Like most writers, I write because I’m drawn to put my thoughts on paper. Okay, these days it’s more like converting thoughts into digital data, but you know what I mean. We as writers have something inside that we want to share.
For some of us, it’s a spirit of adventure we want to communicate to our readers, a mystery or thriller that’s been rattling around in the back of our minds. But for me the desire to write is a combination of exploring experiences and outcomes while living vicariously through a fictitious character. My characters are free to travel through events I survived, but they will be far more intelligent, less dramatic, more diplomatic, and all around handle it better than I did. Through my stories I can put my characters into settings I struggled with, then I can manipulate them and the conditions to come up with a far better ending.
Even more fun is to have the characters get opportunities I wish I had been given, and to live through their eyes as they get to do things I may never get to do. I get to explore what would happen if a personality were presented with the conflict and excitement of moving outside their comfort zone and into situations of success and triumph.
Writing gives me the opportunity to travel another road and walk in another’s shoes. So what happens when you come across someone who has actually lived the experiences of a character in your book? My mother used to say “truth is stranger than fiction” but when it happened to me and my work, I was caught off guard.
In my novel Hometown Girl After All, Julia moves to a small town to start over when her life in the city has become unbearable. She finds a love of gardening, which builds her confidence and she eventually opens a flower shop. Imagine my surprise when my daughter sent me a link for an article she read on boredPanda.com that reminded her of my book (link below). The brief article featured a florist’s Instagram feed, filled with photos of her beautiful flowers. The post said Erin had given up her life in the city to live in the country and through planting a few flowers her grandmother had loved, she found she had a gift for growing flowers. The photos in the article were exactly how I had pictured Julia’s flowers in my novel. And the way my daughter had envisioned it too, evidently.
Immediately, I had to follow the chain of links to find who this woman was. Erin’s blog Flower Farm Journal is truly lovely. One of the things I love most, is that the whole front page is devoted to promoting other women who are florists, farmers, and photographers, like herself. What a refreshing view in this day and age of never ending self-promotion! And it keeps getting better from there. As you click through pages of Erin’s site, you find tutorials on how to grow beautiful flowers for yourself. I could spend hours reading these pages filled with brilliant photos.
As I read the story of Erin’s farm for the first time, I felt as if the spirit of my book was coming alive. Julia’s story in Shabby Chic after All is one of recovery, unexpected friendship, love of neighbors, and healing. I was thrilled to read the following quote from the “Our Story” tab of Erin’s Flower Farm Journal web page.
“Years ago we left the hustle and bustle of city life and moved to the Skagit Valley to pursue a slower, simpler and more intentional lifestyle for our little family. We dreamed of eating fresh vegetables from our garden, tending a flock of chickens and planting a small orchard. Shortly after we moved in, a generous neighbor brought his tractor over and tilled up a new plot of ground so that we could plant a garden. His kindness that day offered a glimpse into what country life would be like.”
In my novel Julia finds healing through the growth of her garden as well as love and friendship as it draws people to her. Here is another quote from Erin’s page.
“…word got out and someone ordered a jar of flowers for a friend. I’ll never forget that day as I nervously knocked on her door and awkwardly thrust the bouquet into her hands. Surprised, she buried her face in the flowers and tears immediately welled up in her eyes. She was instantly transported back to her own childhood summers, to a time of great happiness and to her own grandmother’s garden…right then and there I knew I had found my calling.”
I’ve personally have never had the opportunity to move to a small town in the country and start a flower shop, but in my mind it felt lovely. It seemed like a scenario that would be healing and promote friendship and confidence. I couldn’t be happier to see, at least for one woman, this has been a real life experience. Erin’s business has grown far beyond anything Julia ever dreamed in the novel, bravo Erin! But who knows, maybe Julia will return someday in another novel, and her dreams may have burst their seams as well.
Thank you Erin for being an inspiration to many, and for living your dream. I encourage you all to check out her blog and enjoy the gorgeous flowers and photos that she creates. And never stop dreaming!
The Shabby Chic movement, and my romance series it's inspired, are all about seeing beauty in the old and worn. My leading ladies find solace and satisfaction in some old thing with a great patina. This concept lends well to the core basics of Earth day, which this year is April 22. Reuse and recycle, love it and find a way to put it back to work, in order to help save the environment. No need to throw away items that could offer more function. My grandma always said “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without,” and I couldn’t agree more. Take a moment this week to talk to a friend or family member about the advantages of recycling, especially if your re-loved item turns out beautiful!
What is it about spider infested, filthy old things that make my hearts race?
How could dragging and manipulating a half ruined piece of furniture that weighs more than anything I ever lifted in my heyday at the gym, be so thrilling that instead of collapsing against the wall with my eyes bugging, I still have the energy to circle the thing with my eyes shining?
When did roaming the paint department looking for brushes and rollers and tape become more fun than the shoe store at the mall?
At what point of my life did I decide shabby was better than shiny, old was better than new, and something that needed completely worked over was so dang attractive?
When did I decide that an old farmhouse with no plumbing or electrical was my dream home?
I may never be able to pinpoint when the shabby chic bug bit me, but I’m so glad it did. I’m more productive, less wasteful, more creative, and far more stiff and sore. My thoughts wander through the possibilities of an item; what is once was, what it could be, and then what would it be if I did something entirely new with it. I stop to chat with folks about their gardens and their projects. I search out the odd little shop with an artistic owner rather than a brand name box store.
Did this happen when I wandered into that first little boutique and my mouth fell open in surprise and pleasure at someone else’s creativity? Was it the day I looked at the item thinking I understood what it was, and yet someone had come up with another way to use it that was gorgeous?
Or maybe my heart had simply forgotten how much I’d loved crayons and play dough and finger paints.
All I know for sure is that as my attention narrowed to focus on what some call a trend, my heart and mind opened to encompass a broader and far more colorful world.
I’m happy to report that this week I got back final proofs for book two of my Shabby Chic series! I received not only the book block, which is the formatted version of the text part of the book, I also received the cover design! Needless to say, this blog is late because I’ve been up to my eyeballs in proofreading.
For some reason I can work for months on editing and rewrites of a novel, but when I see the cover design, the book finally seems real. The digital artist at Friensen press, along with my author rep Brelan, have a done a great job on both novels to come up with designs that reflect the core of my story.
I loved the grubby feel of book one to represent Tara and her issues, and I am just as thrilled with the outdoor rusty garden jibe they sent me for Book Two. Julia would love the peeling teal paint and the roses on the back cover.
If you’d like to see what book two, Shabby Chic After All, will look like, you can check out the front page of my website. Authorkirstenfullmer.com
This morning I find myself on a bumpy plane ride home to West Virginia. With no major airports in our home state, the trip is all small planes and checked bags. My finger hovers in the air over my tablet, attempting to touch the correct selection for Sudoku, only to have the plane pitch and bounce and I hit the wrong number once again.
It’s been an exciting and eventful month of travel and grand babies, but now I get to return to my quiet empty nest, to enjoy steaming mugs of coffee over an early morning table across from my husband, and curling up on the sofa with my little Bingo dog.
I miss the grandbaby, sweet little Lucy, even now. Her velvet soft skin and squeaks and grunts will have to be transmitted to grandma by video clips and Skype. As we descend and the plane hops from side to side down through the clouds, my mind already slips back into my novels, to Smithville PA, where book two of the Shabby Chic trilogy is nearly ready for print. The final proofs will be arriving this month for review. Julia and Chad will make their debut mid summer, and I hope you all enjoy another fun filled visit with Tara and Justin.
Book three of the Shabby Chic trilogy is taking shape as Lizzie and Elliot butt heads planning the opening of the day spa. Lizzie loves her tiny prairie style farmhouse, so my days will be filled with helping her design and decorate her home as she finds her way through adjusting to small town life. Rusty vintage treasures and furniture with chipped and natural finishes will fill her rooms, herbs will be hung to dry in her kitchen, and her weaving loom will arrive.
Elliot, completely out of place in the country, will grapple with the craziness of Smithville folk as he falls for Lizzie and her off beat ways. Justin and Tara may manage to entice him to stay on longer and design a new project with Justin, similar to the one they’d originally planned for the project Tara claimed in book one.
So it’s true, as wonderful as traveling and family may be, and it was truly a gift to be by my son’s side to greet his new daughter, getting home is also a treat. I can’t wait for Bingo to jump around my feet and bark happily when I arrive, for quiet evenings walking through the wooded beauty of our neighborhood with my husband as Bingo sniffs along our well-worn rout, snuggling into cold sheets with my sweetheart, and of course, returning to the world of my novel friends.
I’m out of state this month visiting my wonderful son and his beautiful wife. The two of them are blessing us with our first grandchild very soon! I came out early to help them move and set up their new home in preparation for the baby, and lucky for me, my daughter-in-law loves to shop second hand stores!
In the last week we’ve found mismatched but fabulous china, a sweet pedestal table with cottage style chairs that just need fresh paint, an old brass head board, and lots of frames for family photos, all in second hand stores. We couldn’t find any old dressers so we got a few unfinished wooden chest-of-drawers to paint. Painting furniture always reminds me of my mother teaching me, with news paper spread across the driveway, brush in hand and bandanas ties around our heads.
The moving is done now and we can settle into the joy of sanding and painting. When that is finished we have baby quilts to tie and bind as we await the arrival of the baby. I can’t think of a better way to spend time with my adult kids than passing along the joy of furnishing a home for their family.
May you all find a treasure for your family to enjoy in the coming weeks!
Invariably, the first question people ask me when they hear I’ve written a novel is “What’s it titled?” I answer Shabby Chic at Heart and some folks, especially men, fall into a stunned stupor. Their faces go blank and their eyes glaze over. Some people politely say, “Excuse me?” as if they didn’t hear what I said, and others blatantly ask “What is that?”
But once in a while, someone asks me about my books, and when I say Shabby Chic at Heart, they say “—like the furniture?” or “Really? I thought you said it was a novel.”
Either way, whether you love shabby chic or not, writing a novel about it is… well, a novel idea. Haha. No seriously, when I was trying to decide what to write about, I considered what I love; the everyday things that capture my passion and make each day more fun. I wondered what I could write that was both wonderful and difficult, and something that other women might enjoy reading.
My own passion for collecting cast offs has morphed into multiple parts of my life, but when I considered writing about it, the fuse was lit! I quickly realized that I could do anything I wanted to do with old furniture, vintage building parts, fabric, and flowers in a book! I could saw items in half without tangled extension cords and paint without waiting for it to dry. I could own a huge and fabulously successful shop or travel to the ends of the earth in search of magnificent vintage items. The things I could do were endless! Instead of opening my purse, I could write about it, fulfilling my wildest decorating dreams!
As I organized my thoughts of story lines and characters, I had to line up the people in my mind with the type of Shabby Chic they would embrace. The options were endless, the number of settings incalculable. I ultimately decided to start close to home in South West PA, so I could write about the places that inspire me.
Yes, writing a novel about women who love Shabby Chic and the men who think they’re crazy, is something new and different. My novels don’t fit neatly into a romance category, like cowboys or vacation love, but most of us who love to find cast off items and make them into something different don’t fit the norm either.
If you love to wander through flea markets and imagine how you’d remodel all the lovely items you can never actually buy, join me in the wonderful world of a novel, where the furniture turns out beautifully, the settings are romantic, and the men shrug and carry things and love you all the more for it. Shabby fiction fabulousness!
And so it begins! My first novel is published and I am officially a blogger. I hope some of you have seen the book, Shabby Chic at Heart, if not, give it a go! Check out the novel’s Pinterest page to get a glimpse of the characters and the fab shabby chic design in the novel. http://www.pinterest.com/kirstenfullmer/shabby-chic-at-heart/
Writing it was a journey I never expected, which caused me to fall head over heels in love with my characters. I was entertained and thrilled with their antics daily. My daughter thought I was crazy and kept telling me that they weren’t real people. I beg to differ, they just live in a different universe.
Of course I want to discuss my novels, but I also want to talk shabby chic of all sorts as well. Do you shop flea markets? Thrift stores? Boutiques?
I first fell in love with shabby chic and vintage junk hunting when I lived in Tampa Florida. The area of town known as South Tampa is boutique mecca, and I mean every type of boutique. Furniture, clothing, baby gear, gardening, junk both old and new, fabulousness in every form. Some smart person set up a cigar shop and lounge next to three boutiques. How lovely! You can hunt through shops in peace for hours and the hubby is happy on the way home. Brilliant I say!
I’ve sent years filling my house with fabulous re-loved pieces, ruining my clothes with paint smears and filling room after room, wall after wall, then I moved on to renting boutique space, which was just far too fun.
Check out these links to some of my favorite Boutiques in Tampa.
Much to my husband’s relief I now write about saving junk, leaving him room to walk through the house and park in the garage. Not to say I don’t hit flea markets on my way to get groceries, or drag him through thrift stores, but for the most part he just has to ask me things four times before I look up from my alternate Shabby Chic reality, and he’s okay with that.
So here we go… BLOG with me!