by Darrel Nelson
In the fall of 2013, Marsha and I visited Seattle to conduct research on the novel that would become Following Rain. I had two specific goals while there:
1) visit a homeless shelter to get a realistic look at the facility, and
2) interview a TV investigative reporter to get a better understanding of the job.
I felt that visiting a homeless shelter would not be difficult. We would simply select one, knock on the door, and ask to speak to the director. Accordingly, we chose a homeless shelter near the Space Needle and walked up to the door. It was locked. We rang the buzzer and an older gentleman answered. I explained our purpose and he invited us to wait in the foyer, near the director’s office. She was currently meeting with a client, he explained. As we waited, a woman came down the stairs and into the foyer. She held a brand new baby wrapped in a soft blanket. She walked directly up to us and extended a hand and introduced herself. She was friendly and welcoming and seemed to exude a spirit of peace. She indicated she had a teenage son who was at school but would be back later in the day. Here she was, the mother of a teenage son and a beautiful little baby, living in a homeless shelter, with nothing but the clothing on her back, and she was welcoming us. I could only wonder at her story. I never asked, of course, but I named the fictional homeless shelter “Welcoming Hands” in her honor. She will never know this, I suspect. But hopefully, her kindness and friendliness will live on to some degree through the pages of Following Rain.
Interviewing a TV investigative reporter, I decided, was going to be more difficult than visiting a homeless shelter. Where did one go to find a reporter, anyway? I resigned myself to foregoing that and just making stuff up for the character in my novel. During our stay in Seattle, we took a guided bus tour of the city. It turned out that Marsha and I were the only passengers that day, so the guide said he was at our disposal and he would give us a special tour. He was detailed in his explanations of the city and was very accommodating. When we drove up to Kerry Park, which overlooks the Seattle skyline, I noticed a TV News van sitting beside the curb. What luck! I told our guide that I had hoped to interview a TV investigative reporter, and our guide told me to go for it. He waited while I approached the van and spoke to the reporter, who was sitting inside typing on a laptop. I explained my purpose and was told he was too busy to answer my questions right now but I could call the next day and speak with him longer. He gave me his card and told me to look at some of his blog interviews. Accordingly, I called the following day and, fortunately, caught him in heavy traffic so he had lots of time to talk. He patiently answered my questions and provided great information that helped flesh out the main male character in Following Rain. I am still moved by the good fortune I had in arriving at Kerry Park at the exact moment the investigative reporter was there preparing a feature. Destiny or coincidence? I’ll let you decide. But I know how I feel about it.