About this time last year, my uncle approached me. He had been working on a graphic novel based on his mother’s life, and he had writer’s block.
Would you help me write it? he asked.
I thought about it. It’s a difficult story, one that would be painful to research and write. I knew it would be upsetting, both for me to work on and for others to read.
But it’s also a good story, one with all the big themes: Love, marriage, family, regret. Freedom of choices and social expectations. Religion and morality. Kindness and cruelty.
I’m in, I said.
We knew we wouldn’t be able to find answers to everything we wanted to cover. We’d need to fill in some gaps.
So we decided to fictionalize–keep the core of the story intact, while changing names, places, and details as needed.
We got started in earnest in January 2016, and took three months to research, interview other family members, plot out a timeline. In March, we had a title. In April, we created an outline. I wrote from April through August, and we revised collaboratively along the way.
Here’s the potential jacket copy:
For most of his life, Rick’s mother shared nothing about her childhood. While she never spoke of her years before marriage and motherhood, her frequent depressive episodes, use of corporal punishment, and erratic behavior betrayed a foundation of abuse, neglect, and vulnerability. Like his many siblings, Rick attempted to connect with his mother any way she’d allow, and resigned that he’d never learn about her past.
But unexpectedly, in the summer of Rick’s 30th year, Pat asked him to serve as her executor, and traveled to spend a weekend at his home to complete the paperwork. During that visit, she poured out her memories, never heard before—or ever again afterward.
Stony Road is a story of lineage: the mysteries of our parents, and the desire to understand the forces that shaped them (and, by extension, us). It’s a story of regret and acceptance, resignation and survival. And—despite appearances—it’s a love story, the maddening, persistent, confounding love that only comes with blood and family.
In September, Rick started the artwork.
More to come…
All images copyright Rick Stromoski