SHERIDAN — “I’ve never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight, I’ve never seen you shine so bright…The lady in red is dancing with me, cheek to cheek, there’s nobody here, it’s just you and me,” sang Chris de Burgh in 1986.
That song, “The Lady in Red,” is playing in the background at a fictional high school senior prom, where Eve, wearing a red dress made for her by her mother, dances with the boy of her dreams before catching him in the act with her best friend.
Abbie Johnson Taylor published “The Red Dress” in July 2019. A book synopsis provided by Taylor describes the novel as a 25-year journey during which Eve is forced to confront feelings of guilt for letting the dress get away, her mother’s battle with dementia and old friends who betrayed her.
“The book is about how a red dress affects three generations of women,” Taylor said.
The Red Dress tracks Eve’s journey through high school, college and into her adult life, where she is a best-selling author and happily married with three children. Twenty-five years after Eve gave the dress away, she is confronted by her past through a Facebook friend request from her college roommate, the person who bullied her into giving up the red dress.
She said the inspiration for the novel came from a writing workshop, during which a woman shared a similar story about her relationship with her mother and a red blouse. While Taylor didn’t want to plagiarize the idea, she was inspired by the story and decided to tell it in a different way.
Why a red dress?
“Red is one of those colors that can invoke a lot of feeling, a lot of memory,” Taylor said.
She said she incorporates song and poem into her writing frequently.
In this novel, the color red elicits feelings of young love as well as heartbreak, betrayal, guilt and healing. Taylor said she hopes readers understand through her novel that everyone is responsible for their own actions.
Taylor has a visual impairment, one that sometimes prevents her from creating her own visual descriptions but enhances other sensory details. She describes things readers can hear, smell and touch, rather than simply see. “Music can also elicit powerful memories,” she said.
Taylor is a graduate of Sheridan High School and studied music at Sheridan College, Rocky Mountain College and Montana State University. This book represents a change in Taylor’s writing, as her previous publications include a memoir, romance novel and collections of poetry.
Taylor is working on a collection of short stories set in Wyoming that she hopes to publish.
The Red Dress is dedicated to Taylor’s late husband Bill, who inspired a minor character who has an undying affection for the Colorado Rockies. Even when they were losing, his dedication to the team persisted, Taylor said.
Taylor worked at Sheridan Manor from 1989-2005, before she married her husband and retired to write full-time. Her experience working in the Alzheimer’s unit at the Manor gave her the background to write a character battling dementia in The Red Dress. She said through activities and interactions with residents there, she felt confident she constructed a realistic character.
Her first novel, “We Shall Overcome,” features a character with a visual impairment. Taylor said if it works for the novel, she will include a character with a disability.
Taylor has been publicizing her novel through social media and friends and hopes to receive positive feedback at a book signing at Sheridan Stationery Saturday, Aug. 24 from 1-3 p.m.