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Saturday, February 26, 2011

STARTING OVER WHEN LIFE PUNCHES YOU IN THE FACE

A few years back, when blogging was at its inception, I wrote on Amazon one day about a gander I’d seen often near an island road. He had lost his mate a while back, but still some days you would see him, regal and tall, looking at us narrow-eyed as he stood guard while his goslings crossed the road. The cars would be lined up, waiting as his young family waddled from a grassy knoll, over a strip of asphalt, to the harbor’s edge. I made the mistake once of getting out of the car to shoo them along because I was late for the ferry and this one silly little goose kept running in circles and that gander came at me, wings flapping. I did not know this until later, but geese mate for life. So after that, those times when he was alone at the edge of the harbor, looking a little lost, I felt a kinship with him. I thought perhaps if I looked into his eyes I would see the same emptiness I sometimes felt.

My husband and I met my junior year of high school. He was a year older, and we were together on and off until we married in our early twenties. Chris and I were married for twenty seven years and I had never once thought of my life without him. But one night a policeman knocked on my door to tell me he was gone, that he had died in an instant, and my life and my daughter’s life changed forever.

So now that you’re completely depressed, let me say that I have always felt I was lucky to have him as long as I did. That did not make the struggle of widowhood any easier, but it kept me sane for a long time…until I decided to write a book about a family like us, about a woman who has a great life, a loving husband, a successful business, four loud, independent and opinionated adults kids.

In a heartbeat everything changes and she has to start over. Maybe I was insane to tackle a woman’s most difficult journey. As I was writing BRIDGE TO HAPPINESS, I questioned my sanity too many times to count.

So many writers I adore, Pat Conroy, Danielle Steel, Elizabeth Gilbert, write about their own lives in fiction and memoir, recreating their own traumas as a way to release the pain or take them on a journey to a better place. Maybe they want to rewrite the outcome.
My title says it all. BRIDGE TO HAPPINESS. I choose to rewrite the ending, to tell a story about a woman’s journey to hell and back and then to love and joy and happiness again. I think I decided to write my own happy ending.

You would think a book about starting over might be depressing, and who wants to read that? (Not me, I lived it.) But I decided to tell March’s story honestly, her real pain, along with all the black humor that comes along with loss and our struggles to just get through the difficult times. March’s journey is not mired in only loss and grief, but in a mix of all the crazy things that we do to heal. And yes, I can eat three dozen cookies, an entire box of Wheat Thins, and spend too much money all in a effort to heal. I can laugh and joke at an pink Elvis urn that plays In The Ghetto just as I can drink too many Margaritas and sing Jefferson Starship off-key at the top of my lungs. I do not jog, so the book is really fiction. Whenever I think of jogging I remember an old, funny Henny Youngman line, “I can’t jog because my cigarette goes out and the ice cubes fall out of my drink.”

So I would like to invite you to come along the rocky, ugly, but sometimes laugh out loud road that March travels. We woman are strong. We can carry an amazing human spirit, and we can find our own happiness. Sometimes it’s just waiting around the next corner, or over the bridge ahead, or even…sitting right next to us.

9 Comments:

Blogger LilMissMolly said...

I agree that too many people are glass 1/2 empty people. I'd much rather think the best of everyone until proven otherwise. Welcome back! I missed you (and your books!).

February 26, 2011 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger Jill Barnett said...

Thank you, Miss Molly. New books are out or coming (historical romances). I think in these tough times, when the news can show so much pain and upheavel, we need to stay as positive as we can...even if it takes some work.

Best,

Jill

February 28, 2011 at 8:45 PM  
Blogger Maggie Boyd said...

I have "Bridge to Happiness" on my Kindle and look forward to reading it this weekend but I am curious - why Kindle as opposed to print? I have two copies of "Sentimental Journey" (I don't loan out the one I first read. I loved that book!) And so many of your others are favorites and sitting on keeper shelves, I would have liked to add this one too.

So - are we going to see a hard copy soon?

March 3, 2011 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Jill Barnett said...

That's great to hear. I love being on a keeper shelf. And I'm glad Sentimental Journey is still in print from my old publisher.

I'm very excited to have this book available in all the eVersions. So many of my books are out of print, which can happen when an author leaves a publishing house. For now, the books are only available in eVersions or used. I'm sure I will eventually choose to resell them.

A couple of years ago I went to a new publisher, so Ballantine Books will bring out my new historical trilogy in both print AND eBook. We're all very excited. I just have to write the last one!

Jill

March 5, 2011 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger DebStover said...

I just finished, and I'll never be the same. Thank you, Jill. Love, Deb

March 23, 2011 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger april said...

I'm slowly making my way through a reread of Bridge to Happiness. I'm usually a glass 1/2 empty kind of girl actually. Well, I guess I'm a "there's a glass of water" kind of girl. There it is, is someone going to drink it or clean it or just stare at it and wonder if it's 1/2 empty or full. Yep, that sums me up. Forget pessimist or optimist. What needs to be done. So, I don't mind a little realism in books as long as a story makes sense and gives me a bit of joy.

I'm very excited (to put things mildly) about the new books coming out though I'm still in the process of picking up the older ones in ebook (still only have 1 or 2 though, very close to having the whole collection).

Love the new clean website!

I know it's a trek especially considering it's in California next year, but are you coming to the RWA conference this year in NYC?

April 18, 2011 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger Jill Barnett said...

We have a big family reunion this summer, so I won't be at RWA. I might not go to RWA next year either. Disneyland was my first job and I just took the family there a couple of years ago.

Summer is special family and writing time for me. I went to RWA every year for almost 20 years, gave workshops, participated in panels, ran amok in the craziness. I gave back a lot. I'll go to San Antonio and San Diego for sure. Maybe Atlanta. I'll probably hit RT next year, or the year after.

Jill

May 1, 2011 at 5:55 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope Bridge To Happiness comes to Canada soon. It's the worst kind of teasing to have it there on Amazon... and then I click on it and it says "this item is not available at your geographical location". I'm not exactly sure why they can't release it in Canada. Is it because they have to put "u"s in all the words like favour, colour and loveur? Do they have to add "eh" at the end of most of the sentences? Add some polar bears and unshaved armpits to appease the locals?

Regardless, i'm sure it will be worth the wait, eh?!

I'm reading Carried Away right now. One of my favorites! I love how funny and sweet it is!

I once brought my horse into my house when I was 12 and my parents weren't home. It was pretty fun riding him around the fireplace in the rumpus room until he decided to ... well... poop. (is that a blog friendly word?). It wasn't pretty and I spent the next 2 hours scrubbing bits of undigested hay out of my mom's carpet. I always think of that story when the horse comes clopping in the castle.

I can't wait to meet you someday!

Laura

June 6, 2011 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Maria Tutko said...

Will you be writing again? I love your books.

April 3, 2017 at 11:38 AM  

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