I had hoped to start writing the novel in January of 2000, but a couple of things happened that month. My third son was born, and I found out that the drugs my sister was taking to control her cancer were no longer working and that time was beginning to run out for her.
I spent the first six months of that year flying back and forth across the country to visit with my sister. Though I’m glad I did it, it was just about the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever gone through. Every time I went (every ninth day, I flew out for four days), my sister was a little worse. Yet, she always smiled, she never bemoaned her plight. She was certain she would beat her cancer, right up until the end. Unfortunately, she didn’t, and she passed away in early June.
During those six months, I tried to write a novel, but it wasn’t working. With my new son and my sister’s situation, I couldn’t concentrate long enough to make any writing worthwhile. Though I finished about 200 pages, there wasn’t enough of a story to justify continuing with what I’d written, unless I solved the problems inherent in the story. So I asked my editor to come down to help me with the problem.
Even working together, we couldn’t solve the problem and my editor finally suggested we come up with a new plot. “In the past,” she said, “you’ve always drawn on your family for inspiration. Who are you thinking about now?” “My brother-in-law,” I said. “Here he is, a nice young guy and suddenly he’s a widower who has to raise his kids on his own.” “Let’s work with that,” she said, and the first character became Miles Ryan, a widower, who had to raise a son on his own.
The basic idea for the story flowed from there and by the end of the day, I knew exactly what the story would be.