Today, I have Jan Markley, a writer from Calgary, Alberta Canada, who has guest-posted here before. She's a fun lady who has published two books about quirky, mystery-solving twin sisters, in the Megabyte Mystery series with Gumboot Books.Her blog explores how writing and life are explicably connected." Here, Jan tells us how she took a horrible accident and turned it into...a book!
Dead Frog on the Porch
|Jane's current frog...no, it's not dead!|
It’s not often I get to introduce myself like this: “Hi, I’m the friend of your mommy’s who killed her frog when we were little.” Jane is the childhood friend whose frog I unceremoniously, accidently, killed when we were kids. Hence the title of my book: Dead Frog on the Porch.
It started as a writing exercise. The ubiquitous ‘write an incident from your childhood.’ The opening scene in the book is pretty much the frog-killing-on-the-back-
porch-incident. From there it evolved into
a mystery adventure novel. I wanted to re-create a time when kids
filled their summer days by biking around the neighbourhood, going to
the pool, and reading Nancy Drew mysteries. I must have re-created it
accurately because when my childhood friend Sandy read an earlier draft
about a decade ago she phoned me one day hopping mad. She said: “one
character is me and the other character is you and your character is
picking on my character.” Honey, it ain’t all about you.
Let’s get back to Jane. I’d lost track of Jane over the years. The last time I was in my home town I dropped in to see if her parents still lived down the street. They did. Turns out Jane not only lives in my town, she lives about ten minutes from me. I told my eight year old nephew how happy I was that I was going to be friends with Jane again.
His response: “She’s not going to want to be your friend.”
“Why not,” I asked.
“Janet, you killed her pet frog.” (everyone who’s related to me or has known me since before God was a cowboy calls me Janet)
“Yes, I did, but she forgave me and we were friends after that.”
“You killed her frog. If you kill someone’s frog, they’re not going to be your friend anymore.”
His words ate at me. I was a little worried when I got home the next night that, yeah, maybe she wouldn’t want to be my friend again, because in my nephew’s equation, killing friend’s pet = end of friendship.
She was expecting my call. And she didn’t even remember me killing her frog (accidently, of course). Her response was, “What was the frog doing on the porch?” What indeed.
The real life Jane, like the character Jane, loved animals and she still does. At her house she introduced me to her dog, two guinea pigs, and, wait for it … three frogs! She still likes frogs and has frogs … all over the house. There are the real frogs (who said I should talk to their agent if I wanted a pic) and the ceramic frog on the soap dish. At one point I screamed, “OMG there are frogs everywhere.” It was like her house was a shrine to her dead frog! Her memoir would be entitled The House of Frogs.
Jane assured me that I shouldn't feel bad. She'd had a lot of pets as a kid, and she had buried a lot in the backyard. She also went through a lot of frogs. It’s not so much that I still felt bad; it was an incident that I remembered and used it as a jumping off point for fiction. You’ve heard: ‘write what you know.’ But this one is better: ‘write what you feel.’ I felt bad. The main character in Dead Frog on the Porch felt bad when she killed her twin sister’s frog, and that was both her motivation, and her inner conflict, to solve the mystery of why the scientists were creating giant frogs.
It was great to see my childhood friend and we had a few of those OMG-it-was-your-wiener-dog-
that-got-run-over-by-the- bread-truck moments (that’s in the book as well BTW).
Thanks for sharing your amphibian inspiration with us, Jan! That's quite an story. I guess you're a "femme fatale" a deadly woman when it comes to frogs ;)