Gifts of Winter

Doesn’t the darkness make the lights all the more bright and the cold the fire all the more inviting?

The long flight home with strangers bundled up, the more intimate that hug at the door?

The message, “I’m on my way”, then the wait make that kiss all the more passionate?

The wrapping and the shuffling and the parking and the lines make that wrapping under that tree all the more glowing?

Those lone white stars against the black ribbon of night all the more serene?

For winter is separation and the study of patience but a secret joy brought in its good time.


The Natural of the Supernatural

From Witches and Vampires to Werewolves and Zombies, modern culture is infused with the supernatural. We see these foreboding characters in blockbuster movies, TV shows, as well as books (even mine). Consumer media today is saturated with supernatural themes. And now even advertising has a supernatural twist. Look at this ad/short movie from Mac.

The ad just brims with a supernatural aura.

So for me as a writer, the question becomes why do these themes resonate so much with an audience? What is it about these characters that compel and fascinate us with such vigor?

One partial answer at least from a literary perspective is that these characters and their stories touch a very old and forgotten place within us. Like peering through a window of a long abandoned, moss bound house, they offer us a glimpse of a world beyond our antiseptic, organized, and conveniently automated existence.

These creatures inhabit a world brimming with the unknown. They are mysterious, unscientific, chaotic. They live in a world driven by passion. Not the passion of the petty thief or greedy banker but the wild and intimate passions of hunger and thirst. Through them we remember some inexplicable connection to the natural world with its unfathomable forces and invisible drives. Through them we can feel again that slight breeze of enchantment reminding us of a time when the world was more than just one big machine.

Their world of claws and fangs, of blood and spit, of shrieks and screams devours our ipads, bottled water and designer ringtones. These creatures don’t cut you off in traffic, take your parking place at the mall or disturb your evening trying to sell you water softeners; THEY EAT YOU ALIVE.

It’s no wonder that we flock to these movies and read these books. Our day to day black and white existence is no match for their riot of color. While we wait to get our drivers license, they are howling at the moon.

In the end compared to them, perhaps we are the inhuman ones.

Writing a novel is like having an affair

Writing a novel is a very intimate endeavor. It’s just like falling in love. There is that first rush of excitement when you get an initial glimmer of an idea. At first, things are uncertain but there is an underlying feeling of possibility, like the idea smiled at you for the first time. Nothing too settled at this point, but you know perhaps she has some interest.

If this infatuation/flirtation shows promise, the first bloom of a romance starts and seduction begins. You invest more time, she gives you more details. You begin to see the different sides of her personality, the initial shapes of the characters begin to take form. She calls you and the characters begin to emerge. The more she speaks, the more you want to hear and soon you are completely captivated.

With all reason thrown to the wind, the affair begins in earnest. Now you can think of nothing else. She and she alone is the subject of all your thoughts. The details of the plot emerge, the characters take on their specific traits. You feel the conflict that drives the novel’s pace.

She whispers to you, intimate details. You grow jealous of your time with her. Interruptions become almost painful. You drink your coffee thinking of her. You hear a song and it reminds you of a character. The plot runs over and over in your head. Scenarios are played out. The characters are now alive each with their own story. They clammer for your attention.

Everything now happens in secret. Your friends wonder whats going on, why are you so distracted. It’s impossible to explain, like you and the novel share some intimate, personal language that can’t be translated. You know, you just can’t say.

Sometimes the outpouring of passion becomes burdensome. You quarrel with her. You say you are not going to touch the keyboard for a week. You need rest, distance. But then that smile of an idea returns and like a moth drawn to the flame, your fingers caress the keyboard again sharing with that blank page some new turn to the plot, some new bit of dialogue.

Finally, as happens to all beautiful things, the affair will be over and the novel complete. You look back over the torturous path with a feeling of gratitude. As you then turn to the post affair work – editing, marketing, trying to find a place for it in the world, you remember with a bittersweet ache those first glimpses so alive with possibility and promise.

So yes, writing a novel is like having an affair with all the same ups and downs. Like love it can both fill you with indescribable joy as well as inconsolable sadness. It’s like nothing else in the world.