The Birth of a Novel: Cooper Moon: The Calling

Writing a novel is, almost certainly, some form of insanity. The writer grasps a wisp of an idea, as fragile and elusive as a dandelion seed floating past on a random breeze. Clutching the seed in greedy, hopeful hands, the writer rushes for paper and pen, or cell phone, or laptop. Frantic to document the moment and capture the magic, words are scribbled, thoughts are poured onto paper or screen. The writer rereads the words, suddenly full of longing and inspiration. This is it! This is the big one. THE novel they were meant to write. Perhaps the final result will be a beloved bestseller. Or a flop. But, at that moment, the moment of conception, holding that seed – all is possible. All is glorious!

The seed for my latest novel, Cooper Moon: The Calling began with a name. I heard the name Cooper Moon on the car radio. Immediately, my husband and I turned to each other, both expressing the same thought – this was a great name for a character in a novel. But what kind of novel? I had no idea. I was in the middle of final revisions for another novel – Life Is But a Dream: In The Mountains (the sequel to my first novel, Life Is But a Dream: On the Lake). Cooper would have to wait. I scribbled down the name and didn’t give it much thought until another seminal moment. At a funeral.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was sitting at the funeral of the father of my best friend, Jeanne. As a rule, I don’t attend funerals, but she is my best friend. I had to go. I was sitting in a large Catholic church, trying to avoid crying, trying to avoid looking at Jeanne, and gazing about the room – noticing a woman who seemed to have some sort of odd tick and then focusing on the ornate ceiling of the church. At that moment, even though I was not thinking about writing at all, the first three lines of the novel came to me.

An odd thing happened to Cooper Moon during his fortieth year. He believed in God. No one was more skeptical of this sudden conversion than his long-suffering and much cheated upon wife, Sally. 

I spent the remainder of the funeral silently repeating the words so I would not forget them. After the service, I hurried to my car and wrote the first three lines in a small notebook I found in the glove compartment. I felt like a bad friend, but I was also excited about the novel. Very excited.

From that moment, ideas came at random times. I was in the process of final revisions and editing for Life Is But a Dream: In The Mountains, but Cooper didn’t seem to care. He kept coming to me – shouting at me in the middle of the day, whispering to me at three in the morning. I kept taking notes. Cooper Moon? What kind of a man was he? What did he want out of life? Who did he love? Slowly, an image began to form. Almost gorgeous – the kind of man who charms women easily and without effort. He repeatedly cheats on his wife; in fact, he has never been faithful to her – not even while dating. They live in an old mobile home in the woods of Michigan. She loves him. God help her, she loves him. Always has. Probably always will.

Enter Libby Cartwright – the other woman. She began as a writing exercise. It was October of 2011 and I was attending a writing workshop taught by Elizabeth Berg. The workshop was in Positano, Italy. A magical place. A fantasy trip for me – but that is another story. Berg gave us a simple assignment – describe someone coming home from work. I began writing about a woman coming home from the office, slipping off her heels after walking into her home. I was only a few sentences in before she bored me to death. I thought for a moment and came up with another woman – this one punching out at a time clock in a factory and then rushing out the door to her pickup truck. This writing exercise eventually became Chapter Two of Cooper Moon: The Calling (Thank you Elizabeth Berg!). Originally, I thought of Libby as a stereotypical “easy” woman who slept around and just happened to be sleeping with Cooper. But, as I continued to write, I realized she is not a stereotype at all. And, worst of all (for her), she is deeply in love with Cooper.

Other characters came to me at odd times and I kept collecting notes until it was time to sit down and start writing. I began by writing the first couple of chapters. Once they came to life, I realized I had a book. Then one day I sat down and thought about the story – what would happen and how would it happen? Almost immediately, I could see this was a four book series. Incredibly enough, in one day I sketched out all four books, chapter by chapter. I’ve never seen a storyline, from beginning to end (and through four books!) so clearly. I already know the final words of the final book. I don’t usually work this way. I am more liable to start with an idea and a great character and see where it leads. With the Cooper Moon series, this was not the case. The books and characters spread out before me like a beautiful and complicated map. Now, it’s up to me to follow that map. I know the final destination, but I cannot wait to discover the hidden twists and turns on this journey! I hope you will join me!

Cooper Moon: The Calling has been pushed out of the nest. I am in the process of writing Book 2. More soon!