You Can’t Go Home Again—Thank Goodness
Every experience, good and bad, can serve as writing inspiration. Author Shannon Baker shares how some of her hardest times led to some of her greatest adventures on the page.
When I told my daughter I was writing a book set in the Nebraska Sandhills, she pulled a WTF expression. “But you hate the Sandhills!”
I popped off with, “I ought to get something good from my 20-year sentence there.”
But the truth is, I don’t hate the Sandhills and in many ways, I have great affection for the place and the people – just not all the time and all the people. My first contact with the Sandhills was driving across it on a scorching August afternoon, when the grass was crunchy-dry. I saw mile upon mile of vast nothingness, empty brown hills, few ranches, towns of 300 or less. It seemed wrist-slashing depressing.
But the next semester at the University of Nebraska, I hurled into love like a meteor crashing through the atmosphere. When he told me he was from the Sandhills, it seemed like a small inconvenience for an epic love. Full of optimism, I married him and off I trotted. A month later, sitting on our waterbed (does that give you some idea how old I am?), on a ranch five miles from the nearest neighbor as the crow flies, with tears streaming down my face, I tried to work out how I could leave this forsaken country and escape back to civilization. Realizing only a total flake would divorce after such a short time, I determined to adjust, assimilate, and even learn to love it.
I trained myself to find the amazing and beautiful. It wasn’t as hard as I feared. The fields of sunflowers, the crystal blue of a winter sky, the stars abundant as stones on a beach, completely undiluted by light pollution. I kept chickens, taught myself to cook, doctored cows and rode horses. I raised two phenomenal daughters there, made life-long friends, and a pascal of good memories.
The real sand in Vaseline arrived in the discovery of my husband’s five-year affair. (Yeah, my super-power is denial). Still, I stayed and tried to make it good for another five before I realized he kind of liked the idea of a harem. That’s when I bugged out. It’s possible I harbored some resentment for the man, the land, and everything about the Sandhills.
I moved to Boulder, CO, which is the best place on the planet. I started a new life. I fell in love again, this time with a man who loves me back.
It took me 10 years to regain my sense of humor about the Sandhills. It’s a wonderful place, full of unique characters. I’ve lived in places more naturally suited to me, but I know the magic of a quiet Sandhills morning and the surprising abundance of wildlife, the way everyone turns out for a baby shower or contributes to a fund raiser. Some of that sand sifted into my veins and will always be a part of me.
Now I love going back there with my heroine Kate Fox and all the quirky folks who keep worming their way into my stories.
Hate the Sandhills? Not at all, it brought me Kate Fox and all her great adventures. I even get to torture a cheating husband, and somewhere, a barrel racer is going to get her due.
I’m think I’m falling in love all over again.
Shannon Baker lived for twenty years in the Nebraska Sandhills, where cattle outnumber people by more than 50 to 1. Baker was named the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 2014 Writer of the Year. She now makes her home in sunny Tucson. She is the author of Tainted Mountain, Tattered Legacy, Broken Trust, among other books.
There's nothing we love more at Shelf Pleasure than a ..
Author and Shelf Pleasure contributor Karen A. Chase on how ..
One of author Mary Miley’s favorite things about being a ..
Author and police psychologist Ellen Kirschman, Ph.D., weighs the pitfalls ..
Little known fact about Shelf Pleasure's Kristen: she's obsessed with ..
Although Debbie De Louise has been a librarian and avid ..