The Writer’s Path To Story

Update: Bonnie has chosen three winners to receive a copy of her novel, Talking to the Dead. Those winners are Judy, Lisa G., and Chris Sanders. You will each receive an e-mail shortly notifying you. Congratulations to all!


A Novel Matter’s Guest Post by Bonnie Grove


When I was thirty years old, I went back to school. I studied counseling, theology, and psychology. I chose these three areas because they fascinate me, but I had another reason too. I was looking for ways to understand myself. Looking for meaning in life’s war wounds. I was more than a little battle weary, and sporting some rather gaping emotional injuries, maybe you know the kind I mean.


University challenged me to write clear, precise essays on a vast array of topics. Everything from the role of automatic thoughts in Aaron Beck’s cognitive therapy model, to the role of the CIA in the Iran Hostage Crisis. And every paper I wrote came out reading like a story (which made my professors unreasonably happy after grading dry factual paper after dry factual paper). It became my habit to take everything I was learning and spin it on the wheel of story.


I wrote hundreds of academic papers, hundreds of stories, and when the time came for me to embrace my true vocation, I was only mildly surprised to discover it was the pen, not the couch, that was calling my name. I was less surprised to find that despite all my learning, I was still a wreck, still a wounded soul. And I needed a way to talk about my lost-ness. A way in which I could be comforted and offer comfort at the same time. I invented a woman named Kate Davis, and I poured into this character the symbols of things I had lost along the way. And I didn’t once think about how I was going to get Kate out of the trouble I had brought her. I just kept telling her story—my emotional biography. Talking to the Dead was published in 2009 to critical acclaim. Even won some awards. And that’s when I made the mistake of thinking I was a writer (a novelist, no less).

I’ve completed two novels since Talking to the Dead. Good stories, both. But lacking. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what was missing in these stories. I found my answer in my fan mail. Hundreds of people, mostly woman, have written me to tell me about their reaction to Talking to the Dead—the story of a young woman, suddenly widowed, who hears the voice of her dead husband, and realizes she’s forgotten nearly a year of her life. Most said they saw themselves in a part of Kate’s story. And that it helped them understand a few more pieces of their personal puzzle. And I had even made them laugh through it all. That’s when I realized what was missing in the other two novels I had written.


I had been so wrapped up feeling good that my novel had helped other women, I had forgotten that it helped me too. That I had written Talking to the Dead because I was broken and had questions and story was the best way I knew to make sense of the world. That’s what was missing from those two novels: me.


I won’t forget again.


I’m nearing the end of the first draft of my fourth novel. A story about a woman whose life is completely different from my own, and yet she carries me inside like an embryo. She is another chapter of my emotional biography. The voice for my questions, the expression of my wounds wrapped in story. I’ve taken the lessons my readers have taught me, and applied them to this novel. I’m indebted to my readers for taking my hand and showing me the way back to my true story. And they even made me laugh through it all.


Care to read Bonnie’s award-winning novel Talking to the Dead? Leave a comment below and she’ll choose three lucky winners this weekend.



32 Responses to The Writer’s Path To Story

  1. Kathy in IN July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I’d love to read this book!

  2. Maryanne Bright July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I too have many emotional scars and wounds inflicted by many people including myself. Your book sounds like it would help me not only to understand but possibly to heal some of these scars. I would love to read and experience it.

  3. Dawn July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Over 50 and still trying to figure it out! Choose me 🙂

  4. Judy July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Wow! I must read this book! It is going on my list right now.

  5. Carla July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds great! I lost my mother when I was young and my husband lost his father in tragic a accident. While watching my children grow, I often feel that they have done something to make the grandparents they never met proud. I can see their smiles and hear their words of love even when they aren’t present.

  6. Katie Saba July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a must read for anyone who has lost a loved one.

  7. Dawn Paoletta July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I am a closet writer in the process ofslowly coming out! Would enjoy reading even though I am a ardously slow reader!

  8. Bonnie Grove July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Kathy: Good luck! Maybe I’ll be sending a signed copy your way.

    Judy: Great! Or, maybe you will win a copy!

    Carla: I love that. And I agree, the ones we love are always with us.

  9. Susie Finkbeiner July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Bonnie! Beautiful! “she carries me inside like an embryo”, so breathtaking.

  10. Carol Trent July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I’d LOVE to read this book as I volunteer with Hospice. Always want to learn more.

  11. Sasha July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    This book sounds incredible. Thanks for sharing it and I would love to read it!

  12. Carol Wong July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Even though I am in my second marriage, I still carry the wounds of the first. I would love to read your book to see if it could help.


  13. Cheryl Fairbank July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I am extremely blessed each time I read your Facebook posts. I would be blessed even more by reading your book, Talking to the Dead. Years after experiencing the after-shock that followed a close friend’s suicide, I once again experienced it within the last year. Wow! Death is NEVER easy to accept, even more so- the death of a dream. Waiting and ready to read it. (Hint-hint).

  14. Lisa G July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a great book. Look forward to reading it.

  15. Kathleen Popa July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Talking to the dead is a riveting story,and yes, it has so much of Bonnie in it. I’m over 50 too, Dawn, and I’ve come to suspect that when I do figure it out I will die so as not to spoil the surprise for the others. Carol, bless you for volunteering at Hospice. What a wonderful organization.

  16. Vicky July 8, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Can’t wait to read the book! Thanks for sharing your journey.

  17. Lisa Wingate July 8, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Hi Bonnie! Wonderful being underfoot on the page today! I love your perspective on how the best writing comes from those bittersweet pieces of ourselves. So very true. Congratulations on all the success of Talking to the Dead, and I wish you great success with your upcoming book!

  18. Jennifer Kozar July 8, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Sounds like a book to read – and good luck with number 4 as well!

  19. Kathy July 8, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    This book sounds like a “must read” to me and I am hoping I have the chance to win this novel. I have been writing an article about my aunt’s suicide. I find I am trying to discover more about her life. In a figurative way, writing is my way of talking to her to find out her underlying reasons for ending her life in such a drastic way. Maybe this book will give me some way to resolve my questions and also the article I’m writing about her.

  20. Bonnie Grove July 8, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Maryanne: Those scars change us–but God uses all of us, including our mistakes. It’s good to be loved by the One who knows us.

    Dawn: Good luck in the draw! I’m still trying to figure it out too. 🙂 Glad to have company!

    Dawn P: I’m a slow reader too. I used to think that was a bad thing, now I understand it’s part of how my brain works–I’m slow, reading slowly makes me happy. Good luck with your writing. Maybe one of your books will be featured here one day!

  21. Bonnie Grove July 8, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Understanding the loss of someone we love through suicide is a frequent part of the comments on this post today. I’m honored that each of you feels safe enough to share that hurt.
    TALKING TO THE DEAD has two dedications at the front of the book. The first one is to my husband and children. The second one reads: To Gordon, who helped me see. Gordon was my brother. He suffered terribly with mental illness, and died by his own hands when he was 37 years old. Walking with him in his suffering, and losing him are some of the wounds I was looking to heal.
    His life and death have formed difficult questions in my mind and heart. Ones I’ve had to wrestle and surrender over and over again. Writing TALKING TO THE DEAD was very much a part of that wrestling. I hope it brings some hope for the next steps for those who have questions too.

  22. Bonnie Grove July 8, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Lisa: That’s so kind of you! Thank you so much. And congratulations on the amazing new novel! I know so many readers (dare we say millions? Why not!?) will fall in love with your work. I’m honored to share the page with you today.

  23. Bonnie Grove July 8, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    I’ve read every comment, and I truly cannot find the words to communicate how deeply you have all spoken to me.
    I’ll keep reading comments through the weekend.
    Thank you for blessing me!

  24. Christa Allan July 9, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Bonnie: I read TALKING TO THE DEAD soon after it released, and I wrote snippets of it in a notebook I keep of language in books that rocks my world. And all that before I even knew you!

    I’ve learned so much from you, from you willingness to be vulnerable, and from your refusal to be satisfied with the surface of life.

    Thanks for sharing this, and I am looking forward to writing more snippets…

  25. Teri Porter July 9, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I am currently losing my husband slowly to Alzheimer’s Disease. I think your book will help me to visit the actual “heart” of this fact. It is a book that I intend to read whether I win or not.

  26. Teri Porter July 9, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Oh my goodness. I just read through the comments and have to thank God for nudging me to this site. I, too, lost a loved one through suicide. In 1998, my brother, Michael, took his own life at 39 years old. His chosen method personified the ‘searing’ emotional anguish of battling severe mental illness and alcoholism for many years. As time goes on I grow increasingly aware of the impact his death (and life) have had on mine.

  27. Sarah July 9, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    sounds like a good read!

  28. chris sanders July 11, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    This comment you wrote about your fourth book really struck me:
    “A story about a woman whose life is completely different from my own, and yet she carries me inside like an embryo. She is another chapter of my emotional biography.”
    WOW! I can’t get this phrasing out of my mind–and can’t wait to meet this woman whose life is so different than yours–and probably mine… yet she carries you–and probably me–inside her like an EMBRYO!!! Cannot wait to read this book–and experience some things in my “emotional biography” that will open my heart to healing and growth! These thoughts will stay with me until I can get this book and read it!!! Thanks for investing your emotions into the lives of others’ emotions! Bless you!!

  29. Julie Ostrowski July 12, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I think this world has become “of sorts” a lost world. Not in just it’s behavior but from the pain people have suffered. Losing loved ones, friends and yes, sometimes themselves. This book sounds like a good way to relate to someone about that loss – in an emotional but encouraging way. Thank you for being a light out there, and putting the real struggles of life onto paper, I wish you well in your future works and I look forward to reading it.

  30. Glenda July 12, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I can’t wait to read your book, and I am looking forward to your fourth novel to come out. Keep up the good work!

  31. Ariel July 12, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Bonnie, I love this post. And I love your writing. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating in this public place: you are the most naturally gifted writer I know. It’s an honor to call you friend.

  32. Bonnie Grove July 12, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Thank you all so much! I love being even a small part of She Reads. And I’m honored by all your comments. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. I’m praying for each of you, even as I’m amazed by your bravery and transparency. It’s been a joy to be on the blog this week.

    Ariel: You are a wonderful friend. Thanks for all you do. Mwah!

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