How Do You Choose? Or Why I Wrote This Novel

DeLauné Michel, author of Aftermath of Dreaming and The Safety of Secrets, has graciously agreed to guest host my blog today. Michel says:

I was at a dinner party once when someone threw a question out to the group, “If you were stranded on a deserted island, would you rather be stuck with a man or a woman?”

My first response was, “A man, of course.” But then I started to think about it. And as much as I love my husband, I can talk to my best friend in a way that I never can with a man because I know she has felt exactly the way I have. But I still need my husband, so whom would I chose?

After I got married, a significant friendship in my life underwent a shift. It was as if just by signing that paper and walking down that aisle, things with my friend had changed, even though I really hadn’t, other than the option of Mrs. that I didn’t even use! As my friend and I struggled to get our friendship back, and to redefine what it meant, it forced me to think about that question, about being torn between a husband and a best friend. I wondered what sort of situation would make a woman be more loyal to her best friend than to her husband. Maybe a childhood trauma locked away with a life-long pact to never tell? And what if a woman lied to her husband to protect that secret? Could that ever be okay?

I realized that I didn’t know the answers to those questions, and that’s when I knew that they were the basis for my second novel. I wanted to explore deep-rooted loyalty between women, and how sometimes it can be a sword that cuts both ways, opening up whole worlds of safety within the friendship while exacting a price, as well.

When I started looking at loyalty, I also had to look at betrayal. And it occurred to me that one currency of intimacy in a best friendship is shared secrets, so I wanted to see what would happen to that relationship when its most powerful secret is given away, and given away thoughtlessly, like so many pennies dropped on the floor. There is such stark and deep knowledge of one another in an ages old friendship that I wondered about how some secrets are used to protect ourselves, while others are used to try to continue to be the person we think our best friend needs.

Then I realized that if there is any world in which secrets are at a premium, it is Hollywood. All of that shielding and hiding are essential tools in that town. I think one trait that distinguishes stars from other actors is their ability to appear completely exposed while in fact they presenting only and exactly what they want us to see. I felt that making my main characters, Fiona and Patricia, actresses in LA (though part of the novel occurs in flashbacks in south Louisiana where they grew up; I can’t let go of my roots!) would deepen their connection to secrets and revealing truths. Besides, my first novel, Aftermath of Dreaming, was mostly set in Los Angeles, and after living there for so long, I wasn’t ready to leave such a rich and provocative backdrop yet.

By working through Fiona and Patricia’s friendship in The Safety of Secrets, I learned a lot about loyalty and secrets between women. But I still have more to go. If you get a chance to read it, I’d love to hear what you think about how those issues play out in the book and in your own life.  And if I’m in your area on my book tour, come by and tell me in person. I’m traveling to Portland, LA, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, pretty much all of Louisiana, Jackson MS, Natchez, Memphis, Boston, Newburyport, and the New York area. The tour schedule is on my gather page.

Oh, and who would you chose for that desert isle, a woman or a man? Or is it a secret you’ll never tell?

12 Responses to “How Do You Choose? Or Why I Wrote This Novel”

  1. Bertram Says:

    Delaune, thank you for this interesting article. I am always fascinated by what makes an author write one book rather than another. It has to be something that takes hold and keeps the attention for the months or year it takes to write. Your theme is an important one, and I look forward to reading The Safety of Secrets.

  2. John Philipp Says:

    What an excellent premise for a novel, Delaune — and then picking the place where secrets are extremely important and having the most powerful secret betrayed.

    I always thought the reason for women sharing secrets was so that they would have “currency” to trade for other secrets from other friends. Maybe not.

    I think I’ll have my girlfriend read Safety of Secrets and then tell me whether it’s safe for me to read 🙂

    Thanks for sharing the genesis of your novel and good luck with it.

  3. James Says:

    Delaune, I love the topic. I’d been meaning to check out your book and this gives me more incentive. In my life, I spent more than 30 years as a single person and some of those pre-wedding relationships ran deep. The married life is indeed very different than the single life. I wrote about that in my first novel, Growing Up Single, now undergoing another round of edits.

    As for the desert isle question, I’ll stay quiet on that. 😉

  4. otherlisa Says:

    Wow, what a fascinating, sturdy premise for a book. I’m in Los Angeles – where/when will you be here?

    My answer: it totally depends on the the man/woman in question. How’s about that for a dodge?

  5. Rachael Says:

    Delaune, interesting article.

    I’ve worked my way through dear friends over the years. I’m currently on my third best friend and am recently married.

    If I had to choose, I would be ornery and choose both. Or possibly Christian Bale (thus not having to choose between my best friend and my hubby).

    As for secrets, they can destroy. My first best friend died when I was 8, so no worries on that front, and my 2nd best friend stepped into the void at that time. We stopped being best friends in the beginning of 6th grade due to her sharing a secret that I don’t think I’ll ever really be okay sharing with people. She and I haven’t spoken since. My third and current best friend was there for me through that, and knows the secret that was shared, and has been there with me through many hard things. We’ve been best friends for 12 years (yes, I know I’m a baby) and she was my Maid of Honor last October. She and I have a completely different relationship than my husband and I do. It’s evolved differently. So, in a way, they’re both my best friends, but they fulfill different parts of my life.

    I hope that makes sense…

    Rachael

  6. Suzanne Francis Says:

    The mechanics of choosing a topic for a novel is something I haven’t really ever thought about. Ideas are always banging around in my head, like popping corn, and I just let them out. It would be interesting to try and figure out where they come from, but I don’t think my thought process is as measured and careful as yours is, DeLauné! Thanks for a excellent post.

  7. Beth Says:

    A good question to ponder. I’d assume I’d choose a husband though I’m not married now. But what a quandry. And a great basis for a story. Secrets shared and secrets told always makes for deep drama.

  8. DJ Ledford Says:

    Great article, DeLaune. Fascinating subject. I plan to read your “Safety of Secrets”. You should consider a book tour to my area–one of the best Mystery independent bookstores in the nation, Poisoned Pen, is located in Scottsdale, AZ. The owner, Barbara Peters, loves this type of literature. Best of luck to you on your tour!

  9. Aaron Lazar Says:

    Intriguing concept, DeLaune. And thanks for sharing the wonderful thought processes that got you there! Your book sounds fascinating.

    I love tracing my stories back to their original inspirational moment. It’s such fun, almost like analyzing a dream, isn’t it? One can reach back in ones life and point to the moment the day before or week earlier where each aspect of the dream was born. It’s the same with our books, I think.

    Best of luck on your tour! I’m going to check out your Gather page and see if you’re touring anywhere near Rochester, NY.

    Warmest wishes – Aaron Paul Lazar

  10. Ann Barks Says:

    Great article! Pat, thanks for letting me know to check it out!

    DeLaune, I really enjoyed following your journey from an initial “hmmm” moment to the moment when it prodded you to begin plotting a novel and creating the characters who’d explore the issue.

  11. DeLauné Michel Says:

    Hey y’all,
    thank you SO much for those warm and thoughtful comments. I am so impressed and touched by the community here – I don’t see a lot of blogs with this! what a wonderful place you have created, Pat. It is clearly an extension of you. Thank you for having me here. It is a joy.

    I loved everyone’s responses to the dessert isle question. It’s a good one, isn’t it??

    John, a good number of men have read The Safety of Secrets and are still ambulatory and well, so fear not!! 😉

    James, congrats on your work on your novel. That is a great accomplishment.

    otherlisa, I’ll be back in LA in February. I produce a reading series there where writers read their work. If you want to get invites to those, go to http://www.spokeninterludes.com and get on the email list. we don’t give our addresses away!! it’d be great to meet you!

    Rachael, what a fascinating (and painful) history you have with best friends. It is a true mark of the kind of person you are that you still have a best friend after that early loss and an early betrayal.

    Suzanne, I loved your metaphor of popcorn – the thoughts about a book do feel like that, don’t they?? Maybe that’s why popcorn is my favorite dinner!!

    Beth, I find it a hard question to answer, too.

    DJ, thanks for your suggestion. I’m going to be at the Tucson Book festival next March, so maybe I’ll see about stopping in Scottsdale. and I hope you enjoy my novel, if you get a chance to read it.

    Aaron, your feedback was so interesting. it is like retracing a dream, and similar origin, don’t you find?? I’ll be in Utica, NY in march, and in Albany in February, not very near you, but… my website always has current info http://www.delaunemichel.com

    Ann, thanks for what you said, and reminding me of the long process it was. Always good to remember when it feels that the next one will never be done!!

    It was a real treat to be here with y’all. I hope everyone has a great weekend.
    xo

  12. Bertram Says:

    It was a treat to have you, DeLauné. Best of luck with your novel.


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