Since graduating from my MFA program nearly a decade ago, I spent a lot of time focused on teaching as an adjunct with a heavy course load each semester. I turned to writing fiction as a means to relax a little, to reclaim little pockets of time for having adventures instead of grading a seemingly infinite amount of composition essays. On an adjunct salary, I didn’t have the money to travel through Europe like I dreamed of, so I wrote a supernatural thriller that sent my protagonist all over the continent, exploring sites I only knew through Google Images.
While I love my first, (unpublished) book, the magical realism novel I am working on now is a horse of a different color as they say in Oz. The inspiration for this story still haunts me. My husband’s family settled in rural Eastern Kentucky where his parents run a summer camp for special needs adults. Easter weekend two years ago, we had packed our car with our son’s pack n’ play, toys, and blankets, and were driving down from Ohio to spend the holiday with them. When we were about an hour away from his parents’ house, they called us, warning us not to take our usual route that winded through Irvine, taking us over a one lane bridge that always made me nervous.
A woman tried to drive through a flooded road just a mile or two away from their house and instead was swept off the road into the rushing stream that flowed next to the road. A man who was interviewed by the local news saw it all happen. People were saying there was a baby in a car seat in the car with her. They found her in her car three days later. No baby, thank God, but she was still gone.
This novel is born from me not being able to let that poor woman’s fate go. I kept wondering why she was out in the storm. Was she running from something, someone? I know the usual answer. People see water on the road and what they believe is shallow is actually deep and dangerous. But I couldn’t let go this feeling like maybe she had to be out there, switching back through the mountain roads, leaving something terrible behind her.
I suppose I write to undo or to make meaning out of something senseless. I like to take a situation I can’t control—like my lack of travel funds or a troubling loss of life—and make it my own, take it back and mold it in the way I wish life could be, even if it’s only different on the page.