I was fortunate enough to be able to ask the author of Moon Over Alcatraz the following questions, which she was kind enough to answer for today’s guest blog.
How did the you come up with the idea for the piece?
Did you have to do any research to prepare for the piece?
Was it difficult to write about a couple who experienced such a great loss and betrayal; did any of the emotions of the characters affect you while you was writing the piece?
I wanted to write about a subject–the death of a child– that many people have experienced though it happens in many different ways. We’re constantly bombarded with Amber Alerts and news stories of children kidnapped and subsequently murdered. And I’d always wondered how in the world a parent can go through that sort of emotional trauma and not be forever scarred from it, or depressed for the rest of their lives, or end up committing suicide.
When I decided to write Moon Over Alcatraz, about a couple who lose their child at birth, I was aware it’s a subject rarely dealt with in the news. It’s so personal, the only people who know about it are the parents and their families and perhaps the social workers who visit the hospitals. I knew I’d have to dig really deep to be able to pull off the emotions Brandy would have been feeling after losing her baby.
My goal as a writer has always been to make the reader “feel” something while reading my novel – whether it’s laughter or happiness or sadness. I think the worst thing would be to have a reader feel nothing. I always want the reader to know my characters so well that when something goes wrong, they’re rooting for that character to make it through the hard times, or when something goes right, they’re sitting there saying, “Yay!”
But I chose a subject I hadn’t personally experienced – the death of a child at birth. However, I am a mom. I know what it’s like to love my children unconditionally, to feel so strongly about their lives that I would die for them if ever the chance came that there was a choice between them or me. And I’d never felt that way about any human being until I became a mom.
So, I channelled those feelings toward Brandy and through her, onto the page, when she lost her baby in the hospital. When I write it’s as if I’m seeing it before me on a television screen. So what my characters are living through, it’s like I’m watching it happening right in front of me then I write it down. I write about the environment in which the events occur as well as the characters’ thoughts and dialogue in that environment.
Was it hard for me to write this? Once again, it’s all about using what emotions you have within you (and in this case, it’s the love I have for my children) and imagining what I would do, how I would act, and how I’d feel if it happened to me.