I was eating out with some girlfriends last night when the topic of books came up. One of my friends asked what led me to write. Instantly, everyone’s attention was on me. I could see in their eyes the perennial question: What is the secret path to happiness and self-fulfillment—and to the few dollars we’ll need to pay for the Lear jet and monthly sojourns to Paris.
I paused and remembered the moment my story began seven years ago. I looked back further at the events that led up to that moment. I was the second of five girls in our family. For as far back as I can remember, my parents had a Christmas tradition that required all of us to write a Christmas story or poem and deliver it on Christmas Eve after donning our new pajamas. (The annual gift of new pajamas was part of the storytelling tradition.) I remember the stories told by the glowing lights of the Christmas tree as the listeners nestled together comfortably on the living room floor. I remember how I invariably procrastinated writing my story until the very last minute (usually a day or two before Christmas). I look back now and I remember how much I enjoyed writing those stories, how the words seemed to pour onto the paper, and how proud I felt reading them aloud to my family. When it was my turn to read, my sisters would grab a pillow and blanket and get really comfortable because my stories were always the longest. After the last story was read, my parents would present each of us with a special ornament they had purchased to honor our literary efforts.
This tradition stuck into adulthood. During a Christmas season around seven years ago, I sat down and once again began to compose my annual Christmas story to present at the family reading. I don’t remember much about the story, but I do remember it being about an orphan boy. (I was going for tears. Orphans usually work.) I remember quite clearly that in one of the scenes in my story, the boy was being chased through a wintry forest during a savage snowstorm. The boy became very cold and lay down in a forest glade and fell asleep. As his breathing became shallow and death drew near, two arms reached out, gathered him up, and took him into the Netherworld. I stopped my writing at that moment. I had the strong impression that this scene was part of another story, a much larger story--one I had to write. I did write it soon after. Charles Arthur Sale later joined me in a writing partnership, and we crafted the story into our first novel, The Successor.
I never did finish my Christmas story that year. For the first time ever, I delivered a poem instead. I have no recollection of it. I’m sure it was awful. But in my family that didn’t matter. We were together. That was enough.
Thank you, Mom and Dad, for all the great traditions. Thank you for fostering in me the passion and persistence that led to creation of the Chronicles of the Two Worlds. The Successor, Book One of the Chronicles, will be published this year, and Book Two, The Culling, is in progress.
--Naomi Lea Sawyer