Julianne Donaldson grew up as the daughter of a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. She learned how to ski in the Italian Alps, visited East Berlin before the wall came down, and spent three years living next to a 500-year-old castle. After earning a degree in English, she turned her attention to writing about distant times and places. Edenbrooke is her first novel; follow her on twitter, Facebook, and read more about her dreams here.
I began writing a novel because I was too depressed to do anything else. That may sound like a horrible beginning, but wait for the explanation. You see, my husband and I were college students when we got married. When we had our first baby he was still working on his bachelor’s degree. Six years later, we had persevered through his bachelor’s degree, his master’s degree, and were in the throes of law school.
But I felt I could persevere no more. We were poorer than poor. We were the family that gets anonymous Christmas presents left on the doorstep. We were the family that other family members give their hand-me-down clothes to. We were the one-car, mom-jeans, food-stamps, McDonalds-is-a-treat kind of family.
We didn’t have to be as poor as we were, I suppose. I had a college degree, but I was committed to being a stay-at-home mom for my kids. I was also committed to supporting my husband in his educational ambitions. And I was committed to the idea that I should be fulfilled with that, because I was sure that was the right thing to do.
The problem was, I wasn’t happy, and I believe it was because I had no dreams for myself beyond surviving the experience. Anti-depressants only took me so far, as did therapy. So I sat down one night, exhausted and beaten down by the day, and by our poverty, and by the stress of student life, and I dreamed of a world in which everyone was elegant and wealthy and there were no children. At all.
Thus Edenbrooke was born. I escaped to my dreams of Edenbrooke when I was doing the dishes at night and the kids were standing on the table throwing Goldfish crackers at each other and my husband was at school studying. I dreamed of Edenbrooke when I pushed my baby on the swings at the park and told my kids to stop making sand bombs out of their socks. I dreamed of Edenbrooke when I put the kids to bed and they threw water on the baby to wake her up “to play.”
And it saved me. (It probably saved my children, too.) Now, five years later, my dream has become a book that is a physical representation of how vital dreaming is. Even if I wasn’t dirt poor and kid rich, I would still be a writer, because it’s the avenue of my dreams. It’s where my soul and intellect meet to become fully alive and expressive. Edenbrooke is my paradise, and it fills me with joy. I hope my readers feel the same way.
Is there anything you began doing because you were too depressed to do anything else?
Do you have a talisman that reminds you of how vital dreaming is?