Writing a novel was never on my bucket list. In fact, it was something I didn’t want to consider. There were too many talented authors, too many wonderful stories, too much competition in the book universe– why bother?
Then my husband suggested I give it a try, and I found myself thinking about themes. Musing about characters. Observing my surroundings more closely. Perhaps I’d give it a shot.
And one day an idea struck. It happened in an airport when I noticed an elderly couple struggling at the customs desk, unable to speak English, loaded down with heavy bags. The man was struggling with a suitcase, and I wondered how someone of his age and frailty could manage this journey alone.
Thus my first character was born. His name was Rashid. He’d meet someone on the plane; someone on a similar journey. What if that person was a young woman? What if this encounter led to her discovering secrets about her life?
The more I thought about it, the more I became drawn into a world of my own imagining, set in a country I’d grown to love. I added a Buddhist monk, a Khmer Rouge survivor, a zany British artist, a kind-hearted tuk-tuk driver. I painted word pictures of the Russian Market, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the riverside town of Kampot, Raffles hotel, injecting them with aromas of garlic noodles, frangipani flowers, stinky sewers, and fragrant incense.
And the more I wrote, the more I fell in love—with the characters, the story, and the process of writing a book.
The journey from the first word to the last edit was long, arduous at times, and often soul eroding. There were long gaps between writing, frustrated moments searching for descriptions and story arcs, months of agonizing edits where I chopped, re-wrote, and despaired it would never come together.
I changed the name from The Messenger to Finding Charlotte before finally settling on Whisper of the Lotus. I downloaded photos to immerse myself in Cambodian scenery when I was no longer there, exchanged emails with a monk in Siem Reap to learn about Buddhism, and watched video clips so I could best describe locations that were unfamiliar.
And on August 23, 2020, after competing six revisions, hundreds of hours of editing, dozens of story alterations, and relentless polishing of almost every one of the 98,000 words, I wrote the hardest two words of all. Two words I’d delayed, procrastinated about, and been reluctant to write: ‘THE END’.