Tuesday, 29 April 2014

When an old book gives new lessons

by Stella MacLean

I have a personal philosophy. What am I saying? I have many philosophies or what I prefer to call life statements. Today I want to talk about one in particular because it relates to writers and writing.
It is not which sorrow or hardship enters your life, but how you deal with it, and what you learn from it that matters.

After being ill for only six months my husband Garry died of ALS in July 2013. ‘Devastated’ doesn’t begin to describe my feelings when I left his bedside for the last time. What I experienced in the following months, and what continues today is the soul-crushing, life-altering experience of grief. There have been days when I wondered if trying to survive was worth the effort. I don’t have a magic formula for surviving grief, and how I’ve gotten this far in the grieving process is still a mystery to me.
But through it all one event really stood out for me.

I have a dear friend to whom I had given my hardcover copy version of Debbie Macomber’s book, Twenty Wishes. When I read the book in 2008, I found the story of hope, love and reclaiming life as inspirational. A few weeks ago my friend arrived at the door to return my book and to encourage me to reread it and make my twenty wishes.

I reread the book, and this time the story spoke to me in ways I hadn’t experienced before.
Because of the book’s renewed impact on me I emailed Debbie and asked her a few questions about how this story came about.

Here are the questions and Debbie’s very thoughtful answers:

This is a very uplifting story for anyone going through the grieving process. What inspired you to write this book?

I met a reader at a signing who had recently retired and in order to fill her time she made a list of all the things she'd been wanting to do, places she hoped to visit etc.  It wasn't a bucket list but a simple list to help her adjust to retirement. I thought it was such a great idea that I took it a step further. My first question was who would make such a list and why. I didn't want my protagonist to be retirement age so created the story line for widows.

Was Anne Marie based on someone you know, or a collage of friends' experiences? 

No. I do know of women who married older men but they accepted the fact there wouldn't be children.

Why did you choose twenty wishes rather than ten or thirty? 

I actually don't remember, but I think the woman who inspired the idea had 20 wishes and it felt like a good number so I went with it.

What is the single most important message you would like the reader to take away from this book?

Hey, I thought these questions were going to be easy. Off the top of my head, I'd say that I wanted to let those who have suffered significant loss know that life continues. We may not want it to, we may even fight to remain in the past, holding onto it with both hands, but we are forced to move forward.  There is still plenty of life left to be lived and we are meant to live it to the fullest.

Anne Marie is clearly the heart and soul of the book, and very vulnerable mostly due to the complicating factors in her marriage. Did you know when you started to write this book that she would go through all these steps to reach where she belonged in life? Or did she simply evolve as you wrote? 

I'm a plotter and I like to have a fairly good idea of where the characters are headed before I write the book, however in any book the characters take on a life of their own and evolve into far more than the author could anticipate. 

Thank you, Debbie.

Speaking of wishes, my one wish for all those who read this and who have experienced loss is that someday you will be able to walk in the light of life, your heart open and your spirit restored.

Stella MacLean is author of five Super Romances including the first book in the Eden Harbor series—The Doctor Returns.


  1. What a lovely post, Stella. Thanks for sharing Debbie Macomber's book. I hadn't realized the subject matter of the book and definitely plan to pick it up. My best wishes to you.

  2. Excellent blog and interview, Stella. I'm always delighted to read positive, hopeful pieces like this. Good luck with putting out more of the same. I admire you.

  3. I love this post, Stella. Grief is a difficult thing to go through. It's inspiring at least to know there is a light at the end if you look for it.

  4. What a thoughtful post. Thanks for sharing, Stella.

  5. Lovely post, Stella. And great interview. You're in my thoughts, always!

    Blessings! Renee-Ann <><