Authors tell you what inspired their work

Lynne Griffin, Author of "Life Without Summer"

I began writing fiction in 2000. I needed an outlet for my thoughts and feelings following the death of my mother. At the time, I was overwhelmed with emotion and my work counseling parents was very intense. I was writing a monthly parenting column for a Boston newspaper and working on a nonfiction parenting guide. But it's in writing fiction that I found my home. For me novel writing is a wonderful catharsis and a deeply personal means of creative expression. 

In the beginning, I dabbled with another novel when the idea for Life Without Summer came to me in its entirety. From day one, I knew the first line and the last line of the story, and they've never changed. I also knew right from the beginning who was responsible for the chain of events leading up to the tragedy. Though it was a difficult character to assign the role to, I've never wavered in my commitment to tell the story as it came to me.

Given my work with families and my desire to capture family life in authentic ways, there's no shortage of seeds I use to inform my writing. I've been a family life expert for more than twenty years; I teach in the graduate program of Social Work and Family Studies at Wheelock College, and act as parenting contributor for Boston's Fox Morning News. There's so much about my work counseling parents, observing children, and teaching educators about families that I use in writing fiction. All writers use bits taken from aspects of their lives. Anton Chekhov called them, little particulars.

Though I've never lost a child, I've had my own grief work to do over the years; I lost my father when I was fifteen and my mother when I was just forty. And as a professional, who's taught classes and counseled parents and children about healthy grieving, I've always been struck by the choices people make related to the loss of a loved one — the healthy and unhealthy ways grief work gets done. 

In truth, Life Without Summer isn't just a story about losing a child; it's so much more than that. It's about the choices people make when faced with unbelievable pain. It's about what really holds a marriage together when it's tested. What I tried to do with the novel was to examine what tragedy does to all kinds of relationships. If they start off strong — or don't — what happens? Why do some people thrive after a loss, finding true purpose, while others don't come out of it stronger?

Life Without Summer is told in two voices because I wanted to give readers an up close look at not one, but two, distinct paths toward grieving a loss. I chose first person accounts, by both Tessa and Celia, since this is the most intimate point of view for storytelling. I didn't want to leave any distance between the characters and my readers. I also chose the epistolary format because I felt it would be very personal to look inside these women's diaries. My point of view choice and the novel's structure meant that at times the story became raw, yet it was very important to me to show an honest look at the process of moving into and out of the grief experience. I wanted to give readers a true sense of what it feels like to embrace or reject healing.

I've since completed another novel about family life. In it I explore the impact secrets have on the closeness family members can share. I've always been intrigued by the power of truth on healing and the complexities of grief work. Life Without Summer delves into these themes; I imagine all of my work will touch on them in some way.

For more information, please visit Lynne Reeves Griffin's website:

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Sunday June 7th 2009, 5:19 PM
Comment by: Kathryn A. (Denver, CO)
I run a business that provides products to caregivers and their families and am ever struck by what a gift it is to be part of people's lives as they look for ways to help their loved one and themselves through the caregiving experience. Grief does come from all kinds of losses. My customers teach me every day that solace comes from all kinds of sources, too, even sometimes from something as simple as finding rinseless shampoo! Thanks for the article.
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