When books mirror life
I have a childhood friend, living far away now, who swears she knows what’s going on in my life from my newest book. She is certainly right where Blueprints is concerned. During the early months of the writing, in real life I was gutting and redoing the bathroom off my bedroom – totally fitting when the main characters of the book specialize in gut-and-redos.
Did one bring the other about? Not really. My husband and I were planning on redoing our bathroom, and the timing just matched. Not that I minded. Not that I mightn’t have even given it a push. When I’m in writing mode, which is a round-the-clock thing, overlap is good.
I’ve done it before. In anticipation of writing Lake News, which was set in a fictitious town in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, I spent several days with a realtor looking at homes there. My husband and I were in the market for a vacation place, and what better tactic than to kill two birds with one stone? Besides, if you want the lowdown on an area for a book, you won’t find a better resource than a realtor.
We did find our house, and I did write Lake News, which subsequently became the name of our boat. One of my sons commented that first summer that the book had better do well or the boat was a dud.
If that warning applies now, Blueprints will succeed. We love our bathroom. It is spacious and soothing and new. That’s it in the picture above, and you haven’t even seen the soaking tub or the shower! There’s a spa-like something to the room that relaxes us every single day.
Not that it was easy to build. Not that there weren’t glitches and plan changes and times when my husband and I looked at each other and wondered what in the hell we’d been thinking, taking on a project like this. Believe me, I sweated out much of it at the same time that I was sweating out the plot of Blueprints.
Books are intimate things. So are bathrooms, and the one in question is en suite. It was built 27 years ago, when we built the house, and we wanted now to strip it down to the studs. Between the architect, the builder, the interior designer, and our own gluttony, by the time we had final plans in hand, we were stripping and reconfiguring four adjoining closets as well.
Now, I picked my contractor with care, and his crew were honest and clean. But I didn’t want strange men walking into my bedroom at six every morning, which was when they arrived. So my husband and I emptied out those four closets and the bedroom and moved upstairs for four months – four months, for a project that I was promised, promised would take only six weeks.
Okay. There were unexpected glitches. Aren’t there always? Blueprints only go so far. There was the window by the tub that wasn’t up to current code and had to be custom-ordered because the original size was no longer being made. We lost two weeks right there – couldn’t move ahead until the town building inspectors initialed our building permit, which they wouldn’t do until the up-to-code window was installed. There was the pocket door that suddenly needed more space, the heating vents that, ooops, were too deep to function and needed redesign, the wall of mirrors that needed last-minute reconfiguring to avoid breaking. There was the cabinet that arrived without sidebars, and the marble that was cracked during installation. Oh, and did I mention the alarm system that had to be moved by a company that didn’t feel any urgency at all? And through it all there were endless tiny decisions for yours truly to make, like whether the shower door should go all the way to the ceiling or stop eight inches below, which way the medicine chests should open, how long the towel racks should be and where they should be mounted, which light switch should connect to which light.
I swear, writing a book is easier. That said, did the men at work in my house know that I was making notes on what they did and how they did it for the sake of Blueprints? I’m sure they did. I’m also sure that they were flattered. Men usually are. I used to have a dentist who, each and every visit, asked me when I would write a book with a dentist-hero.
Blueprints has construction-heroes. But they’re women. They’re strong and able and honest. And they’re too busy making sure their work is top notch to be wondering how I’ll portray them. I so admire confident, determined, self-deprecating women. You, too?