In a recent interview about my book God Doesn’t Love Us All the Same, I was asked this question:
“What would you do differently if you had a chance?”
“I would start writing earlier in my life. I’ve always had lots of story ideas, but I never thought too seriously about being a writer.”
While I always had a desire to create, I never had a burning desire to create through writing. However, that changed after my mother passed away. With such a death so close to my heart, I couldn’t help but think about my elderly father. He had lived a very interesting life as a premier trumpet player for Ray Charles, in addition to recording and performing with Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Quincy Jones and many others. Growing up he had told me plenty of backstage stories, and even though he was a vibrant, funny master storyteller, as a kid I didn’t appreciate the specialness of it all. As an adult, I realized that my unborn grandchildren would not even know him. Suddenly I wanted to preserve everything I could as best I could about him, but I needed to use his own words and descriptions. So I decided to interview my father and write his personal stories down, hoping to capture the essence of his spirit. It was a valuable experience as a daughter to get to know my father outside of being “Daddy.” The side effect of that experience was that I began to think of myself as a writer.
When developing my novel God Doesn’t Love Us All the Same, I had a similar awakening, but this time the focus was on the subject matter. While I had been curious about his life stories of the homeless people I encountered on the downtown streets of my city, it took the fictional character to push me into getting involved. I wanted to know real stories – true stories. I went to different centers that helped the homeless and needy and before long I was a regular volunteer at a food distribution center. I didn’t plan to take the path towards writing or weekly volunteerism, but life gave me a direction and thankfully, my life is richer for the choices I made.
I have to admit, one of the most unexpected misunderstandings about my novel, God Doesn’t Love Us All the Same, is its title. Some people read “God” in the title and automatically think it’s a religious or spiritual book and become uncomfortable. Others think the full title is blasphemy and they are equally uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are readers who realize it’s a concept or frame of mind many people have or have had because of their personal experience – good or bad. It’s the recognition of the questions people ask in times of tragedy such as “Why would God let this happen?” or “Why do I (or they) have such an easy life compared to others who suffer daily?” The title represents those times when believers are discouraged, feeling that they’ve been forgotten by God and nonbelievers are encouraged that God does not exist. The title, which represents a state of mind, also makes for a great book club discussion!
In the book the main characters, Janine and Vera, are both struggling with this concept or state of mind, but for two very different reasons. However, in the end, the two who seemingly have nothing in common, actually have similar solutions to ease their heartache. They need to learn to forgive themselves, which is one of the most difficult and sometimes painful lessons to learn.