- Kathryn R. Biel
Do You Believe in Coincidence?
My whole life, I've been plagued by strange things. Most often, it presents as a dream or a random thought of a person, song, or movie that pops into my head. These are not things that I should be thinking about on a regular basis. Obscure thoughts, if you will. Then, by chance-- by coincidence-- I come across that thing in real life.
Like the time I had a dream that my college boyfriend broke up with me. We were going strong with no indication of trouble. In the morning, I told my roommate we were going to break up. No less than 2 hours later, he came over to watch a movie (The Princess Bride, which was ruined for me for years. Thanks Brian). Mid-movie, he decided to break up with me. When I asked if that was his intention all along, he said that it just came to him. By the way, his reasoning was that he didn't want things to get too serious, as he was leaving to join law enforcement and I still had 4 years of school in Boston ahead of me. Whatever.
Or the time (not that long ago), that I told my friend that when searching for a title for my 'X' book (my books go in alphabetical order and are all song titles), I'd have no choice but to use 'Xanadu.' I also told her that I didn't really know the song at all, just the title. Twice within the following week, iHeartRadio Broadway (which my alarm is set to) played Xanadu when my alarm went off. I've had my alarm set to iHeartRadio Broadway for over a year now, and this only happened after I mention it to my friend.
This has occurred in my life so often that I used it for the basis of my novel, Killing Me Softly. Sometimes, when I think of a person, the next time they're mentioned is their death. My dad and cousin have the same "gift," so we often have conversations about how we "killed" a celebrity because they popped into our brains.
So the rest of this story is long and convoluted. However, it's filled with so many of those moments that I can't help but hear some Twilight Zone music in the background. Here we go:
Last November, after I released Seize the Day, I began plotting my next book. I knew I had a character who was crippled by anxiety. I also knew that singing was not only the cause of her anxiety but her release from it as well. On and off throughout December, I plotted the book. I worked on character development and backstory. I needed a cause for the protagonist's anxiety and PTSD. In a sheer flash of inspiration while in the shower one day (because that's where the ideas hit), I knew that her boyfriend had released a sex tape and it had gone viral. Certainly the idea that the whole world had seen you naked would be enough to paralyze mose people with fear. So January 1, 2020 rolls around, and I start writing Take a Chance on Me. In writing this book, I committed to 85K90, which meant I would write almost 1,000 words per day for the first 90 days of 2020. I started on January 1 and was scheduled to finish on March 28 (pause for laughter because we all remember March of 2020).
Take a Chance on Me is set in the world of a family-run muscial theater set in Upstate New York. My theater is unabashedly based on the real life Mac-Hadyn Theatre in Chatham, NY. My female protagonist struggles through her PTSD while the male protagonist works to save his family theater during massive and crushing renovations. They have to make this season a success or the theater will close.
So I'm in my writing cave, writing when a story pops up in Google feed (probably fueled by my searches for different Broadway shows, as I was doing research). You can read it here. In a nutshell, there was a call to boycott the opening of the West Side Story revival, as one of the lead cast members had been fired from the New York City Ballet for sharing nude photos of his female colleagues without their knowledge.
You know, basically the plot of Take a Chance on Me.
Ok, little bit of a woo woo moment. Still, I continued writing. I mentally cast Jeremy Jordan as my male lead. I watched countless videos of Ann Reinking in Chicago for research. I spent hours watching her dance to "Me and My Baby" and "We Both Reached for the Gun." If you've read the book, this will totally make sense. If you haven't read the book, why not? :-)
Then March hit. I struggled to keep writing as schools shut down, restaurants shut down, the world shut down. I pushed on and finished the book, coming in at a whopping 92,000 words. I said to a friend, "how to I write about a theater struggling to stay in business when in reality, the theater I based this on may not open."
And they didn't open.
I donated half of my pre-order royalties to the Mac-Hadyn's Bright Future Fund to help them open hopefully in 2021. I began production of the audiobook of Take a Chance on Me. The narrator noticed that a secondary character, the managing director, always said, "mate," so she questioned if he was Australian. I'd done this totally subconsciously but agreed that he must be. In my subsequent efforts to help fundraise for the Mac-Hadyn, I had the opportunity to speak with their managing director.
Who is from New Zealand.
Getting freaked yet? Hang in there. He mentioned that I had no way of knowing but the Mac-Hadyn was undergoing massive renovations and this season was critical for them. So yeah, there's my whole book.
Okay, fast forward to this fall. I'm writing a follow-up book to Take a Chance on Me to be included in an anthology, out in February. I plot out the book, taking my Aussie director from Take a Chance on Me and match him up with a character from another book. It's great. I find myself immersed once again in the world of musical theater. Now I have to come up with another season of shows to run at my fictional theater.
Sometimes researching feels like more work than writing.
This season, my fictional theater will be doing "The Greatest Showman." It's not actually a stage musical yet, but in my fictional world, my fictional theater has been tasked with staging it to be able to sell it for a Broadway production.
I made this up.
My fictional theater, The Edison, is run by the fictional character, Grayson Keene. Grayson Keene is based on the very real-life Jeremy Jordan. Grayson and The Edison are going to bring "The Greatest Showman" to life. This is already written. The book was turned into my editors before Christmas.
(Speaking of before Christmas, Ann Reinking died suddenly. I only sort of take blame for this, but her favorite number of all time was reported to be "Me and My Baby.")
So last week, this pops up in my YouTube feed as I'm searching for aerial yoga videos (stay tuned to my page to find out why later). It was posted to YouTube on December 31, 2020.
I had no way of knowing that Jeremy Jordan had any connection with "The Greatest Showman." Is this enough to start believing in coincidences?
Sory for the long and winding story, but the best ones have intricate details not to be missed.
Telling stories of resilient women with humor, heart, and a happy ending, Kathryn R. Biel is the author of 16 award-winning romantic comedy, women's fiction, and contemporary romance titles, including Live for This, Made for Me, and Ready for Whatever: The UnBRCAble Women Series. Her next novella, Vision of Love, will be featured in the limited release anthology, Love in the City, available 2/16/2021.