Down The Rabbit Hole

Linda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Remember Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll? Alice was having a perfectly pleasant afternoon when suddenly a rabbit with a pocket-watch went scurrying by. And Alice was struck with the notion of following him, jumping straight down into a rabbit hole. And falling, and falling, and falling. Breathless, and wide-eyed though. The adventure of her life!

“It’s no use going back to yesterday,” Alice said at the end of it. “I was a different person then.”

So Miss Alice, I know just what you mean. I’ve been perfectly happy writing non-fiction for more than fifty years. A pleasant occupation, taking me all over the world and meeting all kinds of wonderful people. Like all the great people in all 50 of our great capital cities. History. Scenery. Adventure. I have loved every minute of the research, the documentation, the “telling what I saw, and experienced.”

I’ve been a great reader too, starting back at the age of eight when I first read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. That’s when I realized that someone actually wrote books – they didn’t just bloom like daisies on a library shelf. I knew my calling then. I wanted to be a Jo! But practical considerations guided my choices – after all, my father was an accountant, so right there you can see what turned me toward learning shorthand, and typing, and various secretarial skills. “Job security.”

Eventually though, even in the middle of raising a family, I managed to get a publications business going, doing newsletters for large corporations, and writing marketing materials for them as well. I taught college freshmen basic composition skills, I taught engineers how to write reports, and I taught businessmen how to write a good business letter. “Pursuant to” is SO not cool. That was cool.

I went on to write travel guidebooks – Chattanooga Great Places was the first. It took a year to do all the research, and pull it together. Yes, I ate in all 150 restaurants I reviewed. Yes, I went to every museum, and tourist attraction, and shopping mall. It was Chattanooga’s very first honest-to-goodness guidebook! I wrote a weekly column for The Chattanooga Times as well, focusing on travel. And since 2012, I have written at least half a million words for Capital Cities USA, living in 50 different states, sleeping in all those different beds.

But I have never written fiction. Until NOW. Until I jumped down the rabbit hole and wrote Patchwork Love.

And I feel a little bit like Alice. There is no going back to yesterday. I am hooked. The process of creating something from pure thin air makes a person reach SO DEEP, and SO HIGH, that nothing will ever be the same again. I had no idea what Louisa, and all my revered author-friends, were really all about, before this. Mark Twain was more than a very funny, and very crotchety, man. He saw something nobody else could see, and took the time to write it down, so maybe we could see it too.

And writing fiction is hard work, did you know that? Doing the research for non-fiction writing is certainly hard work, and so is fact-checking every last thing to make sure you get it right before it hits the printer. But fiction writing requires fact checking against your own mind. I once read that one of my favorite fiction writers, Anne Tyler, was so careful in getting all the details about each character “right” that she actually drew a floor plan of their house, with furniture placement, and the view from the windows. That was so she could know exactly what that character could see, where they would sit, what they would do.

The most unexpected thing about writing fiction is that you fall in love. I dream about the precious people that have birthed themselves in my imagination; they are as real to me as any family member, in fact, much more so, because I am on intimate terms with their innermost thoughts, and their longings.

So when does this labor of love make a public appearance? And what is it? It’s a darned good story, that’s what it is. It’s about a man and a dog, two lost children, a community full of secrets, and the magic that happens when they come together. And the moral is: when you help someone who is lost, you may wind up finding yourself.

I began writing last November, getting up at 5 a.m. seven days a week and giving up almost all my community activities to FOCUS. I completed the manuscript (after editing and re-editing, re-writing, even adding another character or two) in May. Right now the cover is under design, and the text formatting is underway. That’s very close!

Watch for Patchwork Love in September. It will be available on Amazon, and other outlets too. And once all of that is set, available as an eBook. Here’s what you’ll see on the back of the book.

Famous author Merit Brown came to the southern mountain town of Wake Robin to hide after tragic loss. Susie is the collie who showed up at his secluded cabin badly injured. She jauntily wears the patch he made for her damaged eye as they walk the woods path to the creek every morning before Merit settles down to write.

Until the shocking morning they find two abandoned children – a girl huddled by the creek bank who won’t speak, and a little boy hidden under bushes in the water and the mud, unconscious and nearly dead.

Suddenly Merit and Susie are back in a world of cruelties and kindnesses, of grief and overwhelming joy. As they help Jonathan and Trish, we are drawn into the lives of an entire community. Emotions hurtle us forward as single mom Carrie Ann makes one last bad choice; the heavy-handed ruler of Turner Farms futilely attempts to save son Natty from a gruesome death; silver-haired piano teacher Auntie Love discovers the answer to a question nursed for 40 years. There’s the mystery of a man named Mudge, a black cat clock, a witch, a cotton-candy cone, a quilt. And at the very end, Merit learns the most surprising secret of all.

Burton’s vivid debut novel has the horror and suspense of a kidnapping, a murder, a suicide, a rape. But it avoids all sensationalism. At its shining heart is a story of empowerment and love. And courage – that’s the most important thing, for sure.

Author Bio

Linda Lou Burton is always on the lookout for new adventures, new friends, and new stories. Burton has cast her net wide, traveling from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica, and living in all 50 states in a two-year Journey Across America. “I’m interested in how people feel about ‘home,’ wherever that may be,” she says, “and I’ve spent my life listening, observing, exploring, discovering, and then sharing what I’ve learned.” Born in Jasper, Alabama and newly settled in Arkansas, this University of Tennessee graduate and proud grandmother of eleven has been writing more than fifty years. Patchwork Love is her first novel.

There is no going back now. My next fiction project is a book for kids entitled Bobby’s Absolutely Amazing Adventures in the Capital Cities. A perfect blend of fictional characters laid right on top of absolutely amazing facts!