From first grade forward, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Several times between first grade and high school I debated becoming a psychologist or an athletic trainer but a part of me never wavered from a writing career. In high school, I began writing my first novel, a fictional story about a girls’ high school cross country team that I eventually molded into a manuscript I called Beyond the Finish Line.
In the mid-1990s, after my sister killed herself and I moved to Albuquerque to pursue a teaching career, I juggled working on the cross country novel and my need to write a book for sibling survivors of suicide. Several major publishers looked at Beyond but none of them bought it and, in the meantime, I was given the opportunity to publish Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Sibling. Its publication guided my career toward helping people cope with suicide loss and Beyond into a stack of work that never seemed to get completed.
My desire to write fiction has continued to burn in the ten years since Bad Days in Heaven was published. And in the second half of last year I came to a realization that my sister, were she to stand next to me now (and I do believe she is with me), would say, “Don’t forget who you were before I died. You had goals and dreams. You still need to accomplish those.” She knew how important writing fiction was to me and it made me think that it was time to dust it off (or at least open the computer file) and see what I could do with it.
While Beyond the Finish Line still hasn't, well, reached the finish line, my novel The Australian Pen Pal was recently published as an ebook. My first grade dream has become a reality – and one that might not have happened without knowing my sister is still with me.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D., is an international author and speaker about finding hope after loss and change. She is the author of several books including Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief and Ginger's Gift: Hope and Healing Through Dog Companionship. Her first book, based on the suicide of her younger sister Denise, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She is the President of the American Association of Suicidology and lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Read more about Michelle at www.michellelinngust.com.