About writing this book
A Signal for Redemption grew out of a single sentence that came to me fully formed. That sentence was the first sentence of the first draft, and it survived a few iterations — but it doesn’t appear in the finished novel. To give that original inspiration a moment in the sun, here it is:
Even as he shouted the warning, he knew it was the end of everything.
I was walking through a stretch of woods that borders a creek in a subdivision. The creek was once much more than it is now; it’s the slender remnant of whatever carved a long, steep-sided but broad trench. Up above, suburban backyards come right to the edge of the dropoff, but they stop themselves just in time. Trees cling a little desperately at odd angles where the bank has eroded from underneath, and from below, it seems like a landslide is imminent.
It was one of those sparkling spring days when the new leaves look so vibrant against the winter-dark tree trunks, and the creek seemed giddy. The park trail follows the creek, and sometimes it’s close to the water and sometimes it’s close to the slope of the hill. One of my favorite spots to linger for a few minutes is at a bend in the creek, where the water has kept going with its etching of the earth — the creek is about five feet lower than the trail. People have cut an unofficial path down to the water, so there’s a spot where it’s possible to stand at the top of the bank with a clear view of whatever wildlife happens to be enjoying the water.
I sat down on a rock there, and was idly thinking about erosion. I thought if someone in one of the backyards pushed over one of those tentative trees it would set a whole crashing tumble of rocks and trees in motion. At about that moment, a squirrel ran through the woods behind me — and I think somewhere in the world there must be a folk saying about how a single squirrel in the woods is louder than a herd of deer. I just about jumped out of my skin.
For a few weeks after that, every time I walked there, I’d think of that sentence and then mentally compose the next one. Pretty soon I had a whole scene, and characters were starting to come into focus, and that became the story I wanted to write.
That sentence isn’t in the book anymore. Like the rockslide I imagined, it just put the story in motion and the landscape changed. The scene is still included, though it ended up in a different form. The story I thought I was writing turned out to be the backstory of the novel I’m sending out into the world in a few months. I suspect a lot of life is like that.
You can read the prologue right here on the site, and subscribe to download Chapter 1.