How the Novel Came to Be

As a writer, I’ve always been interested in exploring universal human emotions — love, hope, fear, loneliness — and how they impact our actions, our choices, and the assumptions we make about ourselves and the world.

My mother died when I was very young, and I have struggled with that loss throughout my entire life. That experience informed who I am and, by extension, all the significant choices I have made.

Several years ago, I learned of a program — I Have a Friend® — created by Hospice of Santa Barbara that would enable me to use my experience in a productive way. The program matches adults who lost a parent as a child with children who have recently lost a parent. The adult serves as an example to the child that one can experience such a loss and still become as happy an adult as any other. Perhaps more important, though, the adult understands exactly how it feels to be in the child’s shoes, and no explanations are necessary.

At one point during my involvement, one of the counselors very offhandedly mentioned the idea of my writing a handbook of sorts for surviving parents.

That would have been extremely difficult to do because of all the variables — the ages of the children, whether they are boys or girls, whether the surviving parent is a mother or a father, the circumstances of the parent’s death, etc. — and because, my own experience aside, I am not a mental health professional and I bring no specific expertise.

Still, I was intrigued by the idea, so I decided to use fiction as a means of exploring the grief and sense of loss children experience when they lose a parent — in this case, a mother — and how the surviving adults can help them through the process of healing.

As I moved through the storyline, it occurred to me that when a child loses a mother, a mother and father have lost a child and siblings have lost a sister. Their grief is equally profound and has its own manifestations. I decided to explore those losses as well, and that’s where the protagonists and real conflict of the storyline originate.

The title of the novel references a line in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay Self-Reliance. “A foolish consistency,” he writes, “is the hobgoblin of little minds.” I read the essay for the first time as a junior in high school, and that line has stuck with me. I take it as an exhortation to be openminded, think for oneself, and not cling to beliefs or thought processes that don’t serve us. Those, I believe, are the hobgoblins.

As much as the novel focuses on loss, however, it is not a sad story. Rather, it is about finding the joy that exists on the other side of grief and accepting life in all its iterations.


The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven

of hell, a hell of heaven.      – John Milton


A Strange Deliberation
    posted 10/19/2015

Stages of Grief
    posted 9/23/2015

What Hurts?
    posted 9/13/2015

Say What You Want (and Need) to Say
    posted 8/30/2015

Not Just a Dog
    posted 7/18/2015

The First Law of Thermodynamics
    posted 6/15/2015

Believing in Happiness
    posted 6/5/2015

A Better ‘Why’
    posted 5/30/2015

Pendulum Wave
    posted 5/27/2015

Your Story as You Know It
    posted 1/24/2015

Lessons of the Fall
    posted 11/20/2014

How the Novel Came to Be
    posted 9/6/2014

Mother’s Day Without the Mother
    posted 9/5/2014

Everlasting Love
    posted 2/10/2005
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