When I ran across the photo of the rose, I knew immediately it summed up everything I needed for the piece named, Daddy’s Death. The bud, wilted and drooping, yet the stalk still straight and the leaves green. When we lose a loved one, it is how we feel; as if our essence has been sapped, we’re wilted, our life is crumpling around the edges, and yet, there is still life, and it flows around us. It was so perfect to me, I almost left the title and name off the cover—there was no need for anything else.
Some writers draft with a basic destination in mind, and at every turn ask the question, “what’s the worst thing I can do to my characters now?” and build it into the story. From before I wrote the very first word of Misfit McCabe, I knew Katie would lose her father to cancer. For me, it was the central reason why the book had to be written. What happens when a teen girl loses everything she holds dear—her father, her home, her best friend? And how does she cope when sent to live with strangers?
While I have always maintained, and still do, Katie is not modeled after the teen me, there are certain traits or experiences we share. And I’ll admit it was easier for me to connect with her emotional state and understand what she was going through with the loss of her father because of experiences I’d had around her age. At twelve and again at thirteen, I nearly lost my father to cancer. At that time, the surgery he had was experimental and the survival rate wasn’t good. But the chance of survival would have been 0% without it. I wish I could share those moments with you—what it felt to hear the news, whether it was a tearful good-bye when he went off to the hospital (probably not, knowing me because I wouldn’t show what I thought to be weakness), what the waiting felt like—but I can’t. I don’t remember—and not because it was so many years ago, I wasn’t able to remember even a few years later. I do remember how shocked I felt when my mom told me he had been in the hospital on two separate occasions. It had all melded into one in my mind.
When someone experiences the possibility a loved one may die, as was the case with my family, they go through the stages of grief, even though the person survives. My way of dealing with the difficult situation was to bury it—AND DEEP! Whether I will one day remember those moments or be able to sort out the different visits to the hospital instead of lumping them all into one, or whether they will forever remain buried somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I believe the experience is what allows me to connect so closely to Katie and her feelings and maybe why she chose me to tell her story to.
With this excerpt from Katie’s diary, I kept the notes before the story and the teaser short. She needed the opportunity to get what she needed to say out of her system, and nothing much more needed to be said… kind of like the rose on the cover. Teaser: The loss of a loved one is never easy.