When I was in the early stages of writing Velma Still Cooks in Leeway, I decided to spend some time in the book of Ezekiel. The issues I wanted to explore in the story were forgiveness and the need for healthy leadership in the faith community. Ezekiel includes wonderful passages about the “shepherds of Israel,” in which God delivers scathing judgments on leaders who are not caring for the people. So I dwelt in Ezekiel for a month or so, just soaking up ideas and images.
One image that struck me was in chapter 3, verse 14: “The spirit lifted me up and bore me away; I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the Lord being strong upon me.”
These words gave me the idea for my book’s title character, a middle-aged café owner named Velma. She was an ordinary person in a little Midwestern town, but I would give her “fever dreams”-times when she fell into fever and was carried away in dreams that said something about what was happening in her life. I would give Velma an experience suitable to an Old Testament prophet. So the very first sentence of the book reads, “When I was a young girl, strange fevers would fall upon me.”
That was the progression: I choose the theme of the book, which let to reading Ezekiel, which led to giving Velma strange fevers.
– from “The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life” by Vinita Hampton Wright Loyola Press