Part I: The Genesis
There is no question about this project: it was huge.
The initial idea was huge. The fact that I wrote 20 pages that same night in an hour’s time was huge. In fact, those pages were the first major creative writing I had undertaken in four years. Up until then, most all of my writing endeavors were driven by the college classes I was taking.
The fact that it took me ten years to write the book was huge, as were many of the events that interfered with its writing: my college education, starting a new career field, the deaths of my father, my sister, and then my mother.
Once I was able to return to my creative writing, I knew finishing this book was central to my continued success as a creative writer. At the time, I vowed I would work on nothing else, creatively, until this book was finished. I kept that promise.
I kept that promise.
As much as I wanted to work on other projects, I knew my next career move, which would be full-time writing, was based on my finishing this project that had been consuming me for a decade. There wasn’t a day when I wasn’t thinking about it, how it would be a great book for high school or college classrooms. How readers would have a different perspective on the oldest Old English written story. How I could give a voice to a woman who had no voice in the original literature and who was talking to me loudly nearly every day.
And so, late in 2015, the book was completed – a major dream, a major goal. That achievement was a major event because the writing was not easy and the journey was fraught with obstacles.
In the mid-90s, following that success of writing and publishing several romances, I became a screenwriter where I was working with a handful of producers who wanted to see everything I wrote. As they told me, they loved my writing. Now it was about finding a good fit with my ideas.
Instead, my life and my work took a hundred-and-eighty-degree turn. A divorce had me entering the workforce full time, but I no longer wanted to work in an office or perform bookkeeping, both of which I’d done my entire adult life. While I was good at both jobs, they weren’t my passion.
Several events and almost two years later, I entered college, starting with my associate degree. As a result, I was writing all the time. I watched as my thinking changed about classical literature, including poetry; and then, the first class into my bachelor degree changed my thinking in a major way. The class, part of the medieval program at Western Michigan University was “Heroes and Villains” where I encountered Beowulf for the first time.
The Graduate Teaching Assistant, Rhonda McDaniel, who was my teacher was delightful. She challenged my ideas and cheered me on all at the same time. We had many engaging conversations both during office hours and in class. Because of Rhonda, I wanted to pursue a minor in Medieval Studies. I would lack that achievement by one class, but in my heart of hearts I became a medievalist and still am.
I would study Beowulf twice more, both times with different and engaging professors. Today, Beowulf is still one of my favorite books.
It was after these studies of Beowulf and as I began my third year of my master’s degree in creative writing, that I began teaching a Women’s Studies survey course, where we discussed women’s issues including books written by women or with a woman as a protagonist. A major recurring topic was how women did not have a voice in many instances in history or in literature. It was that thought during that fall 2006 semester that I realized Grendel’s mother had no voice.
All day I thought about her.
That night I sat down, in an hour’s time, I wrote the first twenty pages. I ignored everything to do with proper and grammatically correct writing and watched as the words poured from my fingers, through the computer keys, and onto the pages.
The euphoria I felt afterward was incredible. I’d found the zone again, not realizing how much I had been missing it.
Those pages became the genesis, which I titled that night and it’s a title that has not changed: Grendel’s Mother.
(to be continued Part II – The Development of the Story: The Choices I Made and Why)
I was so pleased to get to read Grendel’s Mother, Diana. As a former English teacher I was giddy at the chande to read such a wonderful companion to Beowulf. I wish you all best with this book.
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