Not quite an epiphany, but definitely a moment of self-discovery

Baggage Claim by Cathe Swansons

Not quite an epiphany…

but definitely a moment of self-discovery.  I don’t know why it surprised me.  Except for a few years in Europe, a few in Missouri and then out in Eastern Washington, I’ve always been a midwesterner. Snow is in my blood. (Does that make me an ice queen? Princess Elsa from Frozen? Just cold-blooded, like a frog?)

When I’m not writing, I’m usually sewing or quilting or doing some other kind of creative work that engages my hands but leaves my mind free to wander.  Those are my opportunities to listen to audiobooks, which I enjoy very much, or to listen to trainings and podcasts for writers.  Yesterday, I was listening to a speaker talk about finding the “theme” of your writing. She said that we all have a theme, not only to our lives but also throughout our writing.  She wasn’t talking about the big picture, like “I am a Christian”, but about smaller things. What do all of my books have in common?

My Great Lakes books (and all of my works-in-progress) feature a “restoring the years the locusts have eaten” sort of theme. My Glory Quilts books are about family and finding our place in the world. In the overall story arc of the series, though, that restoration theme is also present. 

As I considered my five published books,  I realized one other common element: winter.  Each of them, set in the city, a small town or in the wilderness, features significant amounts of snow.  My Chicago and Minnesota Christmas books are more about the winter season than the holiday.  The Swedehearts Glory Quilt begins on Thanksgiving Day and ends on Valentine’s Day. In Minnesota, that’s winter.   Much of Baggage Claim is set in the western end of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, starting in February.  Yoopers don’t expect spring until May. 

More snow in the forecast

I have at least eight other books in process. They are almost all set in the northern climates,  Frangipani is set in the US Virgin Islands and Charleston, South Carolina, but I’ve still worked in brief mentions of winter in Nebraska and Minnesota. I can’t seem to help myself.

Winter is beautiful. It’s cold, with short, dark days, and blizzards lead to dangerous roads. Ice storms can break trees and lead to power outages. But it’s beautiful, and it’s a great plot device! It slows us down or restricts our movements, can lead to challenging situations (power outages) or it can leave our characters snowbound together.  It can put people in peril.

I long for warm weather, so I can start digging in my garden and getting out on the river in our kayaks, having the grandchildren for visits, and just sitting out on the deck for my morning coffee. In the meantime, though, God made winter beautiful – and so useful for novelists!