I’ve been in a funk for the last couple of days. And not the George Clinton kind of funk. In examining it, I think some of it is circumstantial, and yet I realize that I felt like this last year around the same time. Which is no surprise seeing as it’s a little over a week away from the anniversary of my mother’s death.
This time two years ago I was watching my mother quickly deteriorate from the cancer that had spread to her brain. It’s interesting timing as, of the time of this post, my agent is getting ready to send a novel of mine out on submission. And yet, in a way, it’s entirely apt.
This isn’t the first novel I’ve written, but it is the first novel that seems to be ready. It’s a middle grade novel, a fantasy for kids, that I’ve described before as my homage to all the books I read growing up. And that is largely due to my mother.
She was a fan of stories. She would read to us when we were young. Then, when we were old enough to read on our own, she would encourage me and my siblings to read. She wasn’t critical, either. Unlike others, when all I wanted to read was science fiction and fantasy, she encouraged that as well, seeing, I like to think, the joy I experienced in those books. Whether it was Narnia or Lord of the Rings, or the subscriptions she bought me to comic books like Star Wars and Captain America, she supported whatever I wanted to read.
Later, when I began writing, she encouraged that as well. She was always my biggest fan, in whatever I wanted to pursue, and it’s that unwavering support that I miss the most now that she’s gone.
My novel draws on many of the influences I experienced as a kid – Narnia and Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, even Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, a story I first experienced as part of the cast of my school’s production when I was 12*. That these are the stories that lodged in my subconscious is certainly a factor of who I am. But that I was able to explore these kinds of tales is certainly tied in to the kind of person my mother was.
If she were alive today, I would be on the phone with her right now, telling her how far I’ve come. And I know she would be excited, believing, even when I might not, that someone will buy it, that it will one day see print. And i know that she would be one of the first to want to have it. If that happens, I know I would want to call her up, to tell her the good news. But I can already hear her voice saying, “I knew this would happen.”
The year that she died, I had business cards made up for my writing career. I felt that it was time that I treated the writing life as a profession and I wanted to be professional about it. By the time I brought them home, she was already dealing with the worst of the cancer. But, at her wake, as people were putting things in her coffin, I put the card there, because she was always the one who believed. To her those words, Rajan Khanna, Writer, were already a reality. It may seem silly, but it was my way of honoring that.
I miss her more than I ever thought possible. I lost my rock, the one immutable thing that existed in my life. But if this novel does one day see print, it will be in large part because of her. And I will always be grateful for that. Already, in my mind, this novel is for her.
* She wasn’t only supportive when it came to writing. When I was younger and flirted with theater, she was my biggest fan in that as well. She used to tell me that I should audition for soap operas because she thought I was better than many of the people on the screen (this from someone who watched a lot of soap operas).