Author continues to write despite challenges
‘The Lupines Are Marching’ is her most recent book
MARQUETTE — Michigan author Kara L. Swanson’s life changed dramatically in 1996 when a devastating car accident left her with a traumatic brain injury.
However, that — and losing her job at the Detroit Institute of Arts, her catering career, her home — hasn’t stopped her from writing books.
Since she could not find a brain injury book to help her recovery, she decided to write one.
“I’ll Carry the Fork! Recovering a Life After Brain Injury” was the result. Swanson has given keynote speeches to the brain-injury community in the United States and Canada and maintains a blog at https://karaswanson.wordpress.com/.
“Brain injury presents distinct challenges to each survivor,” Swanson said in a news release. “Mine made it difficult to follow the written word, among other things. For a writer, that is critical, and so I concentrated on producing shorter works that I could manage cognitively.”
Swanson was declared permanently disabled from her 1996 brain injury. However, she is allowed to work “smallish” jobs. Since 2008, she has been the public address announcer for sports at her high school, Warren Woods Tower, in downstate Warren, announcing football, boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ basketball, and special events.
However, she is fulfilling a dream with her latest book, titled “The Lupines Are Marching.”
The story introduces a woman, Berit Fors, who was born in the Upper Peninsula but has lived her adult life in Ann Arbor.
“While she has seemingly lived a bright life, she has long hidden a dark and painful secret she shares with her father,” Swanson said in an email. “When his health fails, she journeys home to confront him before it’s too late. She seeks an eluding truth.”
Swanson said Berit delights in fun-loving reunions with her sister and her nephew, cousins and childhood friends and enjoys a playful, decades-long flirtation with Charlie Newman.
“Several plot twists rock her and shock her, upending what she had based her life’s story on,” she said. “When she realizes how her family has been curdled by sour lies, it will cost powerful losses and take a sweet truth for Berit to start a new, true life.”
Swanson said the inspiration came from an “enriched” childhood of summer vacations at her mom’s family farm in Elo.
“There were 15 kids in her family, so I have beautiful memories of summer weeks with lots of cousins and aunts and uncles up there,” Swanson said. “I fell in love with the scenery, the so-different life and pace from city life. While my friends at home were going to Disney World and Cedar Point, I was learning to bale hay and milk cows and stack firewood for winter. I loved it. I wanted to write a novel that had the U.P. as one of its unique and glorious characters.”
Swanson wanted to produce an enjoyable read with something for everyone: Michigan history, a little mystery, complex characters, romance, family drama and late plot twists.
There also are many references in the book that will resonate with people in the Upper Peninsula and with people who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, she said.
Before “The Lupines Are Marching,” Swanson had written books that were shorter and easier to manage.
“It was a personal goal, as a writer, to find a way to pull off a full-length novel, brain injury or not,” she said. “I wrote the ‘bones’ of the story 17 years ago. Because I couldn’t recall like a normal person, I had to change my strategy.”
Swanson said she created characters with back stories and “learned them, lived with them” so that the plot was more about letting them loose and following them on their journey rather than her plotting it. So, she kept asking what her characters would do next.
“While most writers, I assume, write with a bigger picture in mind, I wrote within a maddening small one,” she said. “I literally had to connect this sentence to the next, this paragraph to a page, this page to a chapter.
“When I would resume writing the next night, I usually had no idea what I had written before. I had to read again, take copious notes and learn the story. I had to make it a part of me so that I knew it instead of simply recalling it. There are still huge portions of it that I have memorized because I needed to.”
Swanson returned to the book early in the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. But after many years, she had to learn the book again.
“I had the bare plot but it had no ‘pretty,'” she said. “I spent a year ‘putting in the pretty’ and editing. To be honest, when I released it, I had no idea if I had pulled off a sane, logical read, much less a good one.”
So far, she has received enthusiastic reviews from mostly men and women in their 50s and older, she said.
One reviewer on Amazon wrote: “The setting for the book is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Ms. Swanson does a masterful job of presenting and bringing to life all the beauty and flavor of that unique area. The story is a family saga with ever-changing family dynamics. The characters are so well developed and believable, they made this reader love and appreciate them, warts and all!
“The book contains elements of mystery, love affairs, changing attitudes and many surprises. It is one of those entirely compelling stories…impossible to put down and completely satisfying.”
“The Lupines Are Marching” is available on Amazon.
Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal .net.