Local novelist explores father-daughter bond
Unemployed, broke and on the verge of being evicted, Scarlett O’Connor has spent the final years of her twenties caring for her aging father and withholding from him the truth about her chosen path in life.
Her life is in shambles.
On his deathbed, he struggles to speak to Scarlett one last time — to share one more nugget of dad wisdom. He tells her it’s “the greatest secret to living a happy life.” When he dies, Scarlett doesn’t expect to hear any more of his advice.
But she is wrong.
He has one final adventure for Scarlett: a mysterious scavenger hunt, complete with a cryptic treasure map and instructions to travel to Maui.
In the newly published book, “I Can Still Hear You,” (Whole Beauty Press, $9.95) Santa Barbara author Nicole Black shares the story of a complex father-daughter relationship and their powerful, unbreakable bond that was inspired by the death of her own father, Noel Black.
“He died when he was 77 on July 5, 2014, of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis at Cottage Hospital. Afterward, I started to see signs or symbols like he was still with me. It was very comforting,” Ms. Black told the News-Press.
“To me, one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is to instill a moral compass. You can’t make them do what you want – you can only show or guide them, which takes a great deal of patience.”
The single mom of 16-year-old Morgan said the original title for her first novel was “The Spiral Staircase.”
“I loved the concept that as humans we keep repeating the same patterns in our lives until we get it right. The book is Scarlett’s journey of finding meaning in her life,” said Ms. Black, describing the book as “fiction but loosely based on her own experiences and own life.”
For more than 20 years, she worked in the business world as a corporate trainer in employee productivity and effective growth and has been featured on platforms including TEDxWilmington, the Jack Canfield Show, the George DiGianni Show and the Tom Barnard Show.
“I named the main character Scarlett because ‘The Scarlet Letter’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne’ is one of my favorite books,” said Ms. Black.
In “I Can Still Hear You,” Scarlett’s childhood best friend, Mark Graham, is her constant support and encourages her to take the risk to figure out the truth behind the treasure map.
“In the mix are her father’s old friend Dave Murphy, who seems to have the key to the scavenger hunt and her less than romantic boyfriend, Kevin Pritchard, who professes he has come to help her find the buried treasure,” said Ms. Black. “As her search continues, she doubts the meaning behind these relationships. Who can she trust? Scarlett must seek guidance from her father’s spirit and learn to face her fears alone.
“But with time running out and her trip to Maui drawing to a close, can she solve the mystery and find her father’s treasure? And what will be waiting for her if she does?”
Currently, Ms. Black, who is studying for her master’s degree in elementary education, is planning to start a new career in teaching.
“I’m also hoping to write another book about Scarlett’s adventures when she finds another treasure map,” she said.