It took me all of two seconds to recall the first mother I wrote. But a few minutes longer to call up the old manuscript she appeared in via a CD. Her name was Ann Donavy and she appeared in the second novel I ever wrote. She was outspoken in a refreshing way, while being a woman of value and as fate would have it a romance writer. (A matter which now makes her and the book taboo in most respects.) As I look back I have to say she reminds me of my grandmother. Though my grandmother never penned any romantic tales of strapping men and dainty women, she did engender a love of the written word in me. (Lord knows I didn’t get my love of reading from my mom, so it’s long been pinned on Maw.) What makes these two women so similar is the way they stand tall when they have to, defy struggles to come out a winner, love whole heartedly as if that’s the only proper way and find purpose in their family.
My mother is the same in most respects, and as they say here in the South she didn’t fall far from the tree. She is a woman devoted to family, who loves my sister and I with a love that cannot be eclipsed (except maybe by my grandmother). How could she not when she had to go the hard road of being a single mom until we were ten? Time and again she has said she wouldn’t have made it through without my grandparents. I know if push had come to shove, she’d have handled everything fine on her own. From her I’ve learned to stretch a dollar, make the best of every situation, and always to look at the brighter side of life. There is always darkness lurking around the corner, hardships that can break you down, but it’s your choice if you let them win you over…to the dark side. My mother never gave in, always did with what she had, and trusted that everything would work itself out with a little help.
Which is precisely the way I strive to see things. Life isn’t always peachy. (But you can make some darn good sherbet from my grandfather’s favorite fruit). So of course the first person I called when I sold TIES OF VALOR was my mother. Since I got the news via e-mail at about 2 a.m., I had to wait until the “next” morning. I was sitting in my cubicle still not believing it was real while I picked up the phone and dialed her number. When she answered, I broke the news. She said, “That’s wonderful. I knew you could do it,” then she paused to take a deep breath, “Sometimes prayers do pay off.” Those few simple words made me tear up. She knew the ups and downs I’d been threw, had seen me struggle and finally gotten to see me climb that mountain and get to the other side.
During my whole life she’s cheered me on. Of course she hasn’t always seen things the way I do, but she’s had the calm foresight to let me do what I must and been there to help pick up the pieces. Since I became an adult, I’ve tried to shoulder my share to help her, because I finally realized what my mother went through alone. I don’t know if I could’ve been strong enough to raise two children on my own while keeping my chin up after a divorce, but I’m certain my mother would be by my side for the long haul, no matter what.
One of my mom’s most recent regrets was that she didn’t get to accompany me to Atlanta for my first National Conference, where I got to preen around with my first sale ribbon. But when I showed her that sassy pink slip of material dangling from my decked-out badge holder, she beamed. Though I know she’d rather have been in the thick of the excitement (and dressed to the nines at the RITA/Golden Heart Awards), she was able to live that lifetime dream through my animated accounts.
And when I pulled out my laptop on our family trip following Nationals with the excuse of polishing my chapters because of requests, she nodded her head in understanding. An hour later she reminded me I was on vacation (as if I’d forgotten the fact sitting in a condo suite in Florida). Little did she realize I was working on a story about a heroine whose mother reminds her there’s more to life than work, that family is the key to remembering where you come from and that helping others is always the right thing to do. So I’m safe in saying whenever a mother appears in my stories, there is a very big chance part of her is based on one of these real-life examples of Southern ladies who live and love freely with all they have.
In the writing circles I travel in I find a few women have something else in common with Ann. They use their handsome sons as inspiration for their heroes. After all who would know a gallant man’s inner heart of hearts better than his mother? If you want to read a passage from THREE DOGS, NO CATS & A MAN SHE LOVES (which remains packed away as a bygone birthday gift to my sister) click here.