I began writing Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees after a failed attempt to make peace in my family. I wanted the protagonist, Silvia, to succeed at unifying her family so that I could experience her joy and gratification vicariously. Writing this literary fiction novel was both cathartic and healing for me and it helped me through one of the greatest pains I’d ever experienced–the loss of my once-great family.
While writing this novel, I grew attached to the Grecos and readers had also told me that they wanted to see more of the this family. So, I wrote Discovery of an Eagle. I also wanted to spend more time with them, to get to know them more intimately.
The Bird that Sang in Color was a story I’d been wanting to write since the year 2001 when I discovered my brother’s pictorial autobiography or book of sketches of his life. It was pretty magical that it ended up fitting so perfectly in with the other two books that feature the Greco family.
I didn’t originally set out to write three family drama novels, but I’m so glad I did. Although all three books are heavily involved with family dynamics and relationships, each one explores different universal themes. This was pretty easy to do because the family unit is kind of like a microcosm of the world at large.
Each of the novels features a protagonist who overcomes his or her fears that are rooted in their familial experiences growing up and act as obstacles to their happiness. The scene below, from Discovery of an Eagle, is an excellent illustration of how Cosmo awakens from his old way of being in the world into a more fulfilling existence.
They drove right to the South Rim as the park ranger who greeted them had instructed. The magnificent Canyon opened itself up to the sky, which was half deep blue, and half filled with clouds. The clouds hung around the mountains as if they were formed to each other. Light came through the cloudless spaces in thick, bright strips and turned the Canyon iridescent shades of pink, red, brown, and orange. Each time the light shifted the picture changed dramatically. Cosmo thought it wouldn’t amaze him, but he was wrong.
As he stood and stared out at the wonder, a bald eagle flew by him, only a few feet in front of where he stood. He couldn’t believe that the creature had flown so close to him. It landed on a ledge for a few seconds and then took off again, its wingspan reaching across nearly the whole of Cosmo’s field of vision. Silvia stood right beside him, watching the eagle as it flew over their heads. Neither spoke a word until it flew away and disappeared behind a cloud.
“Wow!” Silvia said. “An eagle. I love eagles!” She looked like she wanted to start jumping up and down.
“Yeah,” Cosmo said, still staring at the final trace of the majestic bird. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one so close.”
“Don’t you want to know why I love them so much?” she said, disregarding her brother’s comment.
“Why?” Cosmo asked as if humoring his sister. “Because you’re such a patriot?” He laughed, knowing well that it wasn’t the correct answer.
She looked back at him snidely and said, “Because of what they mean.”
He didn’t say anything. He knew he didn’t have to. He knew his sister would tell him the answer without being prompted to do so.
“Strength, courage, immortality, spirit, divinity,” she said, gazing into the spectacular gorge below.
He knew about eagles symbolizing courage and strength, but not about immortality, spirit and divinity. The picture of the eagle was still fresh in his mind, gracefully sweeping over the earth, its wings spread like an angel. Divinity seemed to fit just right as something that this phantom bird should symbolize. It glides along with unearthly grace to remind everyone that our own journey can be as smooth or as rocky as we chose to make it. It appears, and then it disappears as if by some divine magician, and in its brief revelation, reminds us that we all have the potential to rise above.
In my newest series, I’ll be discussing the many aspects of writing about family. Each post will feature an excerpt from one of the three Greco family books.
Grace Mattioli is the author of Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees, Discovery of an Eagle, and The Bird that Sang in Color. These family drama books are available from all major online book sellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.