Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lily & Sarah by Cynthia Harrison

by Cynthia Harrison

I love minor characters. I love to make them shine. I love them thinking that the story is all about them. I love adding a layer of meaning and intrigue. Lily, from Blue Heaven, is a teenage runaway. She's got a fake ID, so resort owner Eva takes her on as a cleaner. Sarah, in The Paris Notebook, finds a temporary home with her female college professor. In every story I write, there is a teenaged female in trouble. This is because I know that girl. I was that girl.

I didn't run away like Lily. I was more pushed out. But what teenager, when her mother says "get out" actually goes? I went because my mother and I had such a terrible relationship. It felt wonderful, grown up, and free to leave home. Those teen years were so turbulent for me that they stick in my memory in vivid detail. I remember events and emotions. And while I do not reproduce the events, I am more than happy to supply characters like Lily and Sarah with my own memories of how it felt to be young, alone, and vulnerable.

These girls always find kind souls to help them on their journeys. The same was true of my own teenage wanderings. I hitchhiked all around the country in the early 70s. I didn't even have a sleeping bag, just a raggedly old quilt I wrapped my hairbrush and an extra pair of jeans in and tied with a frayed rope. Yet I was rarely hungry, never cold. People fed me, took me in, tried to help anyway they could. I remember one guy giving me money for flip flops as I had set out from Michigan barefoot. Got all the way to Junction City, Kansas that way. And while times were different then, and people were more trusting, I still think back and shudder at all the potential danger I put myself in.

I usually had a traveling companion, something I don't allow my teen characters. These girls are alone in the world when they find their safe places. I felt alone a time or two when a traveling companion ditched me for fun in another room of whatever house or apartment we happened to crash in on any given night. I had a few close calls; but I was never hurt. It seems like I had angels all around me, protecting me, because the potential for disaster was everywhere. I just didn't see it. Like so many teens, I thought I was indestructible. And so I was. Proof being I'm still here.

author of Blue Heaven

1 comment:

Linda LaRoque said...

Cynthia, an interesting topic. I also love secondary characters and sometimes they try to take over a story or need one of their own.

You were very lucky back in the 70s traveling alone like that. I've heard of lots of people who did in Europe—slept under bridges,, etc. They'd work somewhere a while, build up some money and then venture on. And yes, I imagine bad things happened to a few of them.

I'm glad you were one of the lucky ones who came out unharmed. Interesting topic for your novels. Best of luck with them!