Jennifer Olmstead is the creator and author of THE VIRGINIA SOUTHERN POINT COLLECTION, featuring contemporary stories as unique as their setting in the beautiful southernmost region of Virginia, where the pastoral farms of Back Bay meet the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. MEN AMONG SIRENS is Volume I in the collection. THE STRAY is the collection's Volume II.
Cycling, Dare Jordan and the premise for THE STRAY
In the U.S., this year alone, 66 million people cycle—at all levels—for a multitude of reasons. Cycling is an integral part of their lives. Readers want to know, is Dare Jordan, and his cycling fixation, obsession, real? Each of my books is borne from an actual life event—the characters, however, evolve as an amalgam of people who crossed my life at various points. In the case of Dare Jordan and THE STRAY, the concept for the book stems from a grave cycling accident involving my older brother, who is an avid cyclist, and, yes, who does own a Ben Serotta custom road bike. The event happened several years ago and devastated our family. I still remember the phone call from my brother. The paramedics were on the scene. He’s 6’8” and has a deep voice. The man on the phone squeaked out my name and could barely let out a breath. If he hadn’t used my childhood nickname, I wouldn’t have believed it was my brother. His voice was distorted because he had a collapsed lung, broken bones, and was running out of oxygen. It took quite a while for me to be able to process the potential loss there and gain enough distance from his hit-and-run and recovery to craft the accident into the story.
Although I write fiction, I pull significant elements of life experiences into the mix, and some of those experiences are extremely painful. One has to be in the right mindset to be able to go into those depths and commit to that process. I don't want to analyze Dare’s character too much, because I know as an avid reader that when I have discovered a character in a story, I don't want someone else telling me anything about that character that would sway my image. I don't want to be told that what they've done isn't possible, or that they don't look the way I’ve conceptualized them. I don't want to compare Dare to the person inspiring his creation, but I'll simply say that my brother is a wonderful guy, a great brother and uncle, a generous man. In the end, we don't write about a perfectly neutral day in our lives where everything clicks and nothing's out of sync. Who wants to read that? We’re compelled to write about things that impact us—either end of the spectrum things we can't accept—things we can't comprehend. I think one of the most important aspects of Dare Jordan is that underneath the complex layers of his personality there's a very simple issue. How much protection is enough protection, and how much protection is too much? All of us are the children of someone and when we look back on our childhood and upbringing, we can always find fault with our parents to some degree. And, as parents, we want more than anything to protect our children, but that's not always possible, nor is it always the best way to equip them to go out into the world. And then there's the question of whether when you’re protecting your children, are you actually protecting yourself?
Q. You portrayed the military aspects of the book Men Among Sirens very accurately. Are you a Navy spouse?
No. Most of the knowledge I have is passively acquired from living in a Naval port for 23 years. My father was a Navy Officer early in his life, and I dated a few “Navy Men” when I was younger. And, of course, the character of Blaine is based on a Navy Pilot I met during the first Gulf War.
Can a near-fatal cycling accident save Dare Jordan from himself? One November morning in rural Southern Point, Virginia, an out-of-control van slams into Dare Jordan's custom road bike. The crushing impact lands the OCD accountant at the foot of a ditch—and at the feet of six-year-old Hoagy Butler and his Bassett hound, Lila.
Be careful how hard you shake the family tree.
Follow Ruby Bohan and her mother, Ainsley, on a twenty-year journey of love, loss and reconciliation set against the backdrop of the Navy hub of southeastern Virginia and Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula.