The Journey Home: The Making of What Once Was Home
Part Five: The End
In Part Four: Back in the Saddle, I picked up on writing What Once Was Home after a year break filled with other projects and an amazing journey. I came back, finished the book, and…
I read through the entire novel for the first time, and could hardly believe I had written it. Like I mentioned before, I finished five novellas and an anthology before this. I had written a few other short stories and more than a handful of non-fiction articles. I’d given interviews, glad-handed the public, gotten more than a pocketful of five-star reviews; I had been a professional author for some time, but this was my first novel.
What if I read back through it and hated it? What if the structure fell apart where I put it down and came back? What if the style and tone of writing was completely different after the break? So many things could have gone wrong, and much of the anxiety stemmed from the possibility of two voices vying for dominance.
I read through the draft. I made a few more tweaks here and there, corrected some grammar, and polished up a few sentences just to make them shinier. From the first page to the last though, I didn’t change anything substantial. I loved what I had written, so I sent it off to my editor.
I couldn’t tell a difference in the writing from before and after the break. Maybe it became more mature at some point, but the story does that too. Maybe the break was the best thing for the book. There’s a certain progression as Jace himself moves from being a scared 14-year-old to a confident 17-year-old, and then a 22-year-old turned cynical and jaded by the harsh world he lived in.
Yes, there’s a lot of me in this book. The big themes of striving to do the right thing and the challenges of doing this despite difficult situations are ones I’ve tackled over and over. Doing the right thing is something my father engrained in me over and over, and later in the Army the same thing was espoused as the ultimate virtue: honor.
Speaking of my dad, he’s a big part of this book too. He passed away about ten years ago, but the influences he had on me will never fade. He focused on work for so many years, we weren’t close when I was young. He didn’t say much, so when he did have something to say I knew it was important. When dad spoke, you paid attention. Later in life, we were like best friends.
I think that link, and what I learned from him, and what I’ve learned from so many other influential people who have walked across my path, really shows through in the book. There’s some characters that barely get a moment in the spotlight, but they may be molded together from a hundred people who took a moment to smile and say a kind word to a broken soul. And in the end, maybe being kind to each other is really all that matters?
Jace ladled coffee from the pot into his beaten metal cup. “Anything interesting going on?”
Gladys pursed her lips and twisted them to the side as she thought, a habit he found endearing. Even though he would get the daily reports from Jensen once he got inside, he loved seeing the expression on her face so much he had gotten into the routine of asking her anyway. Sometimes, he’d get some tidbit of news that wasn’t in the official briefing as a bonus.