This is the time of year I hate living in my beloved South. The heat and humidity is daunting to say the least. I become a whiner of the worst kind and want to hibernate in the nice cool confines of air conditioning. Yet, there is a part of me that needs the fresh air, the sunlight, the sounds of the birds floating in the open windows. So, I am at battle. I rise early on most mornings when the world is only beginning to stir and the sun isn’t streaking through the gathering of trees we have behind our house. I open the windows to the gray blanket of light. Dayclean is what the Geechee call it. The space between the shadows of night and the first rays of sun. I love this time of day so much I used this saying at the beginning of my second novel, The Storycatcher. A novel, now, I often want to shove to the side, forget about entirely. Why, you ask, would an author want to forget one of her published works?
A Storyteller Recently a book club that read only academic nonfiction of the best quality read Ghost On Black Mountain as their monthly book. This was their attempt to step into a new genre. Boy, I was already in trouble. My books have ghosts and the main characters are mountain people from Appalachia. Folklore abounds….
Granny’s Kitchen Taught Me Everything About Writing
Over the holidays, I moved from my very urban home of twenty years in Atlanta to a suburb with trees, open spaces, even a horse pasture. A ripple of something new was headed my way. It began with the year before when I turned off a highway and drove a curvy country road. My shoulders relaxed and I actually had thoughts of leaving the city. I was in need of a place where the air was fresh, where the only noises were birds, wind in the trees, and the occasional dog barking.
“Write every day. Sit thy butt in a chair and write. Don’t talk about writing, just do it, kind of like the Nike slogan.” This was my advice to writers until recently. See, it is hard to tell people how to finish a work in progress when you are not writing. These tips stopped working for me well over a year ago. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about my creativity running dry. Each time I was sure I’d found my momentum again and hit the road at a full run, I was disappointed by my ideas draining, leaving me empty and sure I’d lost any talent I possibly had.
Then a sudden move presented itself to our family. I was determined to keep following my own advice, no matter what I would tap into the keyboard, while I packed up our house of fourteen years. My agent laughed when I told her my plan. “You won’t write a word for a month or two. Face this. Relax.”
When I take that curvy part of Interstate 40 between Asheville and Hickory, North Carolina, deep breathes come easily. The stiffness in my neck releases and relaxes. The ‘important’ issues in my life lose their power. The mighty spruce trees reaching for the sky quiet my racing thoughts. The land all around belongs to me, beckons me. I’m home in a place I’ve never lived.
Granny, if she were alive today, would tell you she escaped Appalachia, walking, holding my mother’s small hand. It was 1935 and Granny was twenty-five, a widow, and grieving mother, who had just lost her two-year-old daughter. Her small farm was taken from her. She felt she had nothing to lose. Her sheer determination landed her in Atlanta, a city she loved until she died in 1993. When World War II began, Granny went to work for Bell Bomber and built B-29s, a Rosie the Riveter. Out of each weekly pay check, she paid a house payment on her small house, so she would never be homeless again.
Learn your craft. Is this something you’ve been told? Sound advice for all writers to follow. Without the technical knowhow to structure a sentence, paragraph, chapter, and book, we would be lost.
But what drives an author to sit in a room alone for hours each day working out her plot? In other words what inspires a writer to tell a story? This is a question I’m often asked. One would think after two novels and a novella, I would know. But the truth is the answer is ever-changing. Like a sunset from evening to evening, no two novels are the same. Neither is the writing experience.