People ask what my book is about and I’m supposed to get good at explaining it quickly and succinctly, so people don’t start dreaming up ways to get away from me. My book is about Claire, a 39 year-old single mom. She’s a music writer and she lives in Chapel Hill because that’s where I live. I don’t like the idea of writing about places you haven’t been. When Claire was a teenager, she was obsessed with a British band called Banks Forest and their young buck of a guitar player, Christopher Penman. She did all of the normal stuff teenage girls do when they’re pining for a pop star—stare at posters of him on the wall, listen to his music endlessly, imagine what it would be like to be his girlfriend. More than twenty years later, Chris is a bit of a media disaster and tabloid regular with a solo career that could use some serious help. Claire gets an assignment to interview him, with direct orders to drag his closely held secrets out of him. After that, well, I can’t tell you that—read the book!
I actually started writing Bring Me Back for the first time three years ago although the idea for Chris and Claire came years before that. I didn’t get very far with writing it the first time. The title comes from the Plimsouls song “A Million Miles Away”, which I thought was appropriate given that Banks Forest was huge in the 80s.
In June of 2008, we lost our house to a fire. People talk about their lives being turned upside down—we felt like ours was turned inside out. Once things were back to the new normal, with a new house, stuff to put in it, and kids happy, I made the decision to do something for myself. I started the book a few days later. I stopped sleeping much and although it sounds so incredibly clichéd, the story spilled out of me. I’m not going to say it was easy because I don’t think my brain has worked so hard in my entire life.
I’ve only let a small circle of people in on this life event, and those people have all been burdened, I mean blessed, with the task of reading and giving feedback. Now that it’s finished and I’m looking for an agent, I thought it was time to tell the rest of the world.
There are only a few more days until summer vacation is over for my kids and they head back to school. Emily is getting ready to start middle school, so she’s excited about new clothes, getting a locker, and a new crop of boys to chase. Ryan will be in the 4th grade and his excitement level is considerably lower than his sister’s.
When the concept of summer vacation was first introduced in the US, it was so that kids could work on the farm all summer. Certainly, those kids did not feel like they were on vacation. These days, almost nobody’s kids work on a farm and most of them spend three months allowing their brains to turn to mush. I try to prevent the inevitable slide, I buy things like workbooks before the end of the school year and we plan to go to the library twice a week but then other stuff happens–we opt for the pool or the mall, they want to have friends over, I crave the solitude of grocery shopping by myself.
I enjoy the lack of structure we have in the summer and any day I don’t have to pack a lunch is a good day. Still, that lack of structure almost always leads to boredom. My kids have to pay me a dollar every time they say “I’m bored”, but they worked around it by coming up with code words for boredom. We all know that boredom leads to siblings trying to kill each other. It’s survival of the fittest. The biggest kid with the best right hook gets to use the computer. I tell myself the kids don’t really want to kill each other, they’re just bored, but I do worry about it every time that blood is shed.
I often come up with a list of activities at the beginning of summer vacation. We plan to visit museums, make cookies for the elderly, or all learn to read braille. By the end of the summer, we have visited one museum and the kids complained about it because I picked the one they’ve been to 100 times. We have made cookies but we didn’t share them with anyone and honestly, I don’t have the patience to learn braille.
So, my kids are heading back to school with mushy brains but we still had fun. We traveled to see a few of the grandparents, we went to the Asian grocery store for Pocky (that counts as culture, right?) and everybody stayed up way past their bedtime.