I’ve been asked a number of times over the past year where the idea for I Am Lucky Bird came from. Did I endure the kinds of trauma Lucky Bird endures throughout the story? If so, did I write the book to help me come to terms with my own past? Or, do I know someone like Lucky Bird, and did I write the book for her?
The answer to both possibilities is no. Quite the opposite of Lucky, I had an amazing childhood with two loving parents and three wonderful brothers. To this day, we’re all very close. I haven’t endured anything like Lucky Bird does, nor do I know anyone who personally has.
I can’t remember when I started writing short stories, but my mom has an entire collection of them in a hope chest at her house in Port Ludlow, Washington. On a visit there last year, I pulled the stories out and read through them, and I discovered a common theme. Like Lucky Bird, the characters in all of these stories were struggling—a sister trying to come to terms with the suicide of a younger brother, a daughter returning home to make amends with a father who’d abandoned her at a young age, a mother in search of a son who was kidnapped at the age of five. And I wondered, why does a woman like me—a woman who’s had more ups than downs, who’s never suffered a severe loss (my biggest obstacle in life so far is an amicable divorce), who’s never been abused or mistreated—choose to write about hardship and pain and loss? Why are these the stories I write?
I think Lucky Bird—like the sister, the daughter, the mother—came to me because I’ve never experienced her anguish. I have no “real” connection to any of her suffering. Instead, I have a deep-seeded desire to help someone like her. I imagined what it would be like to be Lucky Bird. How would I want my story to end, and what would I need to do to get there? I did the same with the sister, the daughter, and the mother in my short stories, and although I had nothing in common with any of these characters, I wanted to help them. I wanted to guide them through their suffering and lead them down a better path, much as I did Lucky Bird.
I guess the idea for I Am Lucky Bird came from a need to explore the unknown and connect with unfamiliar characters. As evident in past (and future) work, it’s my reason for writing. Somehow, if I can understand the “unknown” and “unfamiliar”, I can, in my own personal way, fulfill that deep-seeded desire to help someone survive the unthinkable.
See the blog post on Nette’s Bookshelf Reviews!