The setting of That Summer is the Southern Appalachians of East Tennessee where my ancestors and I were raised. I’ve listened to the older generations tell their stories at family reunions about time before telephones and automobiles. Their stories fascinated me and caused me to want to write about a time before I was born.
This story percolated in my mind in the late 1990s. I’m what writers call a panster type of writer. I don’t outline my plot on paper. My entire plot and characters simmer in my mind before I write a word. Many times I don’t know the ending but I know how to get there. Of course, sometimes characters surprise me by going this way when I intended them to go another way. I love how my stories many times work themselves out as I write.
While this story still rumbled around in my mind, in 2001 I received a life altering health diagnosis with a negative prognosis. My first symptom was the loss of penmanship that nobody, even I, could read. Then I began to have involuntary muscle spasms that prevented me from holding my fingers on the home keys of a keyboard. I couldn’t write and couldn’t type—this was before speak-to-type.
I thought my writing career had vanished. I cleaned out my files—even trashed all my rejection letters I’d been saving. Now I wish I’d kept them to prove that I really am a writer. I gave away most of my writing craft books.
My mind was still intact but my body wouldn’t do what it was told. My balance while walking started to diminish and I quit going to writing conferences. My doctor advised me not to drive. I was dependent on my family to even get to my doctor’s appointments and still am.
In 2008, I began to improve. My hands were steadier and I could get my story started. The biggest aggravation when I write anything is the time I have to leave my story to research the facts. When the story starts pouring out of my mind I want to write. I write continuously, not indicating chapters but I do indicate scene and POV changes. After I finish that first draft I go back and do those things.
I have outlived my doctor’s prognosis by over a year and a half. I’m writing the second of a 3-book contract and feel fine other than fatigue when I don’t stop to rest now and then. Fatigue does bring on more unsteadiness in my hands and legs.
From 2001 to 2008 I had a lot of time to meditate. A relative marvels that I’ve never questioned God, why me? I have not become bitter because of the health issues. I think God just gave me time to understand a lot of things when I was inactive. I’m a more peaceful, patient, and faithful me.
This is the way That Summer came to be: hibernated for seven years, and then became a story on paper.
LINKS TO PURCHASE BOOK:
Barnes & Noble (Nook only now): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/that-summer-jo-huddleston/1113883698?ean=2940015812664