While mulling over a new novella I’m working on, it dawned on me that there is a motif that flows through nearly every story that I write. It’s not something as abstract, as love (which is a given, considering my genre) or redemption or healing (though those are common ones) or any sort of existential commentary on the human condition.

No, my novels have plenty of subtle and not-so-subtle themes that run through them. But this one was so unexpected it caught me off guard.

Tea. Yes, that’s right, tea. The beverage, preferably served hot, often with honey. In an early MG fantasy novel I was working on in grad school, a professor noted with good humor the importance to which my characters had elevated tea. One of them says, “Something big is going down. End-of-the-world big.” And the other character says, “I’ll put on the tea.”

Now, tea is my comfort food (if you could call it a food), even more than a bar of dark (very dark) chocolate. But despite my love of chocolate or ice cream or artisan cheeses, none of these things has become an unconscious motif if my stories.

Each time tea surfaces in a story, its presence feels completely natural. When someone is sick or worried, what better way to console him or her than to offer up a cup of tea? So when Cassandra (heroine in newly begun novella) arrives shivering and soaking wet on Nick’s doorstep, what is a guy to do but make her a cuppa?

I blame my best friends, those ladies who have been my confidants through the numerous ups and downs of my twenties. When some people would whip up a pitcher of margaritas (we have done that, on occasion), we usually put some hot water on and brew a pot of tea. We’ve stayed up until 5 a.m. contemplating our lives and the mysteries of the universe, anything from relationship woes to work struggles to spiritual awakenings, while imbibing endless amounts of tea. Those are good memories. And after a long day at work, there’s nothing better than coming home and sipping a cup of Lady Grey tea while allowing my body to sink into the sofa cushions.

I don’t know why tea became part of my writing universe. Maybe I associate it with the magic that runs through my life. It’s natural, earthy, relaxing—a sort of meditation and medicine. It’s a balm for the soul. And, maybe, drinking tea is even an art form.

What about you? What subtle motif has popped into your work unintentionally? And where do you think it came from?

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