This week’s blog is written by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel. Melissa’s YA mystery, Wabanaki Blues, follows the exploits of a young Native American blues guitarist in the wilds of New Hampshire. Melissa writes about love, a central topic for her protagonist, Mona Lisa LaPierre, who, while seeking the truth about a student’s death, manages to fall in love with two very different boys.
How do you write about love?
In my first novel, Oracles, my love couple were Native Americans who turned into fireflies when they made love, blinking and glowing their way to their heart’s desire. Fireflies? Seriously? What was I, twelve?
The truth be told, maybe I haven’t changed much since then. I look at the picture here (of me at age 12) and still see that same kid, jilted by her seventh grade boyfriend, writing him an anonymous poem filled with the darkest kind of love–scorn. I wrote that poem as if it came from every woman whose heart he’d ever broken. I’ll leave out the guy’s name in the interest of decency. Most of what I shoved inside his locker follows:
There are no buts; we hate your guts
Though fond before, we are no more.
Your mirrored face, a frank disgrace,
Your bod is there, in a state of despair
Though friends you’ve got; they’re not so hot.
This note to you is sent with glee
From all the girls who went with thee.
Yes, it’s awful. The part about the bad face and bad bod could be viewed as bullying,
if it was true, which of course it wasn’t. He looked just fine and he knew it, which was the problem. Unfortunately, he guessed who sent the poem. Using “thee” was a dead giveaway. Oddly, he kind of liked my stupid poem. So he asked me out. Then I dumped him. Maybe it wasn’t love, after all. Like I said, LOVE is a tricky topic. LOVEMAKING is trickier still.
I’ve always wanted to write a Jane Austen tea and rout-cakes love story because everybody loves Austen, even though there is no actual lovemaking in her books. Some of you who scour Austen for such things will surely point out some sweet bits I’ve missed. But the fact that I missed them says it all.
Speaking of sweet bits, I want to share the translation of the word “love” in my Mohegan Indian language. The word is wômôsunuwôk. It means almost the same thing as “kindness.” What comes into your mind when you think of LOVE and KINDNESS or the synonyms of compassion, thoughtfulness, humanity, benevolence, gentleness, and so on?
What image do you see when you think about romantic love? A couple embracing on a sandy beach or a field of grass?
I see a starlit campfire.
I’m not just focusing on the flames, the sparks, and the heat of passion. Although, they’re definitely there. I’m focusing on the stars, the person I’m with, the sounds of the animals and insects in the background, and the smell of the trees. To me, a campfire puts me in touch with LOVE and the universe. Those two things go together for me. It’s all about connection. Everything is connected. Becoming part of that cosmic connection is part of what love is all about. Maybe I find that connection with a campfire because it also puts me in touch with some of my favorite songs from my generation.
Fire and Rain– James Taylor
Light my Fire– The Doors
He’s a Keeper of the Fire– Buffy Sainte Marie
If you’ve missed any of these tunes, check them out. And oh yeah, please let me know how you write about love. And what songs you like that relate to love.
As far as how I write about it goes, let me tell you about my latest book. The book is a contemporary murder mystery called Wabanaki Blues. The Wabanaki are Native Americans, which means you might reasonably expect more fireflies. But fear not. I learned my lesson on that one. I won’t tell you whether or not people make love in Wabanaki Blues. But I will tell you there are no fireflies. There are some scornful poetic song lyrics and plenty of guitar music. Plus, there is definitely a campfire under a starlit sky.