Finishing a project is self-fulfilling, no matter what it is we create. Musicians, artists, crafts persons, writers, we all share something exciting. With our minds, we make something from nothing. Well, almost. That nothing begins as a nubbin of inspiration.
It is said that a wood carver removes all the excess wood from something that waited within the piece of walnut or pine or birch. That is much the same way a musician works. All the excess notes floating around are pushed aside to find those that await, perfect in every way. Painters discover images in the swirls of color, the strokes that slowly form what lay fallow in their minds until just the right movement of the brush revealed it in all its glory.
When someone asks me where I get my ideas, I have no idea where to start. I find them in the sound of wind through a giant oak outside my window. In the ray of sunlight that prisms just so through the glass. The laughter of a child who has discovered something new in her world for the first time. A story told on the news that brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. A young, courageous man returning from war with a smile on his beautiful face. A mother who holds her newborn child for the first time and sees the hand of God at work.
I could go on forever explaining where a writer’s ideas come from. But I won’t, because I think you get it.
Going all philosophical can be explained easily. My latest book has just passed through the galley stage and I will soon hold it in my hand. Approximately 150,000 words labored over off and on for years. Characters I have lived with so long I love them all dearly, hate to let them go, in fact. This book is the crowning glory of my writing career. I have this niggling feeling deep inside that I will never surpass it.
Some writers only write one book in their entire lifetime. I’ve written many, but none have meant so much to me as this one. It is based on true happenings during a time when I was most vulnerable to new ideas. My children had left home to begin their lives, not without me, but apart from me, and I wandered the empty rooms of my house for months, not quite knowing what to do with myself. Then I turned on a television program that sent me reeling into what would turn out to be months and months of research, several years of writing, many more years of rejection and hope.
That television program featured a young, haunted man who had been charged with all sorts of trumped up charges. But mostly, he had come home from a dreadful war known as the Vietnam Conflict after being held as a POW for more than five years. And we called him a traitor, among other things. I watched Robert Garwood try to tell the American public that the military had left behind more than 2,000 men in Vietnam. I watched two men take him by the arms and escort him immediately away from the mics waiting for his statements. And I began to cry.
I still cry when I think about what was done to this young man who was involved in the bloody killing fields, tortured and imprisoned, and then mistreated by his own countrymen. But I did more than cry, I did what a writer does. I spent the next six months digging into everything I could find out about that war and what happened to so many of the men who fought over there for their country. Then I wrote a fiction novel based on what I learned, and I decided to make a woman the main character. A woman who falls in love with a fictional Glen Tanner, who has returned from nine years of captivity and torture, broken and fighting a battle to survive.
Beyond the Moon is the book that will soon be released from Oghma Creative Media. It’s a long book, a big book, a story of bravery and the power of love, and I hope many people will read it and come to admire Glen and Katie and their abiding courage.