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Real life in fiction

Like all stories, bits and pieces of real life are scattered though my novel. The projected climate change impacts in Adrift are, for sure. The feeling of being outside of time in Haida Gwaii is drawn directly from my kayak/camping trip there. But there are some other details from real life in the book that may surprise you....

There's a moment in the story where Yori is snooping around Ess's boat and she stops to look at a series of old sepia tone family photos stuck on the wall*. Yori is surprised because Ess has amnesia and no idea who her family is/was. Ess tells her she found the photos on the ground by a dumpster but couldn't bear to throw them away, the idea that someone's family memories had somehow become garbage was distressing to her.

Ess is full of grief around the loss of any connections she may have had so she keeps these photos as a reminder of the photos she lacks, a representation of the void, in a way. 

These photos are real.

I did find old photos scattered on the ground by my building's dumpster one morning, mixed in with envelopes and papers.

Maybe someone passed away and there was no family left to want mementos like this. Maybe the person throwing them out didn't know they were discarding photos along with old envelopes. Who knows. But the little pile of photos included key life moments: a seemingly happy wedding, graduation from nursing school, standing on the stairs of a new family home, etc. A glimpse into the life of a family spanning years.

The photo of the woman on a couch with three children is the one that made me gather up the photos and take them home, something about that, the idea that she lived a life and had multiple children and still there was no one to cherish these photos.

Families can be complicated. They usually are, I think.

In Adrift, Ess is completely disconnected from her family due to her amnesia - she has no idea what family she even has, if anyone is missing her or loved her. But she builds new connections with people who do care for her, who are there for her when she's in need.

I think these photos were part of the inspiration for that - the idea that even if you have blood relations, your once-cherished life moments can still become dumpster fodder - there are no guarantees built in just because you have blood relations. But there is always the possibility of finding people you connect with, to build a network of caring; Anne of Green Gables would say 'kindred spirits'.

I think I find that more interesting, people who choose to be like family, who choose to bond with people without any societal obligation to. I don't know that it happens often, but wouldn't it be lovely if it did.

*note, I had a sailor tell me that you don't call the walls of a boat cabin "walls", but she couldn't tell me what the correct word was. If anyone has suggestions, I'm curious! 

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