When Lightning Strikes Twice
By Susan McBride
I didn’t realise when I started writing my latest women’s fiction title how much my life would change in the six months before I finished. When I came up with the proposal for The Truth About Love and Lightning, it was last summer and I was gearing up for the release of Little Black Dress in August. I’d only just finished revisions of LBD in February/March, and the story of two sisters and a magical dress that comes between them really took a lot out of me. One of the sisters, Evie, goes through several miscarriages in the book, something I wrote into the story well before I found out I was pregnant and had a miscarriage of my own at eight weeks. (I pretty much revised LBD while I cried on and off everyday. It wasn’t a pretty sight.) It’s so, so odd when life imitates art like that. But I’ve convinced myself that everything that happens – good or bad – only makes me stronger, both as a person and a writer.
Still, I decided I would not put any character through a similar wringer in Love and Lightning. Instead, I thought I’d focus on second chances and missed opportunities, which felt a little lighter than what the sisters go through in Little Black Dress. One of the central characters is a woman named Gretchen whose mother had only told the brutal truth all her life … with awful results. So Gretchen grows up telling little white lies, figuring it’s much better – and safer – to couch the cold, hard truth in something softer. Only she ends up telling a whopper of a lie that comes back to haunt her when a man is ostensibly dumped in her walnut grove by a tornado … a man who strongly resembles a long-lost love, Sam Winston, whom she last saw eighteen years ago and believed was deceased.. The man’s been battered by the storm, however, and can’t remember much of anything. So is he or isn’t he Sam? Those around her, including her two sisters and her daughter, strongly believe that he is. If this dude who fell from the sky is Sam and if he regains his memory, Gretchen is afraid he’ll recall the biggest lie she ever told and expose the truth to her family and everyone in Walnut Ridge.
Oh, wait, did I mention Gretchen’s daughter, Abby, discovers she’s pregnant early on in the book? Quite a surprise since she’d recently split from her boyfriend of six years after she gave him an ultimatum about commitment. The funny thing about that storyline is that, barely a month into starting Love and Lightning, I found out I was pregnant. It was amazing, working on a book with a pregnant character and sharing my fears and my excitement with her. It was a wonderful experience, and I loved every minute of it. Yes, another case of life imitating art!
Which makes me realize that I should think very carefully about the storyline of my next novel. Perhaps, I should play it safe and have the plot revolve around a new mom who takes a vacation in Bermuda with her handsome husband and discovers a sunken treasure when she’s snorkeling not far from the beach. Then if life should imitate art, so be it.
Susan McBride is the author of Little Black Dress and The Cougar Club. She has also written the award-winning Debutante Dropout Mysteries for HarperCollins, including Blue Blood and Too Pretty to Die, as well as several young adult books for Random House. Her latest women’s fiction title, The Truth About Love and Lightning, will be out from William Morrow Paperbacks in early 2013.