My Name was Supposed to be Elizabeth Ann

— Stories from the Roads (Not) Taken

Writers are nosy creatures. We eavesdrop. We people watch. We collect other people’s stories like sea glass, shiny bits of treasure we hoard then barter with the muses.

The inspiration for The Nail Club is one such gem. Years ago, my nail tech B. shared that one of her most difficult clients at her former salon was the mistress of a well-known local man whose wife also patronized her services.  While each woman seemed ignorant of the other’s existence, the menage was an open secret among the salon staff, and B. had worried about a confrontation should their appointments overlap. In real life, the women never did meet, but I wondered, How much fun would it be if they had?

Writing that HOW wasn’t nearly as fun. The “real” characters refused to adapt to my imagined scenarios. My scenes seemed forced and sappy, their structure soggy and disappointing.  Much of my failure with those early efforts I attribute to my own lack of confidence. Surely a “real” writer wouldn’t struggle nearly as much as I.

So I gave up.

Or tried to. But the story wouldn’t let me, and I decided the only way to end its clamoring insistence was to keep rewriting. 

It took over a year and countless revisions. Before The Nail Club was a screenplay, it was a short story, and in those ugly, early drafts Kat was scared and weak and whiny, Lila a vindictive ice queen. I hated both of them. Likewise, Henry pontificated and was as obnoxious as I imagined, which was why I wrote him offstage. Kat’s story isn’t about Henry, after all, so why not deny him the power of speech he would steal from her?

Like my characters, I evolved throughout their creation. First, I learned to recognize the anxious feeling that overwhelms me when I’ve written myself into a corner. It doesn’t necessarily mean I should abandon my story. Rather, it means I need to abandon the idea that led me to that corner, retrace my steps, and rewrite in a different direction. Second, I learned the importance of time in my writing process. While drafting, I need time to live within my story world, to become comfortable with my characters as I follow them throughout their days. I also need time away from that world so I can see its flaws more objectively.  Finally, I learned that stories derived from real life must at some point reject their origins and become their own living, breathing organisms. A story needn’t be “true” to speak its truth.

That said, I changed the decor and the location, but The Nail Club is the name of the salon where I heard B.’s story. I kept it because I appreciated its symbolism, which among other things speaks to the exclusivity of class and economics that Lila represents and Kat eschews. The noun Nail also represents Kat’s need to build a future for herself and her son, one in which she decides the rules. And that is the core of Kat’s dilemma. Her son’s father abandoned them both for Lila, and when Lila’s sudden arrival at The Nail Club offers Kat the perfect opportunity for revenge, Kat must decide between the future she’s owed or the one her son needs. 

Want to know what she decides?

You can get your copy here:  https://www.34thparallel.net/

Hope you like it!


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