No doubt you’re familiar with the term prequel. Though most novels don’t require a prequel, authors always write the stories of their characters before the novel begins. Writers call this exercise backstory. Writing backstories helps the author get to know the characters: their early experiences, their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes. Marty Greenlaw was the character to first appear on stage for The Copper Box.
Martha (Marty) was the first child of James and Elaine Baker. She had one sister, Ruth, two years younger. Jim was a high school principal and Ellie a kindergarten teacher in Phoenix. The family spent many happy vacations in Jerome with Jim’s parents Henry and Lois and his younger brother Tommy who lived at home because of his Down syndrome. When the girls were four and two, Grandpa Henry died of a heart attack.
Two years later Jim and Ellie were killed in a car wreck in Colorado. Martha and Ruth, who were staying with their grandma Lois and their uncle Tommy at the time, stayed on for several months. Then Ruth died and Tommy grew much worse. Lois reluctantly decided Martha would be better off growing up in a normal home.
A quiet red-headed seven-year-old, Martha was easy to place in foster care in Cottonwood. Gene and Polly Greenlaw, committed Christians, took Martha. Their only child, nine-year-old Ron, was eager to have a little sister, so the family adopted Martha after a few months.
A psychologist, Gene Greenlaw was concerned that Martha had very few memories of her life before her adoption. After a bit of gentle probing, he decided it was best to give Martha a new name for a new start, and she became Marty Greenlaw. Polly, a nurturing stay-at-home mom, enrolled Marty in gymnastics. Small for her age, Marty loved the sport.
Ron, tall and lanky like his dad, played basketball, so their common love of sports helped the children bond. Ron coached Marty on the trampoline and Marty cheered every time Ron made a basket. As much as she enjoyed sports, Marty also loved to go to garage sales with Polly. She collected old dolls, which she brought back to life with a new hairstyle and clothes Polly helped her make from colorful fabric scraps. When Ron was twelve and Marty ten, the Greenlaws moved to San Antonio to care for Polly’s mother.
College and Early Adult
As Marty grew up, her passion for old dolls gradually turned into a love of antiques. When it was time for college, she chose William and Mary in Virginia. She majored in early American history, spending hours wandering the streets of Colonial Williamsburg and studying the exhibits. She minored in business and after graduation found a job in an antique store in Georgetown, Virginia. After a few months apprenticing with a master restorer, Marty knew she had found her career.
A serious child, Marty always had one or two close friends, usually girls from her Sunday School class. As a teenager, she dated boys from the church youth group. She had a steady boyfriend in high school, but the two went their separate ways when they chose different colleges. Marty dated casually in college, never finding that special someone.
After she graduated from college, Marty concentrated on learning her trade, not leaving much time for dating. When she was twenty-six, she fell in love with Ted Wilson, an antique buyer for a large auction house. He asked her to marry him, but before they married he wanted them to live together. Deeply hurt, Marty broke off the engagement.
The Copper Box
Here the story begins. At twenty-eight, Marty had long ago decided that what happened before the Greenlaws adopted her didn’t matter. She’s doing well in her career, even written a handbook for her clients who want to restore family heirlooms. She’s taking a break from dating, having vowed to wait on God to find her soul mate. She’s settled and content–until Lois Baker walks into her shop.
If you haven’t seen the trailer, watch it here.