I run every day. While I sometimes go find a trail, I generally just run around my neighborhood. One particular loop takes me past this fascinating house with red walls and white trim, a stone foundation, and intriguing garrets. Many years ago, while running the loop, I had a thought: I should set a novel in a house that looked something like that one.
As I ran over the years, the story evolved. The house — a much bigger one, with more porches and balconies — would be at the beach. The house would actually be a school. This school would be devoted to the domestic arts. I liked this idea because at the time I was working on The Cortlandt Boys, which features a museum devoted to scrapbooking and quilting. The school would be owned by a mysterious figure named Juliet. Why Juliet? At the same time this idea came to me, I was listening to the Indigo Girls’ Rites of Passage album. Anyone else who is, say, female and 40 years old might recall Amy Ray’s solo performance of “Romeo and Juliet” on that one.
I had a dream one night with a complex set of interactions between three friends. In the morning, I wrote down what I had envisioned. Juliet would be one of the friends. The others were Riley and Skip. I decided to write up this three-part novel for National Novel Writing Month in 2014 (when people write a 50,000 word novel in a month).
I did. It was…ok. Some interesting parts, some that didn’t work. In 2015, I decided to try again. Same characters, same setting. It was a bit better, if still not what I wanted. In 2016, I spent November re-writing it. Then I put it away.
Fast-forward to 2017. In the summer, my editor for Off the Clock wrote me that Portfolio was looking to do a few more business parables. Was I interested in throwing my hat in the ring? I’m always looking for new book ideas — I truly love writing books — so I said I’d come up with something. I tried to figure out what I could do.
And then I realized that I had a setting I liked. Indeed, around this time we rented a house on the Jersey shore for a week for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, and I realized this location was similar to what I had in mind. I had a name for a book: Juliet’s School of Possibilities. And a few characters, including Juliet, Skip, and Riley, who could be transformed and repurposed into my fable.
I wrote up an outline. Then I wrote the book itself in 3 weeks. Which sounds quick. Except it wasn’t…because in another version of this story, I’d been writing the book for years.
Very few things happen suddenly in life. Even things that seem like they do.
I’ve been enjoying looking at my little book over the past few weeks. I’m excited to send it out into the world. And I get a special little smile on my running route. Sometimes ideas don’t turn into anything. And sometimes ideas seem like they’re going nowhere…until they finally take shape.
In other news: Obligatory marketing note! Juliet’s School of Possibilities: A Little Story About the Power of Priorities is on sale next week. I have some fun pre-order bonuses for anyone who purchases the book before March 12th. Read all about them here, and follow the links on that page to pre-order through your favorite retailer. Thank you so much for your support.
One thought on “Juliet, and how an idea takes shape”
“How long ’til my soul gets it right
Can any human being ever reach that kind of light
I call on the resting soul of Galileo king of night vision
King of insight”