It’s a pleasure to welcome a special guest to Magical Musings today, New York Times bestselling author Jill Barnett. I’ve been a huge fan of Jill’s for over 15 years now, ever since my mom bought me the A HOLIDAY OF LOVE anthology that featured Jill’s wonderful Christmas story, “Daniel and the Angel.” That dogeared paperback is still on my keeper shelf, and I reread the story every Christmas.
I was thrilled to discover Jill on Twitter, and over-the-moon when she agreed to join us here. I asked her to address the very broad topic of “Starting Over” because all of us face transitions in our lives: new school, new home, new job, new town, marriage, divorce, motherhood, empty nest and more. It’s rich fodder for authors and it’s inescapable for all of us as we live our lives. So without further ado, here’s Jill.
A few years back, when blogging was at its inception, I wrote on Amazon one day about a gander I’d seen often near an island road. He had lost his mate a while back, but still some days you would see him, regal and tall, looking at us narrow-eyed as he stood guard while his goslings crossed the road. The cars would be lined up, waiting as his young family waddled from a grassy knoll, over a strip of asphalt, to the harbor’s edge. I made the mistake once of getting out of the car to shoo them along because I was late for the ferry and this one silly little goose kept running in circles and that gander came at me, wings flapping. I did not know this until later, but geese mate for life. So after that, those times when he was alone at the edge of the harbor, looking a little lost, I felt a kinship with him. I thought perhaps if I looked into his eyes I would see the same emptiness I sometimes felt.
My husband and I met my junior year of high school. He was a year older, and we were together on and off until we married in our early twenties. Chris and I were married for twenty-seven years and I had never once thought of my life without him. But one night a policeman knocked on my door to tell me he was gone, that he had died in an instant, and my life and my daughter’s life changed forever.
So now that you’re completely depressed, let me say that I have always felt I was lucky to have him as long as I did. That did not make the struggle of widowhood any easier, but it kept me sane for a long time…until I decided to write a book about a family like us, about a woman who has a great life, a loving husband, a successful business, four loud, independent and opinionated adults kids.
In a heartbeat everything changes and she has to start over. Maybe I was insane to tackle a woman’s most difficult journey. As I was writing BRIDGE TO HAPPINESS, I questioned my sanity too many times to count.
So many writers I adore, Pat Conroy, Danielle Steel, Elizabeth Gilbert, write about their own lives in fiction and memoir, recreating their own traumas as a way to release the pain or take them on a journey to a better place. Maybe they want to rewrite the outcome.
My title says it all. BRIDGE TO HAPPINESS. I chose to rewrite the ending, to tell a story about a woman’s journey to hell and back and then to love and joy and happiness again. I think I decided to write my own happy ending.
So you would think a book about starting over might be depressing, and who wants to read that? (Not me, I lived it.) But I decided to tell March’s story honestly, her real pain, along with all the black humor that comes along with loss and our struggles to just get through the difficult times. March’s journey is not mired in only loss and grief, but in a mix of all the crazy things that we do to heal. And yes, I can eat three dozen cookies, an entire box of Wheat Thins, and spend too much money all in an effort to heal. I can laugh and joke at a pink Elvis urn that plays In The Ghetto just as I can drink too many Margaritas and sing Jefferson Starship off-key at the top of my lungs. I do not jog, so the book is really fiction. Whenever I think of jogging I remember an old, funny Henny Youngman line, “I can’t jog because my cigarette goes out and the ice cubes fall out of my drink.”
So I would like to invite you to come along the rocky, ugly, but sometimes laugh-out-loud road that March travels. We woman are strong. We can carry an amazing human spirit, and we can find our own happiness. Sometimes it’s just waiting around the next corner, or over the bridge ahead, or even…sitting right next to us.
— New York Times bestselling author Jill Barnett has written 19 novels and short stories since she sold her first book over 23 years ago. She is a six time RITA® finalist and Favorite Book nominee, and Romance Writers of America® Honor Roll member, who joined RWA in 1984 and was one of the founding members of San Francisco Area RWA chapter. She has been published worldwide in 23 languages, her last book THE DAYS OF SUMMER was an international bestseller, and her first new book in over four years, BRIDGE TO HAPPINESS, is available this month. For more info, visit Jill’s website or her Facebook author page.
Thanks, Jill, for joining us today. I hope all your readers will stop by and say hello or possibly share their own “starting over” stories. As an incentive, I’m offering up a $20 Amazon gift card to one lucky commenter (randomly chosen from all the comments left by midnight tonight!). This way, you can buy Jill’s ebook Bridge to Happiness and maybe one or two others as well!
Jill will be responding to comments throughout the day, so be sure to check back to follow the discussion.