Today, we are thrilled to welcome Anne Mateer as she discusses the story behind her new novel. Enjoy!
The Story Behind Playing by Heart
I’m never quite sure where my stories start. A character? A place? A situation? Whatever the birthplace, their really isn’t a story spark until you begin to ask, “what if?”
The genesis of Playing by Heart wasn’t really any different. I’m drawn to including bits and pieces of family history into my stories. The situational spark for Wings of a Dream happened to my paternal grandmother. What about my maternal grandparents? Any stories worth telling there?
My grandparents were awesome people. Not only did they leave us a heritage of godliness, they left us a legacy of education. They both—yes, both—received master’s degrees during the 1930s at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University). For my grandfather, that meant a lot of work in between semesters of study. For my grandmother, it meant waiting on my grandfather to finish so they could marry. Armed with her second degree, Grandmother sought a teaching job in Oklahoma. She found one, but it required her to take on an extra job as well—that of girls basketball coach. Now my grandmother was a lot of things, but she wasn’t athletic, even though she had an aunt who coached high school girls. But she accepted the job anyway.
I don’t really know what she encountered in that year, but that’s what’s so great about an imagination! Suddenly I had a girl in a slightly different era (1917) seeking a higher education. But what if she was thrust back into a high school setting? And what if she were pulled between “serious” pursuits and the love of music she’d denied herself in an effort to put her childhood nickname—Fruity Lu—behind her?
Did I mention that my grandmother’s nickname growing up was Fruity Lu? Yes, it was! She was a smart girl, but apparently a little lacking in common sense.
Throw into the mix of family connections that my son is currently in college to become a teacher and a basketball coach and both of my parents, two of my sisters, and a sister-in-law are teachers, and suddenly a cast of characters bloomed around Lula Bowman and her attempts to make sense of her life after putting her schooling on hold to care for her newly widowed sister.
My “story behind the story” is never really a neat package, as you can see. It’s bits and pieces of colored glass baked until they ooze into one object, a conglomeration that suddenly becomes a whole new thing. I love that part of the process, because isn’t that what God does with us? He takes the bits and pieces of our lives—our personalities, our failures, our successes, our family situations and experiences—and creates a whole new person in the light of His power and grace.
It’s my prayer that my stories reflect God’s creative work in some small way.