The Story Behind The Drummer's Widow

It doesn’t matter what happens to us, it matters what we do with it.

This is a journalistic blog. A forum for me to express what is foremost in my mind—the launching of my new novel The Drummer’s Widow which I’ve spent the past several months preparing for publication (Publishing will be discussed in another blog as part of the series: The Making of a Novel).  When I began writing The Drummer’s Widow, three years ago, my husband of thirty years was in remission. (In my next Making of a Novel blog, I’ll go into how this title came about and its book cover.) And though my overwhelming fear of becoming a widow had dissipated along with his first cancer, multiple myeloma, I was compelled to write an “almost” story of how I imagined it would be for a widow to reinvent her life after her husband’s death. By this time I had read many widow memoirs and was taken up by their courage to share their experiencewith their readers. Their stories saw me through many sleepless nights and gave me courage to go on with my “almost” story. Abruptly, one month ago (don’t know exactly when), to use a popular Virginia Woolf phrase, "life interrupted" my publishing preparations. My husband was diagnosed with a second cancer, lymphoma, and I slammed up against the reality that my fiction could actually become true. Having sent out pre-announcements of my new novel’s release, the possibility of this “reality” again presented itself when I received sympathy notes from some people who knew my husband was a drummer and didn’t know the book was an imaginary novel. I suggested to my husband that we postpone the novel’s release until after his chemo treatments or change the title but he insisted that I go ahead with it, so here it is. Alice Munro has said that some of her stories are “almost stories” because they are “autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact.” That’s how Marisa came into existence: she was the widow of my imagination but she was also my worse nightmare. The threat of my husband’s death has hovered over me for the past ten years and, no doubt, it influences my writing. For me, like for anyone else who loves a cancer patient and willingly becomes their caregiver, my unrelenting fear during my husband’s long and complicated illness compelled me to move more deeply into my own heart and soul where I found Marisa’s story waiting to be told. Nora Ephron learned from her mother, who was also a writer, how to make the best of what life offers through her writing. "No matter what happens,” her mother was fond of telling her, “It's all copy." My understanding of that is, “It doesn’t matter what happens to us, it matters what we do with it.”