books about the same characters, they are no longer restricted to the world for which they were created. No, suddenly these characters have developed into close friends, people whose opinions you value, with whom you’d really love to share a cup of tea or two.
There’s some sort of dependency at work here, people: the characters need the writer to create them, the writer needs the characters to continue creating, and the resulting bond may be imaginary – after all, the characters don’t exist, not really – but real all the same.
Which is why, of course, writing the “last” book is like cutting your heart out. This is when one should think like a parent and let the characters go, to enjoy the green pastures of the ever after, or wherever characters go once that final THE END has been written. Or, alternatively, the writer decides there’s a certain elasticity to the word “last”. Yes, it is the last in the series, but there are a number of unanswered questions, and doesn’t the writer owe it to the readers to tie things into a neat little knot? Not that life ever ends with a little rosette, but the writer suffering withdrawal symptoms doesn’t want to hear that. Nope, the writer who clutches the “last” book to her chest (and just in case you haven’t got it yet, the anonymous writer referred to is ME) and cries buckets must hold on to the hope that she will, at some point, return to visit with her beloved leading man and woman.
Thing is, do Matthew and Alex Graham want me to visit again? Maybe they prefer to ride off into the sunset, their future adventures unrecorded and private.
“Oh, come off it,” Alex Graham says, settling herself as close as she can to the hearth. She shakes out her dark skirts and gives me a sharp look. “Mi casa es tu casa, honey – it always will be.” She tilts her head in the direction of her tall man, and her mouth widens into a dazzling smile. “After all, you gave me him.”
I look at Matthew and my heart swells with pride. Tall, strong, stubborn and brave, he has loved her from the moment he saw her, will love her until, as Robert Burns so beautifully put it, “all the seas go dry my dear, and the rocks melt with the sun, and I will love thee still my dear, while the sands of life will run”. That dear people, is a fact, no matter how imaginary Matthew Graham may be.
I smiled as I wrote the above. I smile even more right now, because suddenly I hear Alex in my head, and she is yelling at Daniel, her minister son, not to be such a straight-laced idiot, and look, isn’t that Matthew, walking side by side with Ian with a musket at hand a grim look on his face? Clearly, “last” is an elastic term for me – and for Alex and Matthew Graham. I pick up my skirts (hey, I try to blend in, okay? 17th century doesn’t go well with sweats and t-shirt) and run after Matthew, quill in hand and heart in my mouth. Why is there so much blood, and what is that obnoxious toad, Richard Campbell grinning about? Well, dear readers, who knows? Maybe I will tell you – in a future book!
About the Author
I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.
I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.
I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.
About To Catch a Falling Star
To Catch a Falling Star is the eighth book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.
Some gifts are double-edged swords …
For Matthew Graham, being given the gift of his former Scottish manor is a dream come true. For his wife, Alex, this gift will force her to undertake a perilous sea journey, leaving most of their extensive family in the Colony of Maryland. Alex is torn apart by this, but staying behind while her husband travels to Scotland is no option.
Scotland in 1688 is a divided country, torn between the papist Stuart king and the foreign but Protestant William of Orange. In the Lowlands, popular opinion is with Dutch William, and Matthew’s reluctance to openly support him does not endear him to his former friends and neighbours.
While Matthew struggles to come to terms with the fact that Scotland of 1688 bears little resemblance to his lovingly conserved memories, Alex is forced to confront unresolved issues from her past, including her overly curious brother-in-law, Luke Graham. And then there’s the further complication of the dashing, flamboyant Viscount Dundee, a man who knocks Alex completely off her feet.
All the turmoil that accompanies their return to Scotland pales into insignificance when a letter arrives, detailing the calamities threatening their youngest daughter in Maryland – at the hand of that most obnoxious minister, Richard Campbell. Matthew and Alex have no choice but to hasten back, no matter the heartache this causes.
Will they make it back in time? And what will Richard Campbell do?