My father had recently passed and I knew that emotion would carry over into the book. It did in so many ways, but in the process it allowed a healing inside me that I never expected.
Like all my books I will see or hear something that triggers a thought. With Arcturus it was the realization that if a star is 36 million light-years away when we look at it we are seeing it as it appeared 36 years ago. That is all I needed and I completed the first draft in about six weeks.
I wanted a great love story, but I knew I wanted this book to be different. To do so I challenged myself to write a story where from the beginning the main character had already passed, but through flashbacks that take place during the surviving family's cross-country-journey we still bond with her even though we know her fate. Not only with this approach is the bonding strong in Arcturus with her passing it affects the reader even more than if they didn't realize it was coming. It was definitely a challenge. Something that I was always impressed with, for those who can remember, was the TV show Columbo. The writers did such an incredible job by breaking the rules and showing you at the beginning who was guilty, and though we knew we would still watch intently to see how it was pulled off. I always loved and respected that approach.
I knew my emotional scenes needed to be powerful. To do so I referred back to one of my favorites The Notebook. In The Notebook toward the end Ally is dancing with Noah and she suddenly slips back into her dementia not recognizing him, pushing him away and yelling for him to get out of her room. That is my bar I was reaching for when it comes to emotion. I feel like I reached it multiple times in Arcturus.
Basically I wanted to create a book that represented the healing process. I wanted something that would bring the reader to tears multiple times following each with happiness and laughter to keep the emotions flowing and the reader engaged. In Arcturus you witness the gradual healing of each character leaving the reader in the end to cherish the people and moments in their lives. That is what inspired me and that is the heart of Arcturus.
I recently had a discussion about this with one of my clients. To answer, I think we have to go back to the beginning or almost to the beginning. It all began when I was twelve years old. I stumbled across a movie called Enchantment. Enchantment was released in 1948 and it starred David Niven and Teresa Wright. If you love a good love story definitely check it out. At twelve I was highly impressionable, and Enchantment engrained in me an understanding of true love, lose, regret, and to pursue love at any cost. This movie made this twelve year old boy cry and sent me on a path I am still on to this day.
At sixteen I wrote my first poem. It was called The Class Ring. Nothing unusual about a sixteen year old male writing a poem, but this poem was written in the voice of a sixteen year old female telling her story. To sum up the poem it is about a young man who gives his girlfriend his class ring to wear. One night he goes out with his friends and dies in a car accident. In the end she returns the ring to him at his funeral. The poem was entered into a poetry contest at Southern Arkansas University and won first place. It was also published in a hardback poetry collection several years later.
I suppose there are many events in our lives that determine our direction. The fact that I will choose a Romance or Romantic Comedy over other genres, or the fact Nicholas Sparks and Eve Corso are still my favorite authors, I believe all goes back to that twelve year old who was enchanted.