“It matters where you’re going, not where you been.”
~Carrie Underwood, “One Way Ticket”
Dear Remi and Charlotte,
Whew. We did it. After four months, thirty-five chapters, and three-hundred-sixty-seven pages, we reached our destination yesterday. I hesitate to say we crossed the finish line, or we ended the journey, or even that we wrote the last word of our story … because, although those things are all true in ways, it is also true that our time together is far from over. I may not have sat down at my desk this morning, you may not have taken me along on your adventures, and yet still, you were never far from my thoughts. You haven’t been since I started planning this book back in January. You really haven’t been since I started writing in February. And even though I typed ‘THE END’ yesterday afternoon, it isn’t. It isn’t the end. It’s only the beginning.
I’m not going to lie: I was unsure at first about how this novel would play out. After spending two years with a different set of characters, after writing three books about them and finding out what a special place they carved into my heart, it seemed bizarre to leave them behind in favor of new people. It seemed bizarre to jump into someone else’s head and tell someone else’s tale. Until my fingers hit the keyboard … and then, almost instantly, you became real to me. I got lost in your lives and couldn’t wait to begin working each morning. From the first chapter to the last, this has been such a joy-filled experience. I know I keep using that description, but I can’t think of a more accurate one. Sharing your story reminded me of why I fell in love with this process. It reminded me that, beyond all the querying and the submitting and the publishing, the heart of writing is, well, writing. There is something about your journeys – both individual and the one you wove together – that got to me in a way I can’t explain. It buoyed me up. It made me feel. It inspired.
Thanks to you and your cohorts, I now know about hiking in the Blue Ridge mountains, creating and selling saltwater taffy, running a bed-and-breakfast, lifeguarding at the Jersey shore, rescuing abandoned animals, training for the Olympics, organizing a charity gala, and choosing baby names. Oh, and the 1950s’ slang … Charlotte, how you’ve taught me about that. I’ve watched you both stand up for yourselves and those you love. I’ve watched you fight for your dreams, even when they turn out to be different from the ones you’d imagined. I’ve watched you channel fear into faith. I’ve watched you learn some important lessons and I’ve learned, too, right alongside you. I am proud of you for, eventually, opening yourselves up to change, to growth, to life itself. You went through a lot, but you survived. You came out on the other side and you are better, stronger for it.
On the surface, this book is two stories in one: Remi & Eli’s and Charlotte & Nolan’s. But what I kept in mind from the very beginning, what I was so excited to write about in the final chapter, is the third story: the one that ties you two together. You may be separated by hundreds of miles and dozens of years (fifty-six, to be exact), but in the end, this is your story. This is about a twist of magnificent fate that joined your lives in the most unexpected way. And so, I thank you. Thank you for giving me four months of unfettered writing happiness. Thank you for making my brain fly faster than my hands, for making me skip breakfast because I was too ensconced in the story to take a break, for teaching me about yourselves and about myself, too. Above all else, thank you for helping me to follow my whisper.
Good news: the draft of your book hovers around 128,600 words, which means there isn’t nearly as much to cut out as with my previous projects. Yes, it’s still a lot, but let’s face it, this is me we’re talking about, so I think that’s pretty good. Ha. I’m forcing myself to take the rest of June off to relax a bit and accomplish everything I have wholly ignored the past several weeks while losing myself in such a writing frenzy. I can practically see the to-do list glaring at me by this point. But after that? I am already looking forward to polishing your story, to deleting those extra words, and to seeing what happens next. I hope other people will connect with you as much as I have. I hope they’ll love you lots. I hope you’ll work your way into their hearts like you did with mine.
I hope, I hope, I hope … and thanks to you both, I believe.