Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Great Crossroads--What Would YOU Do?


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Is your main character YOU? How many times have you heard that, Reds and readers? And I say: every character is some little part of us, because they come from our experience or curiosity or fears or hopes or dreams or imaginings.  Our characters take shape from us, and learn from us.

But whoa.  The wonderful Wendy Tyson has realized she’s learned from her character? How does that work? 

Well, here's a hint. This is where Wendy lives now. 



Why?  Wendy can explain it best.


When A Character Lends You Courage


Sometimes real life takes its cues from fiction.
 The heroine of my Greenhouse Mystery Series, Megan Sawyer, had been at a crossroads—although she didn’t know it at the time. Early thirties, newly widowed, she’d poured what energy she had into her job as an environmental attorney at a large Chicago law firm. She spent her days defending large corporations against environmental claims and her nights mourning Mick, her late soldier-husband. 

Her grandmother, Bonnie “Bibi” Birch, a widow herself, had been her lifeline during the darkest days, calling her every morning to make sure she’d pried herself out of bed, and ringing again every evening to remind her she’d get through the long stretch of nighttime loneliness ahead. Eventually the two tethers to the real world—Megan’s job and Bibi—pulled her through, and Megan found that the sheer effort of breathing wouldn’t break her.
           
The days and months rolled on.

And then the call came. It was Megan’s father, Eddie Birch, asking her to come home, back to Winsome, Pennsylvania, the small Bucks County town where Megan first fell in love with Mick. Eddie had met someone, and they were planning to elope in her native Italy. Would Megan consider returning east? Bibi needed her. The old, historic farm, Washington Acres, where Megan had grown up, needed her. Mostly he needed her.

Megan, a rational woman by nature, weighed her options. Her license and career and paycheck were in Illinois. Her memories of marriage to Mick, truncated as they were, lived in Illinois. Her friends were there, her house was there. Yet somehow the decision was an easy one. Something was missing from her life. It wasn’t just Mick. It wasn’t just worry about Bibi or concerns about the old house or the farm with no one at the helm. She’d gone into environmental law to protect the environment, and yet day after day she found herself on the other side, arguing why chemicals weren’t linked to incidences of autism or cancer or lung disease, why workers weren’t impacted by the poisons they spread on fields. This wasn’t what she’d signed up for all those years ago.

Somewhere, somehow, she’d lost her way.

And so Megan left her life behind. She took up organic farming, remaking the farm into what it once was. She started a cafĂ© and organic food shop. Her Chicago friends were aghast; why leave a comfortable life and a steady paycheck for something she hadn’t done since childhood? Many questioned her sanity, blaming her choices on grief. Megan knew in her deepest gut that this was right.

After A Muddied Murder was released, readers asked me how much of the book was autobiographical. Not much, I’d say. After all, I had a family. A satisfying legal career with a worthwhile mission. Roots in the Philadelphia suburb where I lived. Megan was bruised, young, unfettered. While her move, especially the career switch from lawyer to farmer, required courage, at the end of the day Megan needed to rebuild her life. She’d become comfortably numb, and Eddie’s call was the catalyst for change.

Megan and I were nothing alike. Or so I thought.

The idea for the Greenhouse Series was born in 2014. The first book released in 2016. Fast forward to 2017. My husband and I realized something wasn’t quite right. We loved the outdoors and the quiet and solitude of nature, yet we lived just miles from the city limit, in one of the most densely populated parts of the country.  

As a family we enjoyed hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, and skiing, but we had to drive a considerable distance to enjoy any of these activities. My kids didn’t love their school, and we found ourselves spending more and more time in our cabin in Vermont. Sundays were rough; no one wanted to go back to the city. We’d sit on Interstate 87 in sullen silence, bracing for the traffic and congestion ahead.

But that’s life, right?

As I was writing the fourth Greenhouse mystery, exploring Megan’s choices and those of her family members, I started to do some real soul searching. The truth was, most of our vacations were taken in off the beaten path locations, and nearly every time we traveled we fantasized about what it would be like to live somewhere greener, more scenic, where the emphasis was on the environment rather than efficiency.

 It wasn’t that we didn’t love Philly; it was that we had landed there for law school and simply stayed. We never really considered if it was where we wanted to be. We acted dutifully, maintaining the house and lifestyle that were expected of us. But as Megan learned, doing what’s expected and doing what’s right are not always the same thing.

I grew more and more convinced that we could make some lifestyle changes and live where we wanted to live. It would take creativity and consensus—and courage, but I had a role model already: Megan. Hadn’t she paved the way? Didn’t I owe myself (and my family) the same chance to create an intentional life that I’d given my character?

We moved to Vermont last year. Our home is smaller, more modest. We have to drive an hour or more for big box stores. We share our garden’s bounty with deer and moose. 



My mailing address and my street address don’t match, and last winter the final patch of snow melted in May. But on Sunday nights, we linger outside under a canopy of stars—grateful that we’re not stuck on Interstate 87. And our dog Driggs can go swimming.



I have Megan to thank for that.

HANK: That is fascinating! When you say “Didn’t I owe myself (and my family) the same chance to create an intentional life that I’d given my character?” –that is truly profound. And I am now thinking about whether I have learned from Mercer—well, yes, I have. That is so interesting! (And I didn’t write the Donna Parker books-remember those—but I certainly learned from her!)

How about you, Reds and Readers? What have you learned from a fictional character?



ABOUT WENDY TYSON
 TwitterFacebook,Instagram and website--and her book buy links on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

 

ROOTED IN DECEIT

It’s summertime in Winsome. Washington Acres is abloom, Megan is preparing for the grand opening of their wood-fired pizza farm, and things with Megan’s beau, handsome Dr. Finn, are getting as hot as the August temperatures. 

But when Megan’s ne’er-do-well father arrives in Pennsylvania with his high-maintenance Italian wife, Sylvia, and announces they’re staying at the new yoga retreat center a town away, a sweet occasion sours.

Eager to secure pieces for her Milan boutique, Sylvia finagles a meeting with up-and-coming artist Thana Moore, whose work is showing at the retreat center. After their explosive encounter, Thana is murdered and Sylvia becomes the prime suspect. 

Only Sylvia isn’t the only one with ties to the artist—once upon a time, Thana Moore had been Megan’s best friend. 

As Megan delves into Thana’s past, piecing together the years since their falling out, she realizes that something sinister is afoot in Bucks County. Unless Megan can find the killer, this idyllic summer will turn nightmarish. Innocent people may be imprisoned—and even more could die.


46 comments:

  1. Megan sounds delightful, Wendy . . . “Rooted in Deceit” sounds quite intriguing.

    Your story about your decision to move to a place that made you and your family happy is a sweet one. I can relate to your love for the country . . . we, too, have deer who are regular visitors [and we had to fence the garden in order to have any vegetables for ourselves]. It’s absolutely perfect . . . .

    What have I learned from a fictional character? That sometimes it’s a good thing to step up and take that chance . . . .

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    1. So true! And from the time we are kids too, right? Like the little engine that could? Ridiculously, I still think about that!

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  2. Congratulations on your move and on your new book, Wendy. I have read the first of the Organic Garden series, and really enjoyed it. I also love your covers! They are so bright and eye-catching.

    I definitely think we can learn from fictional characters. Fiction is a way of exploring new ideas, new places, and new lives without completely dismantling what we already have. There have to be times when the writing unearths old desires and lets us play them out to see what might have been, and what might still be if only we have the courage our characters do. Megan's move from city to country seemed right to you when you started the series because it was an idea you needed to explore. I think it's great that Megan's choice of an intentional life gave you and your family the courage to make your own more positive choices.

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    1. Isn’t that inspirational? So funny how our brains work if we change the perspective a bit!

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  3. Hello Wendy! I'm always happy to meet a new -to-me author. Your Greenhouse Mysteries is now on my TBR list.
    I find that fictional characters constantly force me to solidify my own opinions about world around me. And truth be told, I find that it's the ones who have made a change in their life that give me the strongest push.

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    1. Because they don’t feel fictional, right? And it’s as if you can see the world through their eyes, and it’s a different place!

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  4. Welcome, Wendy! I love the idea that our own fictional characters are lurking within us. I hope mine doesn't make me move to South Carolina and take up doll making. Speaking of South Carolina, stay safe, folks in that neck of our woods.
    What's a 'micro-farm?'

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  5. I think Megan led you to the home you want and need now. Nothing is static in life. Your new place is beautiful. But I am sad you're not closer to Philly because that means you can't pop into the convent retreat again!

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    1. Forgot to add, to Hank, I adored Donna Parker! I wanted to be her.

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    2. I did, too! And seriously? She taught me how to think things through before they happened. I still do that! And I think of her every time. Isn’t that so funny?

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  6. Hi Wendy! I've heard such good things about your 'Greenhouse' series from blogging friends. And it's been on my list for a bit. Maybe I could jump right in and read the latest. And another person that's connected to Vermont. I've been on a bit of a Northeast reading binge lately. It's funny how that happens sometimes without even noticing. As to learning from fictional characters - I can raise my hand and say absolutely. I think it's great that you guys took a chance, using your character as a role model, and moved to the country. I live in an 'almost country' part of Central Texas. We have deer every day and lately way too many scorpions and rattlesnakes. Guess you have to take the good with the scary.

    By the way, Hank, I do remember the Donna Parker books. In fact I have a couple on my shelves of 'vintage teen reads'. I loved that character.

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    2. Isn’t that funny that those books change just like that? Maybe we should read them again. I remember them as being quite empowering, though we did not call it that. :-)

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  7. Hey, Wendy! Rooted is one of my "reward reads" for when I meet my next deadline, and I can't wait.

    Learning from our characters...interesting question. I do know Zoe Chambers is stronger than I am, and I draw from her strength when things get rough.

    Anyway, I'm in awe of you and your family, Wendy, and look forward to being able to come visit your new home one day in the not-too-distant future.

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    2. So great to see you at Bouchercon! And are you on book 7, or eight? Can you believe it?

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  8. Wendy, what a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing Megan and yourself

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    1. So fascinating that she realized it, right?

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  9. what a fascinating life and writing journey! I live in Ohio with my fictional character. Sometimes we get the itch to move on.

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    1. What’s your secret dream of where you would go? Both of you, of course...

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  10. Wow, Wendy, wow. "Somewhere, somehow, she'd lost her way."

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  11. Great post, Wendy.

    My characters have taught me that I really want to live in the Laurel Highlands, or somewhere like that. Not that I live in a big city and Pittsburgh is great, but I'd like to not live so close to my neighbors - not have them be able to look through my windows (although the new three-season room is great).

    Unfortunately, my bills and the rest of my family have not realized this. LOL

    Mary/Liz

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    1. And there you have the problem! What is a three season room?

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    2. A room, usually glassed in, that can be used in 3 of the 4 seasons (winter generally being the fourth, where the room can't be used because it's too cold). But we put a space heater in there, so we're hoping to squeeze out that fourth season. I'll keep you posted.

      Mary/Liz

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  12. Wendy, what a terrific turn your life has taken! It's wonderful that you and your family had the courage to change your life so significantly, and I love that your fictional character led the way. Like Joan said above, characters can convince you to take a chance and be braver than you might be naturally. It's always good to be inspired, even by people who don't really exist!

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  13. Brava, Wendu! I knew you were moviy to Vermont but didn't know Megan was the catalyst. I also love your series but just realized I am a book behind.
    Must remedy, stat!

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  14. I have to say, this has given me a great deal to think about. I, too, am widowed, and in my house and wondering if this is my future. Where's the line between choosing and just staying? Are you comforted by familiarity, or just in a rut?

    At any rate, I'm pretty sure I'm not as brave as my protagonist. I have to work on that.

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    1. Julia, that is so touching. And of course you are as brave as Clare! Where did she come from, if not you?

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  15. I knew you had moved, but I didn’t know why. How interesting to learn how this series influenced you.

    And if you haven’t read this series, it is well worth it.

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  16. Wendy, what a wonderful piece. Now I'm thinking a lot about my protagonists and thinking I need to work a good bit harder to be more like them. And that I need to read your series! Should I start at the beginning, or just dive in?

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    1. Well you want to be more like CERTAIN ones, right? :-) And good question about the series--my vote--start anywhere!

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  17. So interesting. I know I want to change my address and my trajectory but family obligations prevent that for now. I have your first two books on my TBR mountain still to be tackled. Love the covers!

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    1. I'm so fascinated by people's dreams...who knows what will happen, right? oxoo

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  18. What a great post, Wendy. I can't wait to read Book 3! It's so interesting how our characters influence our own lives. I've found that with every book I've written, my characters have helped me find closure on some issue I didn't even realize I was dealing with.

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    1. That's so interesting, Meredith..it makes sense, doesn't it? But we rarely think of it that way.

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  19. Wendy is trying and trying to post her comments--but her computer is being cranky! She is reading everything, and loves the conversation, and says she'll persist!

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  20. FROM WENDY:
    Hello everyone! Thank you for hosting me, Hank and Reds! Thank you all for the wonderful comments and questions and kind words about the series. As part of this life change, my employer allowed me to work remotely (I’m very grateful)— with regular travel. I’m on the road now and having technical difficulties posting on the Jungle Red site.

    Characters...so many have stayed with me through the years, beginning with Nancy Drew (I was an avid reader). Someone alluded to perspective. I think fictional characters and their situations can offer us a new perspective, a way of looking at the world that’s new or fresh or provocative. For me, it happens often with others’ work—great characters move or motivate or inspire me. This was the first time my own character had such an effect. I think (not to sound psycho-babble-y) writing about Megan shined a light on my own feelings of not being authentic. A hard realization.

    And Hallie—a micro-farm is a very small vegetable farm. When we lived in Philly, our lot was 1/3 of an acre. We gardened on much of the lawn and easily fed our family for much of the year on what we grew. We were motivated by the small “kitchen gardens” we saw in Greece and Slovenia. A reminder that even a small plot can produce if tended to properly. Thanks for asking!

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  21. Right now I am dealing with an agonizing decision and wishing mightily that I had a character to help me figure out the best way to go.

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    1. Judi? You okay? Let us know how we can help..xooxo Love you!

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  22. What a great post, Wendy! I'm glad Megan helped you & your family make the decision to settle in a place that makes you happy.

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