As I query agents about my finished manuscript, in an effort to feel more like a writer and less like something scraped off someones shoe (querying is akin to a job interview) I’ve embarked on writing another book. Choosing the right book idea is a huge leap. No, it’s not marriage but it is a Hollywood marriage. Something I’m going to hitch my star and career to for the next couple of years. Something that has to be good enough for people to spend their valuable time reading. This time I was stuck on two ideas and not sure how to proceed since one of them is something I’ve been kicking around since 2011 and also, it’s historical fiction, which I’ve never really written.
For help I turned to Laura Spinella and Barbara Claypole White, both not only talented, prolific and savvy authors but also super generous and kind. (Lucky you — they both have new books out.) I pitched both story ideas to them and within a couple hours they’d both responded — pick the historical fiction. Laura said perhaps this might create more work for me since historical fiction requires a lot more research but here’s the catch — I already had launched into writing a first draft.
For some reason I can’t recall, I had researched this story, written a very solid and workable outline and even written a very good first 18 pages and then — dumped it. I’m not sure what happened. Probably the publication of my first novel led me down the path of romance writing and away I went. Four years later (my first book was published in 2012) I’m going back to that same manuscript idea, picking up the outline and using the first 20 pages.
For those of you that don’t write novels, going back and re-reading something you wrote 4 years ago and finding it fresh and interesting is somewhat of a miracle. Old writing tends to make writers want to immediately go back and rewrite, which is actually a good thing. It means we’re progressing. In this case I read the old outline and thought, “Why in the heck didn’t I ever write this?”
Stealing Baby X, my new work in progress, is based on a true story about my own Nana, Gladys Tucker, who did in fact steal a baby from a hospital where she was a nursing student because she thought the baby was going to wrong family. There was a family in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan who wanted the baby but weren’t Christian. The nuns who ran the hospital (also an orphanage) thought the baby should go to a family of farmers (who wanted cheap labor) because they were Christian.
After impulsively grabbing the baby and running out the back door, my Nana hid the baby with a series of sympathetic families until a judge agreed to hear the case if she gave herself up. My fictionalized version adds a love story, quite a bit more adventure and a supporting cast of characters that didn’t exist. It’s more of a tribute than a re-telling of my Nana’s story. Also, I add a fun side note which involves Al Capone, who purportedly made treks to the nearby Moosejaw area where booze was possibly hidden in caves during prohibition. True story. I think. You’ll have to read the book to see how it all ties together.
Stay tuned for the first twenty pages of Stealing Baby X. With any luck, I’ll get them out before the holidays.
Ellyn Oaksmith is the bestselling author of 50 Acts of Kindness and other books. Ellyn is an eternal optimist, dog lover and always plotting something. Visit her at EllynOaksmith.com and join her newsletter for free books, new releases and great reading suggestions.