The story behind the story of
Searching for Persephone
How Searching for Persephone came to be
In a sense, I wrote this novel by accident.
I was laying out plans for a non-fiction book about creative processes when I dreamed that I was writing a novel that began with the sentence, “Persephone and Violet were stuck.” At first, I laughed it off. But somehow the line stayed with me and I began to imagine who these characters were and where they were stuck. I drafted what eventually became the "Prelude" of the novel, based on an experience my sister and I had in Cornwall. I sent it to her and we had a giggle. Again, I thought I’d leave it there.
But the story grew in my mind. The characters acquired quirks, dreams, and backstories as I washed the dishes and cycled to work. They lost people, they fell in love, they grew and changed. I had the whole of "Part One" essentially mapped out in my mind, and eventually the characters and events simply leapt out of my mind and onto the page. I began writing feverishly, unsure at first of what I was doing. How presumptuous to think that I could write a novel, when all I’d ever written before was a Master’s thesis, a couple of articles and some mediocre poetry. It seemed ludicrous but I couldn’t stop. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing for a week or two. My husband must have thought I had a lot of work emails to reply to.
As I wrote, "Part Two" and "Part Three" began to develop in my mind, and the characters calcified into people who felt like my closest friends. Sitting at my laptop, I cried when they went through heartbreak and loss; their pain became my pain and their triumphs became my own as well. I travelled across the oceans to Crete and Cornwall with Violet and Persephone, exploring in my mind the places I loved but couldn’t visit during the pandemic.
I eventually told my husband what had kept me typing at the computer every waking hour. A creative soul himself, thankfully he was supportive, and was the first to read a very early draft. I knew it needed work, but he assured me that the story was worth exploring.
From that first draft, completed hurriedly over six weeks, I undertook a long process of researching and editing with the help and support of several friends who believed in my new-found passion.
A year ago today, Violet and Persephone were just germinating in my mind. So much has changed in that time, in my own life as well as the wider world. To me, ultimately, the book is about transformation; it’s about losing everything so we can find ourselves fully. So many of us lost so much during the pandemic, and current international events continue to destabilize us as innocent lives are lost daily. While a book will never change the world, or bring back those we’ve lost, my hope is that, like my protagonist Violet, we can dig deep and use our darkest moments as stepping stones to stronger and more resilient versions of ourselves. Sometimes we need to dive to the very bottom in order to rise to the top.
-S.M. Perkins Carr, March 2022