It has been pointed out to me that the women in my novels often have a special and wonderful bond with their fathers. Oh there’s plenty of tension and flaws on both sides, but the father-daughter relationship is strong. Goo Goo Barr in Redneck Goddess has been raised by her farmer father. Samantha, in Bigfoot Blues, was brought up by her Bigfoot hunter dad. In Ridgeline it’s Adeline’s muleteer father who provided her with that feeling of being special and valued.
I’m currently in the middle of edits for Noisy Creek, the prequel to Redneck Goddess. Ruth Barr, Noisy Creeks point of view character, is certainly a daddy’s girl. The editor of this book, Greg Camp, is who pointed out to me my penchant for these warm and special bonds between fathers and daughters.
In a podcast interview by Oghma Creative Media, which will be available for your listening entertainment next week, I mention the three practice novels in the back of my closet. You know the ones. Most writers have them. These are the 200,000 words, 10,000 hours where we honed whatever God-given talent we have and taught ourselves to write. These first novels do not have good father daughter relationships in them.
Not at all.
You see, I was a daddy’s girl. There’s no doubt of that. But my dad was not the healthy, balanced, loving man you see in most of my novels. Dad struggled with his own issues his entire life. But I never once doubted he loved me and there came a point when it occurred to me that I could create the relationship I always wanted with my dad.
Let me show you want I mean.
The week Dad died I had one of those vivid dreams that wake you with the sure knowledge that you’ve been traveling from one world to the next. In this other world, Dad and Jesus walked hand in hand up a verdant green hill. I watched them from the holler below and knew, just knew, that for the first time since I’d known him, Dad was happy, joyous. Jesus’s love had simply touched his heart and burned away all the crazy, all the pain, all the struggles.
I ached then to run up the hill and into the arms of Jesus and Dad, but Jesus shook his head and pointed behind me.
I turned to see a casket set on saw-horses. I twisted away from this coffin and looked back up the hill, but my view was empty. Frightened, knowing I did not want to see my father’s body stretched dead in that box, I nonetheless, approached as instructed.
Inside was a little girl laid out in her best party dress. I stared for a long time before realizing that this dead child looked just like me. In that moment of recognition, I understood that my job was not to grieve for my father, he was already healed by the love of God. My job was to grieve for the little girl in that coffin, for all that I might have been if Dad had been able to love me the way he wanted to love me instead of the way his own mixed up childhood prepared him to parent.
Writing about fathers and daughters is one of the ways I grieve for what might have been, it’s how I glory in my dad’s love. Writers open a vein and bleed all over the paper. That’s a fact. But by exposing our pain, revealing the truth through fiction, we also heal.