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  • Writer's pictureDonna Norman Carbone

Behind the Book: A Series, Part I

People always ask why I wrote ALL THAT IS SACRED. They want the behind-the-scenes story. I get it. That’s why I teach a film class because I love all the backstories, what we don’t see on the screen. I decided to write a three-part series on the backstories behind my upcoming novel All That Is Sacred (release date TBA). I hope you’ll join me for all three parts. This one addresses the inspiration for the story and how I came up with the title.

Inspired by the sudden passing of a close friend, Donna (yes, she had the same name as me), All That is Sacred looms large with my core beliefs. After Donna died, I was confronted by so many questions. Where does her soul go? Can she feel us? See us? Hear us? Or does the soul forget once it moves on?

It isn’t that I hadn’t considered these big questions before. Baptized Catholic and raised Christian, I attended Sunday school. I made my sacraments. In college, I took a class called “Literature of the New Testament” where we analyzed deeply and I contemplated deeper. Through my late twenties and early thirties, I read a lot about the philosophies regarding the metaphysical world. I dabbled in subjects like reincarnation, past life regression, mediums and psychics. I read books by Edgar Cayce, Brian Weiss, Jane Roberts, John Edwards, Suzanne Northrop and Neale Donald Walsch. Ever since, my spirituality (which is the term I use because I’ve come to understand that my beliefs derive from many religions) is evolving as I do.

This isn’t a religious novel. But it was born from questions of a spiritual nature. Nothing questions one’s beliefs like the unexpected death of someone close.

Two years prior to Donna’s death, I went to see a medium upon the request of a different friend from a completely different friend group who wanted to be read because her mother had recently passed. Suddenly, I was the one read by the medium instead. The message given to me was that I needed to reconnect with my old friends because we “were going to need each other.” This stuck with me and resurfaced when I learned of Donna’s passing.

That, and her family reached out to me asking for a story or a poem or memory to commemorate Donna that they planned on collecting from her loved ones as a gift for her daughters who were young when she died.

These two experiences rolled over and over in my mind until one day I decided to use them as I created a fictional story with these two personal experiences as the foundation. I often write through my confusion. I’m sure this project began as a way to make sense of my own grief. As the book took shape, it morphed into a different story. Not mine. Not my friend’s. A collection of friends find themselves in a similar situation as I was. What started out as their story became her story, the main character who passes. She struggles, straddling between the life she left behind and peace that awaits her in heaven. At the heart of this story is friendship, family and love. These are the gifts I hold sacred.

When I wrote the early drafts of this book, I called it Affinity because at the heart of the story is the affinity these five friends share. When I worked with an editor, though, she suggested I change the title because she said Affinity made it sound like science fiction. It made sense. My novel is women’s fiction. So, I came up with All That is Sacred because, in the novel, one of the friends refers to the secrets they share as “sacred sister stuff.” Fun fact, though, there is a nod to the original title in the book.

I hope you enjoyed this look behind-the-book. Stay tuned for the next part in the series where I talk about point of view.


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