Although I began Lovesick because I wanted to write a YA novel about the intense fear and confusion that many young people felt during the McCarthy era, the result was something quite different from what I had intended. It was during a summer vacation in Oxfordshire that the story took shape.
As with everything I write, I kept daily notes. My first stop when I vacationed in England was always WHSmith stationers where I could buy a certain kind of notebook, one that fit nicely in a pocket or my purse. During those weeks my late husband and I spent in our rented cottage, I filled several pages with memories, anecdotes, random images, and bits of dialogue.I found myself writing less about the McCarthy era and more about my own teenage years and the death of a friend during a year of tragedies.
Other than the loss of elderly relatives, his death was the first I had experienced. And his passing stayed in my head for years. In fact his funeral became the subject for a high school English class assignment, a paper I still have. The essay was difficult to write, so I handed it in late. At the top of the paper, the teacher had written “Late,” but she had marked an A over it and the words: “I can see why this took a while to finish.”
After I returned from England, I worked on the novel and eventually had a draft of about twenty-five chapters and then put it aside to work on A Less Than Perfect Peace, the sequel to Annie’s War.
Lovesick is about love, loss, friendship and loyalty, and it is set against the background of the McCarthy era. But it wasn’t until my husband passed away that I picked up the story again. His death has taught me a lot about loss. I not only revised the manuscript but also wrote a different ending from the one that I’d planned.
When we lose someone important to us, we have to find a way to redefine our lives. As a teenager I had to come to terms with the reality of mortality and the terrible sadness and shock that comes with that kind of loss. As a widow I had to learn endurance and begin the journey of defining my life without the man who gave me the happiest and most creative years of my life.
Someone once told me that at first we write because we want to and eventually because we need to. And so I write.