Over the past two years, I wrote my first trilogy. It’s set on the Scottish Borders during the turbulent early Tudor era and revolves around the Brunson clan, a family of Border Reivers, or raiders. Each book is about one the romance of one the siblings: the oldest brother, the younger brother, and the younger sister.
But as I sat down to write, I realized I had a problem. I’m an only child. What do I know about brothers and sisters?
But the code of the Borders puts loyalty to family ahead of loyalty to king or country, so even as I wrote a romance, family had to be a key component of the characters. In fact, each character’s journey revolves around his or her relationship to home and family: one character had to leave home, one character had to stay home, and one character had to come home.
In the first book, RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, the youngest son, John, comes home for the first time in years, intending to enforce the king’s will and then leave forever. As the story opens, he has rejected everything about his family, yet by the end, it is only in returning home that he discovers the man he truly is.
But at the beginning, coming home means being ‘Little Johnnie Blunkit,’ again. The baby brother. The only Brunson with blue eyes. So in addition to his relationship with the heroine, he must also carve out a new role within the family, particularly with his big brother, the clan leader. In fact, they do not become truly at ease with each other until the end of the final book.
And by the time I came to the end of that book, I realized that I had focused on the stories our families tell us. The story may be about great-great-grandfather (“he worked until the day he died”) or about our own role in the family (“you were always the quiet one”). The stories themselves shape us, sometimes more powerfully than the truth.
And that is true whether you are an only child, or one of a dozen.
So I would ask the readers today to think about their own families and their own stories. Were you the Quiet One or the Smart One? Did your family tell stories about a wastrel uncle or cousin? (“He was never any good.”) Or maybe your story came wrapped in a family motto, like “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
Share your story with us. Did it shape your life in some way? Did you embrace it or reject it?
Two lucky readers who comments on today’s blog will be randomly selected to win a signed copy of RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR.