Message From The Author
When I was a teenager, I used to believe that my mother was just that – my mother. I’d seen pictures of her as a girl, but it always seemed like she sprang into existence fully grown, utterly prepared for the sole purpose of raising my brothers and me. To think that she’d had an entire life before I was born, a life filled with hopes and dreams, love and heartbreak, mistakes, heroics, disappointments, secrets… my mother? No, it just didn’t fit.
When I started writing for young adults, I thought a lot about my relationship with Mom, particularly during those ever-dramatic teen years. Around the time I was exploring the tumultuous mother-daughter dynamic on paper, our family suffered two immeasurable losses – my aunts Marcy and Sharon both succumbed to cancer. As we looked through their old photo albums, I saw people from a time I never knew: a teenaged Marcy skiing in Colorado with no hat, hair down past her waist. Sharon as a little girl in a frilly dress, her smile endless. Wow. I thought we were close, but there were so many things I didn’t know about the women in my family – so many things I’d never get the chance to know, simply because I’d never thought to ask. What else was I missing? What else was hidden beneath the layers of time? What if my mother had passed, rather than her sisters-in-law? It hit me hard then: no matter how much we think we know, everyone takes her secrets and memories with her when she dies.
And I had to write about it.
I started Fixing Delilah some time later, desperately trying to weave disconnected threads into a single story idea. In my head, I had a troubled sixteen-year-old and her distant, workaholic mother. Aunts with secrets. An estranged grandmother. Sisters. Well-intentioned deceptions. An old house in Vermont surrounded by maple trees that had witnessed everything. There was so much I wanted to say, but I just couldn’t bring it to life on the page. Frustrated and teary-eyed one night, I flipped on the radio in search of a distraction. A song I’d never heard poured from the speakers: Brandi Carlile’s "The Story." I didn’t know if she was singing about a romantic relationship, about family, or about something else entirely, but it touched me. Inspired me. That night, I heard Delilah and her family in those lyrics, and their story finally made sense.
Fixing Delilah is very much about finding connections from the past and discovering how shared history binds us in everlasting ways, even across time and distance. After her estranged grandmother’s death, while Delilah is digging up the old family dirt in Vermont, she reconnects with her childhood friend, Patrick. When the two reunite for the first time in nearly a decade, they quickly see how much is still the same between them… and how much isn’t. No longer bound by the sweet innocence of childhood camaraderie, their relationship takes a decidedly different path. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the story. I adore writing about falling in love and everything that can go wrong before it goes right, especially for a girl like Delilah. She’s stubborn and self-destructive, but she’s also vulnerable, passionate, and loyal, and Patrick is admirably patient with her. He’s also soulful and sexy and incredibly sensitive, kind of like the guy I married. ;-) My husband often jokes that I should write about zombies and aliens, but, hello?! It’s totally his fault that I write about love and romance and the kind of kisses that make your toes curl!
Falling in love. Mothers and daughters. Family secrets. Friendship. With so many layers, Fixing Delilah was a challenging book to write, but it was also rewarding. In creating Delilah’s story, I learned a lot about myself, my family, and the often-tested (but never broken) bonds between us. In the book, Delilah thinks: “I wonder how much we don't see. How much of our lives we witness and accept as truth when the rest of the iceberg – the heaviest, bulkiest part – is buried and invisible.” I often wonder the same, and whenever I’m struggling with relationship issues, I try to remember what Delilah eventually comes to know: there’s always more to the story than what’s floating on the surface. Inside each of us is an entire hidden world – secrets, fears, wishes, regrets, hopes, all of the unique life experiences that influence who we are. Like Delilah and the women in her family, we’re so very different and complex. But as human beings, we share something special with the Hannafords, too.
Frail and faulty and flawed, we're all capable of screwing up. But we're also capable of immense, unfaltering love.
- Sarah Ockler
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