Literature is peppered with them. Fictional detectives declare there is no such thing – and promptly go on to solve the crime. Plots turn on chance discoveries, and some are so far-fetched that the suspension of disbelief – pricked like a party balloon – goes rudely trumpeting into a corner.
Even so, by their very improbability, real-life coincidences are startling. And when the coincidences are linked and occur over a lengthy period of time, they take on meaning.
Of course, trivia pops up too. A while ago I received a book through the post. One of my own, a second-hand copy of LIAM’s STORY to add to a collection I’d been making for a charity sale. It came from a book dealer in the USA – odd in itself as this novel had been published in the States under a different title. To my astonishment, when I opened it, I saw a dedication on the flyleaf, in my own handwriting, to a cousin of mine who lives in Louisiana.
How her copy had come into the hands of a book dealer was a mystery at the time; but the point is not how it left my cousin’s hands, but the fact that it came into mine. It could have been sold anywhere in the world, and yet it came back to me, the author. Even more remarkable because this particular book had had so many coincidences attached to its creation.
Stranger still, the very next morning I received a message via my website from a reader in Canada – her name is Dana – who wanted to tell me how much she had enjoyed my books. Messages like that are a delight, but this was even more so. Dana went on to say that she is distantly related to me through a marriage which took place two generations ago. The link between us is the cousin to whom I’d dedicated that copy of LIAM’S STORY. And this same cousin had introduced her to my books…
Replying, I shared with her the odd coincidence of her message and the returned book. A coincidence, I must say, which kept nagging at me. Not least because the novels Dana mentioned – LIAM’S STORY and its predecessor, LOUISA ELLIOT – had been published some 20 years previously.
Was there a message here? And if so, what was it saying? The word COINCIDENCE kept springing at me, reminding me of all the odd events which had occurred – over the period of a decade – while these two novels were being researched and written. At the time it was as though hidden hands were pushing people and things my way, nudging me to do this, go there, keep looking. Most of all, urging me to get on and write the unfolding story.
Most of these coincidences involved other people, some to a powerful degree. Like following clues in a treasure hunt, it was a revealing, even breath-taking journey. Library Angel episodes were followed by small incidents that seemed designed to create bonds; others sparkled like the jokes of a mischievous friend.
There were many surprises along the way, and lots of laughter when daily life was often difficult. So I had reasons to be thankful while wondering who and what was behind it. I had my suspicions, of course, but the only proof lay in the benefits coming my way. Not just necessary information, but the ability to handle it.
As time went on, these strange events came in so fast, it was almost impossible to keep up. In the end, it was akin to riding a Grand National winner, clearing the hurdles while clinging on for dear life. Despite thrills and spills along the way, I’m glad to say both horse and rider finished the course intact.
That first novel, LOUISA ELLIOTT, became a worldwide success. Strange, because it was not the one I set out to write.
For years I’d had a specific idea in mind, but even as I began it was overtaken by a different story. Having obeyed one insistent inner voice, suddenly other voices were clamouring to be heard, demanding a place in their time, their city. It was as though by chance I’d opened a door to a different world. A world where coincidence was commonplace.
All I had to do was go with the flow, believe in my muse – or the family ghost, depending on your point of view – and reach LIAM’S STORY through the path he’d set out…