Sunday, November 12, 2006

Author's Insight

In the last week, I almost had an affair with a priest, got shot in the head, gave birth to a baby all by myself, held my infant son in my arms as he died, watched my husband get arrested in a middle-of-the-night police raid, and then had to watch my three year old daughter die in my husband's arms. Oh and I participated in a riot or two and attended the burials of my two children too.

No, these things didn't really happen to me... but I feel like they did. Until writing this novel, I never realized what an emotional roller coaster an author goes through in writing a book. I guess I always assumed that authors depersonalized them self from their story while they were writing it, and maybe some do. But I could not. Nor could I gloss over major life events simply because they were hard to write. And oh were they ever hard to write.

I've heard authors say that if you don't turn yourself on when you're writing a sex scene you won't turn your reader on either. I don't know if they would say the same thing about death scene feelings or not. But I can tell you this, if readers of my novel don't shed some tears when they read it, it won't be because I didn't cry my own bucket of tears while writing it. I've cried so much in the last three days my eyes are swollen. I'm grieving the loss of family members I never knew.

The characters in my novel are my great grandparents and their children and people from their neighborhood. I've never met any of these individuals nor heard any family stories about them. But I do know something of their lives as a result of my genealogy research. In writing this novel I've put my self in their shoes (as much as my knowledge of the times and my imagination would allow me), felt what I thought they'd feel under the circumstances, used what limited resources were available to them (relative to what we have today), and tried my hardest to convey what life was like for them back in the late 1800s as Polish immigrants in Detroit. In order to do that, I've had to immerse myself in the lives of my characters. It has been a very emotional experience for me. I never thought writing fiction would be like this.

I wrote a novel last year that had some tender scenes, some tension filled, even harrowing scenes, some betrayal, and some real fearful scenes. But I never felt the kind of connection I've felt for the characters in the novel I'm writing this year. I was never able to walk in their shoes, feel their feelings, dream their dreams, or cry their tears. I was totally unprepared for the emotional highs and lows I've experienced writing this year's novel.

And I've just passed the half way point to my 50,000 words.

I think the scenes most difficult to write are behind me now. But then again I'm only half way through and the story is still unfolding. There will certainly be more twists and turns and emotional upheavals to come. I still have the steamiest scene in the book to write... oooh la la, that should be, eh, interesting. Yeah, interesting. That's a good word for it ;-)

Last year I finished my novel in the very wee hours (just after midnight) of November 26th (Thanksgiving Day). I'm writing at about the same pace this year but since Thanksgiving is earlier, on November 23rd, I doubt if I'll finish by that day. But it could happen.