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  • Amy Q. Barker

Rue: One Year Later

Updated: Jul 31


First, let me say thank you to everyone who has supported me and my writing journey--it’s been a wild and crazy ride!


Second, I've learned so much in the past year--mostly gratitude for everyone who has been so kind as I have "put myself out there" for all to see, hear, and read. It's a VERY scary thing to write, publish, and promote a book! Although the characters and stories are fiction, they all have a piece of me laced into every word, thought, and feeling. I'm so grateful! With this latest third book I'm about to publish, I feel much less nervous/anxious to launch and that is a direct result of your support and understanding of me following my dream. Thank you!


Third, a year in and I’m amazed, humbled, and grateful to still be receiving great reviews every day like this one for Rue and this one for Punk, both from the other day.


Fourth, on this one-year anniversary of publishing Rue, my debut novel, I decided to take a trip down memory lane to see where it all began - From My Diary:


11/3/2016:


Book idea (Rue):

  • Story of Saturday Morning Bird Hikes – from my time at Cool Creek Park, with the old guys and their “soft ball” songs and how someone (a lounge singer?) learned songs from the 40s from them.

  • Story of San Francisco – a piano player at night in the Scarlet Huntington. What does she do during the day? Does she have another job? How does she know all of these songs in her head? Photographic memory? From the bird hikes? What is her life like that’s she able to play like this at night in this location? Where does she live? Must be a hovel in China Town, to be able to afford.


Coincidentally, on this same day, I also wrote this in my diary, which would later become the book idea for Punk:

  • Story of Grandma Q – growing up in Rochester, working at McCurdy’s, the courtship with Paul before she married Grandpa. A guy who falls off the face of the earth right before the wedding, and the diary ends abruptly with no explanation.


Back to Rue:


11/25/2016:


Started a new book today from my idea the other week. Not sure where it’ll go, but I couldn’t keep myself from starting it. It had to be written, like a force leading me forward.


11/27/2016:


Watching TCM this morning. Daisy Kenyon—I’d never even heard of this movie before, but it was great, with Henry Fonda, Joan Crawford, and Dana Andrews. It’s about a love triangle and I wonder if I might put a book together about a love square instead of a love triangle. I have been thinking how to make this story also be about polar opposites—a person who is quiet, shy, small who falls in love with a tall, loud, popular type. I don’t know his name yet, but hers will be Rue, tiny and quaint, but packs a punch.


12/9/2016:


Things have been slow-going on the book. I’m still trying to find my voice for Rue. She’s so different than me and from anything I’ve ever written. This one’s going to have to ruminate longer, so I let things pop in naturally, at the proper time.


12/12/2016:


Woke up the other night realizing Rue’s story might have a tentative title of The Scarlet Rue because she’s a lounge singer at the Scarlet Huntington in San Francisco. Or maybe just plain Rue. I had an epiphany the other day: I thought I would do the whole thing from Rue’s perspective and call it Rue, but then I realized maybe I would tell the story from the four character’s points of view instead. I got a little sad, though, wondering if I would lose Rue in the mix, so maybe instead Rue will be the main focus of the story and almost everything will be about her thoughts and feelings, but I’m going to put in a few chapters where she’s on the periphery. I don’t know if it’ll work…we’ll see…


12/19/2016:


Making good but slow progress. Almost done with Chapter 2. I can only write what I know and what I feel. Shouldn’t readers out there be inspired about real-life characters and how they survive struggles? Such a difficult balance to manage though.


1/3/2017:


Wow, it’s 2017 already. Wasn’t the best week of writing…not enough time or motivation. It’s all still floating around in my head. Something about Josh being from a big family, youngest boy of 6, let’s say, has to have all of the attention, exact opposite of Rue. He wants to be seen from all angles at all times. Rue wants not to be seen in plain sight. I also thought about figuring out a character who is “blissfully oblivious”– like someone who has no tact and has that overinflated sense of self but can’t see past her nose—thinking it’ll be the other girl in this love square (Alyssa). On a different note, I want to speak to the fact that there are so few novels for woman my age that have drama without trauma. That’s the space I want to fill. Why does everything have to be about rape and violence and horrible people? I hope to change that.


1/20/2017:


Wow, I haven’t written here in a while. But I have been writing Rue every day, so that’s why. I think I’m at about 28,000 words now. It’s going well. The other day, while driving in the car, I realized I have been writing almost every day now for 7 months. EVERY DAY! I went from thinking about writing a book since I was 12 YEARS OLD and never doing it to now writing every day and making progress on TWO books. Crazy. I’m proud of myself. Even though no one else has read a word or even knows I’m writing. I’m still glad I did it. I have more to go. Miles to go before I sleep, as Frost says.


2/26/2017:


I’m about 62,000 words into Rue now. Going well, but difficult to write because (1) not at all about me – actually, exact opposite of me (2) scary not knowing if I'm a good writer or not (3) reading other books and going to bookstores makes me want to die now – something that used to be my salvation and joy – is so, SO painful now – like a weight around my neck – how to keep writing when there are so many other books out there and probably all better than mine (4) what the hell am I doing anyway? what makes me think I can be a writer? Anyway, regardless, Rue's still coming along, even when I have bad days and thoughts. So, the reason I’m writing here again in this diary after nearly a month is because Bobbi is unexpectedly coming to Indy for work and I’m thinking about telling her my secret and giving her a copy of my book. I’m paralyzed with anxiety about it. What if she hates it? What if she tells me to never show this to another living soul? What if she thinks it’s the worst piece of drivel she’s ever read? I’ve written down a bunch of caveats to give her with the book, but still…I’m afraid, very afraid. Lord, give me the strength to go through with it!


Note: Despite my fears and anxiety, my friend Bobbi (God bless her and rest her soul!) told me to keep going, so I did. Skip ahead and I finished writing Rue on 5/2/2017. Then, months later, this entry:


2/18/2018:


Rue is done, but lately, every day, I’ve been having this thought: I must turn Rue into something different. The same general plot, but she is blind! It’s been driving me crazy, and I can’t seem to get it out of my head: Rue must be blind. I can’t explain it, but I must give it another try with Rue being blind.


Note: Believe it or not, I spent the next YEAR rewriting Rue as a blind character, completing hours of research to know what it meant to live independently in a big city as someone who is blind. It was just about the most difficult thing I’ve ever done and I’m so proud of myself for creating such a rich, captivating, empathetic character--readers really seem to connect with her. Maybe someday I'll write a sequel to Rue, but for now, I'm working through the massive backlog in my head of new, original story ideas about other characters, people, places, and adventures.


So, that was just a snapshot of my writing process and a year after publishing Rue, I'm happy and humbled to still be following my dream AND to be a few weeks away from publishing my THIRD book – WOOT! WOOT!


Thank you all again for your amazing support!


Love,

Amy

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