What are your fears? Not the big, adrenalin-based ones – the sky-diving and mountain-summiting fears, but the ones that live inside you, so deeply intertwined into your being that you don’t even see them as fears anymore. They are simply you.
In my novel, JOY FOR BEGINNERS, I wanted to explore the concept of fear – both the big, sweat-inducing kind, but also the kind I call the “invisible” fears. To do this, I found myself with a dilemma – most of us know what our big fears are, but few of us are able to see those ones inside, the ones that are truly holding us back. Sometimes it takes someone outside of us, someone who knows us better than we know ourselves, to see them.
I had, unfortunately, recently been through the experience of being at the side of two friends as they each died of cancer. The conversations we had, the places we were willing to go, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, were unlike anything else in my life. Those conversations felt honest, real, and deeply important. When I was starting to think about writing JOY FOR BEGINNERS, I thought of my friends, the wisdom in their eyes, and I knew who would know what scared me most.
But I also knew that I wanted to explore the idea of what happens with a breast cancer survivor – the woman who has been to the edge and come back. How does she fit back into a body that has betrayed her? How does she come to love it and life again? And thus, the character of Kate emerged, and then her six friends.
At a dinner party celebrating Kate’s clean bill of health, Kate’s friends encourage her to go rafting down the Grand Canyon with her daughter – to claim her life again. Kate is terrified, and the women make a pact – if she goes, they will each do one thing in the next year that is scary or new to them. Kate agrees, on one condition – she gets to choose all their challenges.
It was a chance to dive in, to think about fear, and the celebration that comes after it, and the friendship that gets us through. It was a thank you to those two friends, who taught me to look at my fears head-on, and a hope that others would take up the challenge and do so as well.