Every now and again I read a novel that stays with me long past the time I finish reading it. TJ Fox’s debut novel, An Unexpected Turn, is one such book.
I discovered TJ through her blog on WordPress. She’s one of these incredibly talented Renaissance-type women who seems to be capable of doing just about anything she sets her mind to, whether it be writing, photography, decorating, or any number of other endeavors. And she does them all beautifully. Check out her blog at http://tjfox.net.
Recently I recommended TJ’s book to a friend and I started thinking about the incredible way it came to pass. Having spent nearly ten years writing my first novel, (eight of those years it spent on a shelf, nearly forgotten), I was amazed, impressed, and flabbergasted to learn that TJ wrote the first draft for An Unexpected Turn in one week! Yes. Read that and weep, fellow authors.
I asked TJ how she came up with the idea for her novel:
TJ: I had a literal dream I couldn’t get out of my head after waking from it because of how improbable and ridiculous my rational mind thought the dream was. My brain wouldn’t let go of the questions and the “what ifs” that dream dredged up. I had to start writing all those thoughts down to get my brain to process it and it became a book, something that I never dreamed I would ever do. In a way, it feels kind of like I accidentally wrote a book.
Me: But you wrote it in a single week?
TJ: My brain was so obsessed with trying to answer those “what ifs” and trying to take a situation that seemed so over the top and impossible and figure what kind of circumstances would create an environment to make it be possible, that I sat down and wrote the entire first draft in a week. I would sit down in the mornings and write until I hit a problem I wasn’t sure how to get beyond. I’d then go to sleep and by morning, I’d have a solution and I’d start up again.
Of course, I spent so much more time on edits than I did on writing that first draft making the entire process so much longer, but a vast majority of the story was set in stone in that one week. It was one of those rare creative moments where it feels like the creation took on a life of its own and created itself while the creator was just a tool in the process.
As an artist, I’ve experienced similar creative moments here and there, but never on this scale or this completely. Even now, at three and a half years later (sheesh, I can’t believe it’s been that long already), I still struggle to believe it happened.
Me: Incredible and mind-boggling, but I’m glad it happened that way. Now, I’m a lousy interviewer, so I’m going to ask a “catch all” question. What is it you’d like future readers to know about An Unexpected Turn?
TJ: This one is always hard for me. To me, with the story evoking all kinds of emotions as the events unfold, it feels like if I talk about any of those events, even in very broad strokes, that I’ll take away from the emotional impact of the story for any future reader. And it IS a story that is all about the emotions, a lot of really sad emotions, but still laced with the feel-good kinds of emotions that make such hard events bearable. It isn’t like a major suspense kind of story that I’m going to be spoiling the big “who done it” reveal, but I’m never really sure how to talk about my book without feeling like I might cheat a reader from the experience if I were to say the wrong thing. The best I have been able to come up with in trying to describe it is that it is a story about a woman’s emotional journey to finding and creating family in unimaginable circumstances.
Me: That’s a really good description. I think I used a whole box of tissues while reading your book. I remember being shocked by your protagonist’s situation. I felt everything she was going through and became totally lost in the story.
Could we have a sample???
TJ: Again, because I struggle so much with knowing which pieces to share that won’t change the impact of the story, I’m just going to give you what I have as part of my blurb.
“When I take a good look at my reflection, I’m a bit surprised by the fact that the face looking back at me in the mirror doesn’t look any different than the one I’ve seen staring back at me for the last 27 years. I feel like I should look different. That my face should show the upheaval and the weight of the last several hours, that it should somehow show how much the course of my life has changed, but other than the mess from crying, everything is still the same. That seems wrong somehow.”
Me: Okay, now I’m crying again. Thanks, TJ!
You can find An Unexpected Turn on Amazon. It’s available in paperback and as an ebook on Kindle. It’d make a great gift, too.