The Valentine's Card by Juliet Ashton
In today's guest blog for Kindle Post, author Juliet Ashton talks about the surprising spring clean that inspired her to write her novel, The Valentine's Card--a story about the power of love, laughter and friendship.
Writers are always on the prowl for a big idea. These ideas can be really big and kick-start a blockbuster--e.g. Michael Crichton slapping his forehead and yelling 'Tyrannosaurus Rex! Theme park!'--or they can be secretly big, masquerading as a modest notion but fuelling a novel based on emotion and character, without any explosions or murders or dinosaurs in the mix.
One such secretly big idea came to me clearing out a desk. What should have been a swift and ruthless spring clean became something else entirely as I sat on the floor, utterly absorbed in a box of postcards and birthday cards and notes.
Re-reading messages ranging from sympathetic murmurs at bereavement to effusive 'Thank Yous' for long-forgotten gifts, I was struck by how a few handwritten lines can conjure up a person. It was like having company, rifling through those dog eared cards.
There is an immediacy to handwriting that words on a screen can't compete with. The careful, correct curls of my Father's style are a result of a fearsome old-style schoolmarm's teaching. She couldn't, however, influence his spelling. Random, idiosyncratic, it gave a clue to his rebellious personality that Spellcheck would nowadays erase.
My oldest friend's chatty notes, detailing raucous nights out in the pursuit of rubbish blokes, are so her. Rash, funny, confident, and loving. Lots of kisses on the ends of those.
And then a scrap of newsprint fluttered out of the box. It was a crossword, half completed in biro, by my Mum before she died. It pinned me to the spot. I never dare admit quite how much I miss my Mother, but the firmly shaped capital letters and the doodled workings out brought her back in such sharp focus that I had no choice but to cry that she isn't here anymore to do crosswords, or talk to me.
Then the idea snuck in. Imagine, I thought, discovering something handwritten from Mum that I hadn't yet read.
No matter how innocuous the content, it would be a powerful document. Fresh words, a conversation almost.
And what if, the sneaky thought went on, it didn't quite say what I expected it to? What if, it added, it lent a whole new dimension to the dead?
Soon I had a central character, a woman who receives a valentine's card from her lover just as she learns of his death. She knows it contains a proposal of marriage and can't bring herself to read it. Yet.
As my heroine gathers the strength to open the card, she discovers things about her lost love that surprise her. I had a marvellous time plotting her journey through the pain and uphill into the sun again. And all because of one little idea.
Although, on reflection, perhaps I should have put a dinosaur in it.