The Big Idea: Caye Marsh
Author Caye Marsh was treading in unfamiliar territory when she became a mother, and the feelings that came with it ended up being the seed for her newest novel. Follow along in her Big Idea to see how being a mother assisted in forging the path for Peace In The Sky.
Sometime in the small hours of the morning I got up to nurse my first child. The house was dark and silent, the baby in my arms was mostly still a stranger to me. And the whole business of being a parent was entirely new territory.
I was sleep-deprived, sore, often weepy and sad. But I was quickly forming a profound and deep connection like I had never, ever known. It was more compelling than duty, more inseverable than any family ties, greater even than love itself.
And it made me wonder – would I know my child anywhere? What would it take to break this bond?
My muddled brain began spinning me a story in the those shifting, hazy hours of the night when I was stumbling around half-conscious, nursing or changing diapers. During those hours in which time had no meaning, it felt easy to inhabit a time far in the future. It felt easy to imagine the confusion and brain fog of a character who couldn’t quite remember herself or recall her former purpose, for whom the present was the only meaningful time. It was the only sort of character who made sense to me.
After I finally got some sleep, and started to find the rhythm of nursing and schedules and naps, I began to make a real story out of those distracted musings. I wrote about a woman in an addled state who meets a child she does not recognize. But when the child calls her Mama, she experiences all those feelings that I’d had while I nursed my newborn — that intense, imperative desire to protect, to provide, to nurture and cherish. It was my way of working through those feelings in the abstract while I lay under their spell in my reality.
I wrote about a character who has forgotten who she once was and has to remake herself in an altered and challenging world. Her only certainty is the urgent, all-consuming need to get her daughter to safety. Nothing else matters to her, and she actively resists claims anyone else makes on her time or energies. And that felt a lot like parenthood to me.
The book is about more than just that, of course. It’s about an Earth growing into a new equilibrium after being unbalanced for so long. It’s about different peoples struggling in the confines of their separate cultures and environments, and the ways in which they interact both for better and for worse. And it’s about a woman hiding from her own truth, and therefore so much more clear-eyed about the truths of others.
But at the heart of the story is a mother who is learning what it feels like to be a mother.