The Innocence of a Novelist

InnocenceA novelist can be accused of many things but innocence hardly seems likely.

It’s such a peculiar life, sitting at  a desk typing stories into a keyboard and screen. Real life goes on around you, but while you’re in the story, that’s where your focus lies.

You start feeling proprietary about places and events. Whenever someone mentions the Coronado Bridge, I stand taller and bore then with facts (“did you know it’s number three for suicides in the United States?”).

I can tell you all about the Hotel del Coronado; point out fine restaurants in Coronado and  discuss the challenges facing Navy SEALs in their domestic life. (Did you know they can’t carry cell phones on their mission? GPS will give them away.)

You’ve probably studied craft, may even have a critique group to review your work. Your spouse knows you’re writing and your kids do, too.

Your friends and relatives may even ask from time to time how things are going.

All of that happened to me when I wrote my novel Bridging Two Hearts.

I even blogged about the experience in a number of places. (Coronado? Maps? Kindness of Seals? Need for  Massage?)

When my novel was published. I held the paperback in my hand with my name on the front cover.

Who knows how many times I’d read it, taken it apart, thought through the events and talked about the story line?

One day, Bridging Two Hearts launched into the world like an eager child and was gone. Strangers picked it up and read the story of Josh and Amy. Friends from church read it. Several relatives read the book. A group of my on-line friends read it.

And then they all began to talk to me about it.

I’m not really sure what I thought would happen. In my innocence, this extrovert hoped people would like the Navy SEAL story and gain insight into that difficult life. I expected some women would savor the scenes at the spa.

What I didn’t expect is they would talk to me about my novel.

The first time I overheard someone at church talking about “this Navy SEAL Josh and his girlfriend Amy,” my head whipped around.

“Yeah, I really liked your book,” the friend said.

Why was I shocked? Hadn’t I sold it to him?

At my launch party for the book, we set up the gelato cones and my neighbor exclaimed, “You’re not going to do that scene are you?”

How did she know?

“As soon as you invited me to the party, I bought your book. It was fun and I loved that scene.”

In all innocence, I guess I was surprised people would actually read it, much less comment.  Reviewers were kind, friends sincere, and even the ones who didn’t care for a “guy romance,” were complimentary.

I got several reviews that disappointed. Several delighted me. People asked me to write another Navy SEAL story.

(I’ve got another planned).

I took six copies to Zumba on my birthday and gave them all away within minutes. Dancers nudge each other even now, “she’s the writer.”

It makes me grin like a silly woman, but it also feels odd–the people who lived in my mind for all those months of writing the book are now known to total strangers.

I’m humbled.


And I agree with everyone.  Mrs. Admiral Martin was my favorite character, too!


Why was I surprised people had read my novel Bridging Two Hearts? Click to Tweet

What a surprise! My friends read my novel! Click to Tweet

Do novelists a favor–talk to them about their books and watch them flinch. Click to Tweet


Note: While Bridging Two Hearts was published three years ago, it lives on. Last week a reader wrote to thank me: Josh’s words on fear had been meaningful to her and an experience in her life.

An email like that for an author is extremely gratifying and a real blessing. If you like an author’s book, send them an email telling them–and post a short review on Amazon. Thanks!




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  1. kda61

     /  January 29, 2016

    Thank you for sharing your very personal thoughts about your writing journey. I never thought much about the effect of writing a book review until I started following authors on Facebook and Goodreads. Congratulations on your success!

  2. Michelle Ule

     /  January 30, 2016

    Thank you. Like several things in life (who remembered my first born would lose his teeth?), I was caught by surprise when people knew the story. It’s fun and interesting to hear others’ take on characters I thought I knew pretty well . . .

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. Encouraging!
    Yesterday in our little church, we were privileged to hear Marcia Whitehead, subject of the documentary, “Laundry & Tosca.” In NY, her voice coach had previously worked with Placido Domingo! What a voice! I wasn’t the only one quietly brushing away tears during her performance.
    Wanting to support her ministry afterward but didn’t bring our checkbook. What to do for the interim? I impulsively grabbed a copy of my novel from the library and gave it to her. “I’m pretty well acquainted with the author.” My wife blew the whistle on me, tho.
    Then Marcia went ecstatic. A real author? I’ve never … on and on, bless her heart. I was wishing I’d written something like “War and Peace,” or could’ve at least included a gelato cone.
    Encouraging, indeed.

  4. Michelle Ule

     /  February 1, 2016

    Love it! How funny we doubt ourselves, and don’t claim the title. BTW, I have a copy of your book, Daughter of the Cimarron on my Kindle–just haven’t gotten to it yet, Writer Sam Hall! 🙂

  5. A lovely book as you brought the characters and the place to life. I can imagine that you had to sacrifice and have a massage as research! Made me want to visit Coronado.

  6. I actually got out my ipad and used the maps as I read the story.

  7. Michelle Ule

     /  February 27, 2016

    Love it, Jo!. I had done so much research by the time I got there, I didn’t even need a map–which surprised my husband. “I thought you’d never been here before!”

    Well, I’m also the daughter of a geographer, so my mind tends to go that way, anyway!


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