Sometimes baby boomers write books based on personal experiences in their lives. That’s how Lynn Byrne started writing The Sextant, but a tragedy turned that on its heels, and the book became a mirror of her life. As she writes for BoomerCafé, Lynn overcame her grief, and produced a book that’s probably better, and more personal, than it otherwise might have been.
I always wanted to write a story about heroism and the goal of striving for the best a person has to offer. There seemed to be so many novels on the market that examined the lowest human indecencies, the cruelty humans suffer, and even the hopelessness of achieving any kind of redemption. I wanted to focus on the strength of the human spirit, not just despite life’s hardships, but through those hardships and beyond them. I never imagined personal tragedy would become a driving factor in my story, where I would find my two worlds frighteningly intertwined. But the fact that I completed THE SEXTANT at all became a redemption in itself. And my own story changed this one substantially.
My husband and I were married in 1974 and we were both 21, young for couples these days. By 1977 our first child, Patrick, was born. Over the next twenty-five years, we built a big family with six more children (some born to us, some adopted), the youngest coming along in 2002. That kept me pretty occupied for a while. But I finally realized, with the youngest in school, if I still had the courage I could write my book. At that point I turned to Patrick, who heard my plan and introduced me to my muse, Joseph Campbell, whose remarkable insight into the mythology of all historic cultures served me as the model for my modern-day characters. I also asked Patrick to be my editor as I wrote, as he was both well-read and objective, brutally honest yet respectful of my point of view.
About halfway through the book, one of my characters dies. I wrote up to the last scene before the death, then left with my husband and younger children for a trip down south. While we were gone, my 33-year-old Patrick died suddenly of the same cause as my character. It is not easy to write those words, even now, two-and-a-half years later. It does not get easier. It does not. We came home to an altered universe.
It was a year before I began to write again and ironically, it became a connection to Patrick for me, a comfort and a challenge I could not relinquish. It could not be left abandoned, it could not be unfinished.
The tenor of the story changed somewhat, undoubtedly. I kept to my original notes, following the story line just as I had planned long ago, but a dimension emerged that I didn’t see at first, then became aware of during rewrites. It was a path to redemption that the characters’ journey acquired, unacknowledged by them or by me, but apparent, ultimately, for the reader of their tale. We, Patrick and I, could hardly ask for more.