On Friday I finished writing the 3rd book in my Brennan Sisters trilogy about the sprawling, Irish-American Brennan family in San Francisco. I have loved this series, and family, inspired in large part by my younger brother’s in-law.
My brother, Rob, lives in downtown San Francisco, and is married to a gorgeous girl whose father, Tom Callen, was a San Francisco fire fighter, and served on the San Francisco Fire Department at one point with his grandfather Callen, several uncles, and two of his brothers
I love family and community and the Callen family’s commitment to their city resonated with me, as did my brother and sister-in-law’s decision to raise their kids in San Francisco proper, making their kids sixth generation San Franciscans. They are proud of their history and continuity, and I—the storyteller—can’t stop my imagination for running wild with story possibilities.
The Callen famiy might have inspired by Brennan family, with a fire fighter for the patriarch, but from there, the series is all my own, with strong family dynamics, tons of sisterly love, and lots of self-discovery.
The first book, The Good Woman, is about the oldest sister, Meg, a mother of three, who works as a publicist for a Napa winery. Meg is the quintessential good woman. She’s responsible, to a fault. But frazzled and flattened from juggling work, marriage and motherhood, Meg makes a serious mistake that threatens to cost her not just her marriage, but her family support.
In The Good Daughter, the second book, Kit, one of the middle sisters, and the family peacemakers, discovers that its impossible to always please everyone else. In fact, pleasing others just might mean you’ll never end up happy yourself. Now Kit must decide if she is going to continue keeping the peace, or do what she needs to do for herself, even if it means alienating those she has always loved best.
In both books I tackle some meaty stuff but I deliberately chose to keep the books from being so gritty that they were depressing. Greif and loss and change is all difficult enough, without making it dark, and suffocating. I don’t just want to make readers cry. I want them to laugh, to sigh, to smile, to dream.
I’ve been through very difficult things, and so when I write about death or grief, abuse or violence, its not to bury my reader in wet cement, but to give her a hand, and say—I get it. I’ve been there. You can get through this. And we get through hard things with love and faith and support.
My readers know my themes, too. The Good Daughter is my 8th women’s fiction novel, and my readers know what they want from me, and that’s a story about real women finding their place in the world. They want to read about real women overcoming adversity to find love, and happiness, with maybe some sexy sizzle thrown in to remind them they’re alive and desirable.
When my readers finish one of my books I want them to feel validated, supported, loved. It’s important to feel good. Its important we feel valuable as women. Otherwise, how do we raise children? How do we take care of our aging parents? How do we love ourselves if we’re fearful and broken and trapped in a dark place? I don’t know that we can…so I do what I do because its my passion and my mission. It gives me joy to create joy, and if I’ve made one reader happy, then I’ve done something wonderful.
I say this because critics don’t necessarily agree with me. They think I’ve failed to dig deep enough into domestic violence or depression. I’ve been accused of glossing over the hard things, and truthfully, yes, I do, to a certain extent. Because I’m not writing about domestic violence or depression because it’s a creative topic. Its real. But its not pleasurable. If you’ve experienced it, its not interesting to even read about. It takes you back to pain, and suffering isn’t glorious. Suffering is suffering. It hurts. It wounds. It scars. So yes, I put it out there, but then the goal is to move on. To move forward. To move forward with hope, and strength, courage and optimism. Maybe these themes aren’t for everyone, but they’re mine, and its why my readers read me.
As a writer I don’t think we have to appeal to all readers. Instead we must simply be true to ourselves.
For a chance to win a copy of The Good Woman and other fun goodies, tell me what makes you happy. Two winners will be picked on Wednesday and each receive a signed copy of The Good Woman, a $5 Starbucks drink card, and some other fun Jane Porter reader goodies.