When You Write the Book of Your Heart

I am SO passionate about the last book I wrote, I find myself thinking about the characters all the time. It’s one of the only novels I ever wrote over a long period of time, as opposed to over a long weekend at the Muskoka novel writing marathon.

When I first had the idea for THE CAMINO CLUB, I was just about to set out on one of the greatest adventures of my life…a walk on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. The idea simmered slowly while I made my packing list back home in Toronto. I was picking up a spork and hiking socks at a camping store in Toronto while contemplating one of my main characters and how he would suffer a tragic loss while he was being forced to walk the Camino over his summer holidays. I was trying on backpacks while coming up with the name for another main character…one who loved her dog and hated her parents and fought the idea of walking the Camino with every fiber of her being.

I even came up with the tagline idea prior to actually setting foot in Spain. THE BREAKFAST CLUB MEETS THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO. As taglines go, it doesn’t even make much sense. The whole MEETS thing is to conjoin two books, two movies, two shows, two ideas, etc. Not to conjoin a movie with a place. But in my head it worked. Juvenile delinquents forced to walk the pilgrimage route as penance for their crimes. A youth diversion program.

Long before I wrote the first word of The Camino Club, I knew intuitively that it would be THE book…the ever-illusive ‘book of my heart‘ book. I heard others speaking of their own ‘heart books‘. I knew some of mine had come close, but I also knew I had not yet written my heart book. It was still out there.

I had planned to take notes every day I was on the Camino, to assist me in shaping the novel that I would eventually write once my own Camino pilgrimage was over. I really did. I thought I might even write some of it in the albergues at night, after my long days of walking. But the magic of the Camino that I had heard so much about for so many years prior to heading to Spain? Turns out, even though it was exuberantly described to me,  it was still greatly understated. There is no describing what the Camino does to a person until one enters the Camino and discovers the magic for themselves.

As life-changing as the pilgrimage was, I still somehow managed to walk with each of my juvenile delinquent characters in my head and in my thoughts (mostly). I imagined them grumbling at the difficult bits and slowly melting into a softness of acceptance along the way. I imagined their dramas and their downfalls and their highs. I questioned why I would want one of my characters to experience the loss of a loved one back home while they were hiking across Spain and unable to do anything about it. Why would I be so cruel?

It was only while I was on the Camino that I realized there was a core character missing from my novel idea. I had to run into this magically delightful older Frenchman before the full bones of the novel began to fall into place for me. Upon meeting Claude, I instantly knew I had to immortalize him in my story…even if only for myself.

The gentleman in the foreground of this shot taken at an albergue in Spain along the Camino de Santiago was my inspiration for the BASTIEN character in The Camino Club. Claude’s magic just would not leave me. I knew I needed someone like him in my story.

Today is actually the 5th anniversary of the day I met this man. I know this because this is what came up in my Facebook memories today:

A man from France I met today. “And life is still good.#Camino #CaminoDeSantiago #peregrinos

He was telling us that life was still good even though he had just lost his wife. He was walking the Camino and bringing joy to everyone he met along the way. He held our albergue as a captive audience that night…told us stories that made us laugh and stories that made us cry. When he said the line quoted above, he had tears in his own eyes. And with that line, I received my AHA moment. This man will help my delinquents along on their journey! 5 years ago today, BASTIEN was born. Happy Bastien Day! It is my hope that one day you will be able to read this story for yourself and fall in love with Bastien the same way I fell in love with Claude. It’s the story of my heart.

Buen Camino!

EDITED TO ADD: THE CAMINO CLUB was purchased by Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press. It is on PREORDER HERE.

By Kevin Craig

Author, Poet, Playwright. Author of The Camino Club, Billions of Beautiful Hearts, and Book of Dreams, all from Duet Books, the LGBTQ Young Adult imprint of Chicago Review Press. Other books: Pride Must Be A Place, Half Dead & Fully Broken, Burn Baby Burn Baby, The Reasons, Sebastian's Poet, and Summer on Fire.

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