Each time I’m asked the question regarding how I came up with the idea for I Am Lucky Bird, I have to go back some years and try and remember. And each time I do, I discover another moment that assisted me in the development of the book.
One of the major themes in I Am Lucky Bird is that everything that happens in life happens for a reason. Marian even tells Lucky this not long after AnnMarie’s disappearance. In my own life, I firmly believe this to be true. There are no accidents.
I’ve had a fascination about this concept for years. I heard a story once about an 11-year-old boy who left his house and jumped on his bike to go down the street to play with a friend. As he veered around the corner, he was hit head-on by a truck and was killed instantly. When his mother was later interviewed, she said she’d called out to the boy just before he ran out the door, telling him to come back and grab his coat off the chair in the kitchen. He responded saying he didn’t need it. If he’d gone back to get his jacket, he would have saved himself a minute, or even just a few seconds, but maybe enough time to allow the truck to pass that deadly spot.
I remember thinking to myself, if he’d only just gone back to get his jacket, he’d be alive today. His parents wouldn’t be grieving over the loss of their son. It’s these kinds of stories that make me believe there are no accidents in life. There’s not always an explanation. And in the case of the boy in the story above, the things that happen to us are not always good. In fact, most of the time, it seems the things that happen to us are painful and tragic and dark. But for me, by believing we have no control of our destiny—that we can only tweak it a bit in the choices we make about how we want to live our lives—I can draw some strength in knowing there’s a purpose to everything, even though we may never know what that purpose is.
For Lucky Bird, Marian’s words ring strong and true until the very end. Why did she stop to pet the mares on the other side of the fence? Why did she break her bedroom window when she did? And most notably, why did she choose to stand at the edge of the Clark Fork River on the very night Jason Colare was taking his dog for a walk?
As a writer, I have complete control of what happens to my characters. I’m the one who gets to choose whether the boy returns to the kitchen to retrieve his jacket, and it’s a wonderful feeling. But in the real world, life is a set of dominoes, and I believe the path in which those dominoes fall is already predetermined. We just have to have faith in that path, even when one of our dominoes tumbles off the edge of the table.