Today I am introducing something brand new to the blog: guest posts of writers in their own words. The first feature in this series is by Shelley Noble, women’s fiction author. Shelley’s newest novel is Stargazey Point.
Devastated by tragedy during her last project, documentarist Abbie Sinclair seeks refuge with three octogenarian siblings, Millie, Marnie and Beau Crispin, who live in a looming plantation house at the edge of the world—Stargazey Point.
Once a popular South Carolina family beach resort, the Point’s beaches have eroded, businesses have closed, and skyrocketing taxes are driving the locals away. Stargazey Point, like Abbie, is fighting to survive.
Abbie thinks she has nothing left to give, but slowly she’s drawn into the lives of the people around her: the Crispin siblings, with their own secret fears, Cabot Reynolds, who left his work as an industrial architect to refurbish his uncle’s antique carousel in hopes of breathing new life into his childhood sanctuary. Ervina, an old Gullah wise woman, who can guide Abbie to a new life and her true self, if only she’ll let her. And a motley crew of children whom Abbie can’t ignore.
She came for a safe haven but receives much more. Stargazey Point is magic place—a place for dreamers. It is also a place that can lead you home.
I’m proud to have Shelley here today. Without further ado, here she is.
The Beginning of an Idea
Readers often ask writers where we get our ideas for a story. Writers talk to each other about how they come up with ideas. Is it a character whose story you want to explore? Is it a place that has caught your imagination? An event? An issue close to your heart?
Some of my colleagues say they always start with the characters, or with an issue or with a situation. I’ve never been one of those authors. In fact I’m not always sure where or when my story actually begins. And that’s what happened with Stargazey Point.
Does that sound crazy?
Well, maybe it is, just a little.
Certain elements appear in most of my stories. I like writing about small towns, where everyone knows everybody’s business. Where arguments may extend for generations. Where best friends and worst enemies come face to face daily. And where individuals find strength in community.
I also like to write about life at the shore, explore different life styles and include characters of different ages.
But even knowing that, the beginning of an idea is nebulous. I might be driving along and an image just comes into my head. I might see a girl walking a dog, a interesting house, two old men arguing at a bus stop. Any of these have the potential to be apart of a story. Most of the time I don’t know which comes first. Maybe several aspects appear at once. But as soon as I recognize them, the elements begin to intertwine and grow together like one of those DNA helixes
The first two things I remember specifically about the beginning of Stargazey Point, was that I wanted to have a carousel. I love carousels, not only are they fun, and hold great childhood memories, but to me they’re a symbol of joy and hope.
But where to put it. I live in New Jersey and we have great carousels. But the Jersey shore is crowded. My carousel would be neglected in a town once filled with tourists but was now virtually forgotten.
Now here’s an example of how ideas can come from unexpected sources. I was running my carousel idea past a friend and colleague and she said, “I read about a carousel down south somewhere that had been stored in a shed to protect it from a hurricane and had been forgotten for years until someone discovered it by accident.”
That tidbit was just too good to let pass. After that my story took off. A town ravaged by years of hurricanes, the beaches swept away, homes destroyed. I wrote this a full year before Sandy hit New Jersey and taught us first hand the devastation that a hurricane can bring.
The people are poor, the town is dying. I still didn’t have a main character or a plot exactly, but I did have a secondary character, Cab Reynolds. Cab spent every summer as a child in Stargazey Point with his uncle Ned. When Ned leaves him a derelict carousel, Cab gives up a lucrative career in architecture and life in the fast lane to return to a place of sanctuary filled with the memories of safety and love.
There would be three octogenarian siblings, Millie, Marnie, and Beau Crispin, members of an old southern family, who have also descended into poverty but are still treated with respect.
Slowly my protagonist appeared, not clearly, but vaguely, like a ghost. Not a real ghost, but . . . Abbie Sinclair would be pale with light, almost white, blonde hair, ephemeral looking, but strong. Though she doesn’t realize how strong until Stargazey Point begins to work its magic.
At this point everything began to twist and turn and it’s hard to say just how it developed. It came in snatches of ideas written down on anything handy from iPhone to newspaper margin. A plot line began to weave itself into a story, even though I wasn’t sure how Abbie got to the Point or why.
Gradually she grew into her character. The youngest daughter of a family of do-gooders who became a documentarist and whose last project ended in tragedy. At this point I wasn’t sure what the tragedy was, but I knew she was broken, like the carousel.
Okay, got it. Sort of.
I tinkered with the elements, weaving and rejecting, adding and thinking. Then one night just as I was dropping off to sleep, a new character appeared in my half-waking state. This has never happened to me before. But there she was, Ervina, an old Gullah woman, wise, tough, half conjurer, half full of beans. She was surrounded by a group of young children. Of course, a carousel needs children. And the story took off.
Over the next three or four months I lived with these people twenty four-seven, wrote and rewrote, took a false turn and returned to the path. And ended up with four hundred pages of story. Warts and all. And the rewriting began—but that is another story.
Thank you, Shelley, for being a guest on my blog today! Good luck with the book.