Your stories often have a real-life core, right? Can you point at some happening, some story, that gave you the idea for Looking for Dawn?
Yes, I can. There was a suicide attempt, young lady who had, from day one, faced problems not every kid does. I knew a number of her relatives (I think she was in high school when the attempt was made). It was on a Saturday night, I think, because in my mind I was really interested in who might go to the hospital to visit her and bring her flowers—you know, that kind of thing. The parents and she had many—step and adopted and birth—and grandparents, I just figured, would all want to be there. I got to thinking that the hospital room could easily have been jam-packed with visitors. What’s important to the story is that all the parents were sort of settled into a rather conventional life after some trials when they were younger. I couldn’t help thinking that the young lady’s hospital room would be crowded with people, many of whom maybe hadn’t talked to each other all that much—or talked much about what happened 16 years before.
Okay, then what’s the “what if?” here, the question you were thinking of coming out of the blocks?
If I hadn’t told you what I just did, I’m quite sure no one on the face of the earth would read Looking for Dawn and think of that event, long ago, as a prototype. But it was and is. What happens in the novel doesn’t resemble in the least what might or might not have happened in that hospital room, but the idea of bringing together principle players in the life of a troubled young girl who may have tried to take her own life is what’s going on here, people who’ve not talked about what happened years ago when the child was conceived. What might have happened when all those people had to look at each other and talk. That’s the “what if” at the foundation of the plot.
Why didn’t they talk before?
Good question. I wouldn’t say, necessarily, that anyone in this novel is that uptight about what happened—that’s really not it, although a certain amount of “don’t talk about it” still rules in small town life as I know it. I think things weren’t talked out in the novel’s case because, in large part, the kids were still little. They wouldn’t have begun to understand. So, time passed, no one talked much about it, and wounds healed, sort of, until something happened to make the whole story bleed anew.
Don't be fooled. Schaap's new novel is self-published. At this point in time, only four people in the world have read it. The interviewer here, and interviewee are, strangely enough, the same person. Just so you know.