Why I wrote By Any Other Name
A guest post by Jeannie Meekins
I wanted to write a story that explored the father/son relationship. I wanted something with a bit of guts and I wanted to push it to its limits – and even beyond. What happened was something I could not have predicted, and possibly the best thing I’ve written so far.
Declan is a normal kid. On the surface, he has a normal life and a normal family. But nothing is as it seems, skeletons do not stay in closets and lives can be shattered by simple truths. Why? Because Declan’s father is a hitman for the mob.
From the moment I wrote the opening lines, I knew this was going to be a massive task. The story covers 35 years in Declan’s life, so it had to start from the beginning.
Declan was never going to be an only child, so I threw in twins who appear to be polar opposites with a bond that unites them as one. And a little girl who can give her brothers a run for their money and wrap her father around her little finger.
The story is in first person because it is purely Declan’s story. I didn’t want to go into Michael’s (Declan’s father) world and only do so as much as it affects Declan directly – which is quite a bit. It is a part of Declan’s life that he cannot escape, and he has nightmares about it.
Michael knows exactly what he is and never once tries to justify it. I cannot stand stories where the bad guy justifies himself or gives excuses as to why he’s bad. “I would have been good except for…” It’s a copout and attacks the credibility of the character.
The story is set in a small town where everyone knows everyone – and possibly everyone’s business. And these families, full of secrets, want their kids to be kids. I wanted to keep the illusion separate from the reality and many of the interactions make you wonder how much people actually know and how much it does or doesn’t affect their lives.
There are times when the hardest decisions in your life are made simple when seen through the eyes of a child. This is the simple logic that Declan falls back on even when he is an adult. He is not perfect; far from it. What he does have is integrity and loyalty. He is responsible for his actions and willing to suffer the consequences, whether it’s disobeying his father or punching up the school bully.
He is also aware that there are two types of power. There are those who believe money and position bring power, and there are those who are content to let them think so. (This also ties in to the title.)
The story runs the full gamut of emotions and scenarios that life can throw at you. I occasionally tend to focus on the unusual, therefore a scene where Michael teaches his sons to shave is much more revealing than Declan learning to drive once he reaches uni.
When Declan gets married – not a spoiler – I wanted to do something different. The ‘standing at the door telling someone you love them with cards’ scene from “Love Actually” was going through my head. I’d set up potential of what was going to be a very different ceremony – that would be a spoiler – but I didn’t want to “make do”. I looked at options, and then wondered what would happen if Declan wasn’t there.
From there, it was easy, and fun. While there is a lot of deadly seriousness in the story as a whole, and I mean that literally, there is also a lot of humour. For what is life without humour?
To me, the ending was always obvious, but I deliberately left it with a bit of ambiguity. I write with a lot of subtlety. I know of some readers who have missed the ending I intended, but not realised it and have been satisfied by their interpretation. This makes it a win/win situation for me. The worse thing I could do is leave readers feeling unsatisfied.
And the title? It comes from the Shakespeare quote, and is a line used at the climax. It’s also the theme threaded throughout the story.
Finally, getting back to the original topic: why I wrote By Any Other Name.
I can’t imagine not writing it.
Jeannie Meekins is an Australian writer who lives with her children and a couple of cats who think they own the computer. And if her dog could read, he’d be jealous, so it’s lucky that he can’t. Jeannie has also written over 10 books for children, many available through LearningIsland.com. By Any Other Name can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, and other online retailers. Follow her on Facebook and Goodreads.