It was an unseasonably warm day for February, so Vanessa and I decided to take the kids into Philadelphia. We went to see the Liberty Bell, and then we took a tour of Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. We had never done either one with the kids, and Vanessa, in spite of growing up in South Jersey, had never seen the inside of Independence Hall. It was an afternoon filled with fun and history. It was also something more. For me, the experience was almost surreal.
Two and a half years ago (almost two months before I began writing ANOM: Awakening) Vanessa and I spent our anniversary weekend in Philadelphia. It was a perfect day in late June, and we were eating lunch outside at a restaurant across from Independence Hall. I remember sitting at our table that day absorbing the details of the city -- the way the crowds looked, the sounds of people and traffic, the feel of the hot Summer air -- they all became part of that experience.
Then I started ANOM: Awakening, and the very first scene of the novel takes place in Philly across from Independence Hall.
As I wrote that scene, the details from the summer lunch found their way onto my page. The two events, one real and one fictional, became inseparable. In fact, so much of our experience from that day made it into the book that when Vanessa read the first chapter for the first time, she commented, "This is our anniversary."
Then today happened. For the first time since writing my book, I was back in front of Independence Hall, and standing there, I could "see" the opening scene of my novel. The events in the book may have been pure imagination, but the details of that scene -- all the sights and sounds that create the atmosphere of Old City, Philadelphia -- are all real. And in that moment, Independence Hall was both the historic birthplace of our nation, and, at the exact same time, it was the fictional setting of my novel.
Like I said, it was surreal.
It made me realize, again, just how much my book has become a part of my life. It felt like when you accidentally find yourself thinking about your job on the weekend. You can't really help it because your job has become a part of your identity. It's who you are.
The same is true for my book. The story of ANOM: Awakening has been part of my identity for over two years now, and I'm excited to finally share it with my friends and family.
If nothing else, the next time we're in Philly, we can all feel surreal together.