Thursday, January 17, 2008

Two Powerful Little Words

What if?

Two words that, when paired together, are almost as powerful as “I love you.” Maybe more so.

See that novel on your nightstand? Chances are the author began that story by asking “what if?” It is a limitless question. Curious pathways spread out from that seemingly innocuous question.

Well, that’s how I begin writing, too. For my current novel, JANEOLOGY, I looked at old photographs like the one pictured here of my grandfather in the 1920s and asked, “What if I knew you? What if we had met before you died? What stories would you share with me? What if we had traits in common and now that knowledge is lost to me forever?”

I couldn’t ask him questions. But I could use my imagination. It was in this way I decided to write about a character by compiling all the people from whence she descended. This was how I began writing the story of Jane Nelson’s genealogy, the main character in JANEOLOGY. To be clear, at the outset I didn’t know the crimes she would commit that set the story in motion. As often happens with characters, they begin to say and do things you do not expect. But that’s what happens when you ask “what if” in front of a blank page.

If you’d like to see all the old photographs of my descendants that spurred my curiosity, take a look at my “About Janeology” photo album at

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