Once Upon A Time: 8 Weeks Until Spanish Heart
As I begin to promote each novel, I always blog about what sparked the story in my mind. Sometimes it’s a song, or a setting, an issue I’ve been wrestling in my mind, or even a chance meeting I experience. However, with Spanish Heart it was much more than that.
I was 17 years old when my plane touched down in Spain. It was the summer between my junior and senior year in high school, and in grand teenager fashion I knew it all. That isn’t to say that I knew much Spanish, or Spanish history, or geography, or even the names of all the cities we would spend the next 15 days visiting, but hey, I’d been to Europe the summer before with my grandparents, so I thought that if you’d seen one country you’d seen them all. Plus our Spanish teacher La Señora Spurgeon would be there to guide us, and she knew all that other stuff, so I wouldn’t have to. I was basically hoping to get my first real taste of freedom without having to deal with the inconvenience of actually having to do any work. In my mind the trip itinerary was as follows: fun, eat, dance, see cool things, eat, fun, dance, meet new people, fun, eat, beach.
And really, what could possible go wrong with a plan like that?
We had been in Spain for only a matter of hours when one of my classmates looked back to notice our teacher crying. She was clearly in pain, and very soon thereafter rushed to the hospital. It was determined that she was in pretty serious condition and would not finish the trip with us. She would stay in that hospital in Barcelona while we would travel on without her. This is the part of the story that I put directly into Spanish Heart, and it’s also what I expect to hear about from readers and critics. It’s too easy, too convenient, and also, one of the most factually based plot points in my whole story.
My classmates and I would be accompanied by Senora’s friend, a retiree who’d come on the trip for much the same reasons I had. She wanted some fun new experiences. She had experience teaching but none in traveling, and she didn’t speak a word of Spanish, yet she would be our only supervision, and she was also charged with the care of La Senora’s 12-year-old daughter, who would now have to travel through a foreign country without her mom, in the company of people she’d known only a few hours.
In a matter of hours everything I expected about the trip changed. Over the next two weeks, almost everything I thought I knew about myself and the world changed too.
I got into the sangria. I got into a box of Cuban cigars. I got sick. I got into a bar. I got topless on a beach. I got lost. I got into arguments. I developed a broader worldview.
I developed better traveling habits. I developed a taste for paella and an eye for the Spanish Masters. I found my voice. I found out what hospitality really means.
I found friends I can still count on. I left with a better understanding of the life I wanted to live. I left as a stronger version of myself. I left a piece of my heart in Spain.
Not all of the novel is based on my experiences. The characters are their own people, and the journey they take is uniquely theirs. The coming of age Ren does throughout the book doesn’t mirror my own on any level other than the metaphorical, and Lina is a character born purely out of my imagination. I had no great romance with a woman during my time in Spain, but I did start a love affair with a country that still affects me. I had no choice but to pour that love into the pages of Spanish Heart.