Tuesday, December 4, 2018

How a Picture Inspired a Novel and Informed a Writer by Ryan Jo Summers


Please welcome Ryan Jo Summers to Muse Monday.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I do believe it’s true. As writers, we have the uncanny ability to find inspiration in many ordinary things that most people might pass by. And my latest fiction novel isn’t the first book inspired by a photo. However, in my humble opinion, it might be my best to date, and definitely the hardest to write.

Years ago a friend sent me an email with a series of random photos with no real connection to one another. It was one of those chain things that seem to circle the globe once they get rolling. Some photos were nice, particularly the animal and nature shots. However, it was the photo of a man and boy that spoke to me. They did not exactly whisper in my ear, more they shouted for me to stop and notice them. So I did.

A young boy, maybe ten years old, dressed up against the cold, and holding a sandwich out to a homeless man. The boy’s back was turned to the camera so all that was clear were his mittens, scarf, and hat. And his stance. He was confident in his action. The man wasn’t so sure. Huddled on the cold street sidewalk, he tentatively reached out for the sandwich, his bewildered gaze locked on the boy. I could almost feel his to-the-bone chills and hunger, and his surprise at this sudden gift. I image he might be a veteran, back from serving, and down on his luck. The entire scene was poignant, painful, and inspiring.

Within a few weeks, the bones of “September’s Song” was born. The book changed in many ways from its early beginnings. Many initial thoughts never made it to the first draft, or into the second one. “September’s Song” was difficult to niche, and I finally settled on women’s fiction with metaphysical elements. This is the first book I wrote in multiple layers like an onion and almost had to write it backwards: ending, then middle, and finally the beginning. In truth, chapters moved around like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, looking for the right fit. I jokingly referred to “September’s Song” as my problem child during the writing and editing processes, as it did not follow a conventional formula of any sort. It wrote itself as it wanted to be written, and as the author, I seemed to have little say in matters.

It incorporated a man (a veteran) and boy, the boy’s mother, amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other layered elements. I grew to appreciate the sacrifices our soldiers made, the challenges faced by people affected by Alzheimer’s, and the difficulties of living with amnesia.

Once it was finished, I could not find a publishing home or interested agent, so I decided to self-publish it. Last year I had self-published a blog-to-book non-fiction book based on the challenges and triumphs of my adopted PTSD dog, and I survived that ordeal. This couldn’t be much worse. Creating the cover and formatting proved to the biggest hurdles to overcome. In late September, “September’s Song” came into the world as a fully published novel, weighing in at 332 pages. I am very proud of this literary baby.

Short Blurb:

Women's fiction--Ivey London who lost her military husband, tried to move on with their son, her Alzheimer's mother, and a boss attracted to her. She finds him alive and amnesiac five years later. Armed with inexpiable abilities, he is pursued by a forceful group determined to reclaim him. Ivey is just as determined to keep her late husband.  Together, they uncover what happened to him, who is after him, and search for how to reclaim what they once were--husband and wife.

Buy Links for “September’s Song”:  (paperback and ebook)
Lulu:      http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/RyanJoSummers                         

Find Ryan Jo here:


  1. Brenda, thank you for hosting me and "September's Song"! Best wishes to you.