90 Percent Inspiration
My daughters are adults now – thank heavens. I don’t mean they have turned eighteen; I mean adult-adults. They are of an age that I discourage them from calling me “Mom” in public. My youngest is a school teacher, for crying out loud. I cannot express the relief I feel in no longer having to portray some sort of idealized, Cleaverized version of motherhood, and we can just relate to one another as people. They actually seek out the wisdom of my experience rather than being offended if I offer it, and I even find myself asking their opinion on different topics to learn what is currently hip. (I am now being told that using the word “hip” is not hip.) Occasionally, we even have a bit of role reversal, such as when we went to Universal Orlando and I wanted to buy these magic tricks. My daughters tried to talk me out of it. “You know, you will only play with them a few times and get bored and never touch them again.” I whined until they gave in and let me buy them, but of course they were right.
Although we all share an irreverent sense of humor, my three daughters have seemingly split my other characteristics among them. My eldest most looks like me physically, both in features and coloring. My youngest inherited my sarcasm, brutal honesty, and inability to suffer fools lightly. My middle daughter, by curse or by fortune, shares my odd mixture of creativity and insanity, which must be how she has come to be my muse. It doesn’t hurt that we have similar tastes in literature (love Austen, hate zombies), music (Pink Floyd devotees, although we split on Led Zeppelin), films, and television. We both had the same reaction after the season two finale of Downton Abbey: I’m good now! I don’t need to see season three!
I do not mean to imply that I am closer to my muse than the others. My youngest daughter and I can get together for coffee and beignets and talk for hours about anything and everything happening in the “real” world; however, if I randomly told her that I think the letter Y is pretentious, she would think I have had too much wine, whereas my muse immediately agreed and we progressed into a lengthy debate as to whether the vowels are an oppressed minority or more of an Apartheid of the alphabet. Likewise, I doubt my muse has many friends to whom she could say, “Green peas are a notoriously confused vegetable,” and have them provide evidence to support her thesis as I did. A few years back we were on vacation together, walking around an amazing European city, but engrossed in a discussion on the differences between a dwarf and a gnome. (A portion of this conversation wound up in my upcoming sequel to Pulse and Prejudice. I might not use people in my life as characters in my novels, but anything anyone says is fair game!)
Pulse and Prejudice never would have been written (so she deserves her share of the praise or the blame!). A talented playwright herself, she knows Pride and Prejudice almost as well as I do, and one of her favorite Christmas gifts I ever gave her was the Jane Austen action figure. After she introduced me to JAFF and I considered writing my own adaptation, not only did she encourage me to do it and even came up with the title, she also discussed scenes with me, read every chapter and rewrite, and spent ten days in Europe editing and copyediting with me. Then, after all that, she was unhappy with the ending and inspired me to write a sequel!
The most recent inspiration my muse has provided originated in an ongoing feud we have regarding the viability of a novella I wrote a million years ago. For some reason, it has always held a special place in her heart, whereas she has had to hide it from me to keep it out of the trash. Once again, as we argued whether or not it is salvageable, I declared that the plot was too preposterous for anything other than a soap opera. That set off light bulbs for both of us, and the more we talked, the novella faded into the background, and I was propelled into writing an adaptation on a soap opera set - The Proud and the Prejudiced (an abridged version published as All My Tomorrows). In the end, my muse wins again. That novella had some value after all, even if only to inspire me to write something completely different. That’s a real magic trick!
Originally written and posted for Austen Authors.