My first novel, Echoes, has haunted me since day one and continues to do so even now that I’ve set it aside while I work on novel number two, Appetites. Weird things keep coming to light, weird phrases like intuitive writing. It almost seems like as I write events into the novels, they become reality and, quite frankly, it’s freaking me out.
I admit that realism is one of my must have ingredients when I write. There is nothing I like more than finding a tidbit of factual information and twisting it to suit the needs of my story. It is my feeling that by doing this, I have created plausibility and that grounds the reader in the story.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the line between fact and fiction blurs right? That’s a sign of good writing right? Well I’m still freaked out.
For those that know the origins of Echoes please be patient while I fill in those that aren’t. Echoes started out as a writing exercise in Creative Writing 101 at Durham college under the watchful eye of the one and only Writing Fairy, Dorothea Helms.
“Write a book report on your favourite book or a totally new book. Here’s the catch, Write it different. No traditional book reports.” Of course I’m paraphrasing because I can’t remember exactly Dorothea’s words. Hell, I have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast.
Besides, it’s not what Dorothea said that counts, it’s the results she gets. Me? I chose Frankenstein. My hook was to do it from the point of view that Mary Shelley had sent a copy to Lord Byron for his input. I wanted to do the book report as a book review by Lord Byron. Mark this, I will come back to it.
Did I mention that I had a word limit? Yep, 500. Now at that time, 500 words was a lot to this burgeoning writer. I fell into my research. If I was going to do this, I wanted it to be as authentic as I could get it. Very quickly I realized that 500 words was woefully inadequate for what I was trying to do. I literally got sucked into the era; into Mary Shelley’s world and I loved it.
Echoes evolved from that simple exercise. It grabbed me and dragged me through a year of A Novel Approach. I got caught up in the feel of the story and realized that it wasn’t a plot based story but was instead a character driven story bordering on literary or Gothic styles. Which makes sense, really, considering the subject matter.
The nuts and bolts of Echoes is that, at it’s heart, it is a Frankenstein story. Set in the sixties, a group of university friend travel to England to visit Mary Shelley’s haunts. Like Mary Shelley’s group, this is a group of artistic minded students. Musicians, poets, and writers. A summer of expanding their minds, of chasing history, of just getting away from home. Call it fate, call it karma or just chalk it up to the fluidity of time itself but unknown to these kids, history is about to repeat itself and they will experience first hand the same horror that Mary Shelley herself lived through that fateful “Year Without a Summer”. The year Frankenstein was born. Along for the ride is the narrator, John Pearce. His goals are to win his childhood sweetheart over. Unfortunately due to a childhood tragedy, John’s head, like Frankenstein, has been rewired. Only he can see the past overlapping. If he can’t trust anyone, not even himself, how can he save Mary.
So why am I freaked out? One of my character’s, a sixties version of Percy Shelley, also named Percy, is a musician. He is one of those guys to whom guitar playing comes as easy and effortlessly as breathing. When he plays, he is one with his guitar. So when I was doing additional research I stumbled across a British museum, Bodleian Libraries, with a Shelley exhibit aptly named, Shelley’s Ghost. In combing through this great site I stumbled across this. The real Percy Shelley was a music buff. I suspect he was trying to woo Jane Williams, but still, this made me catch my breath. I had already written and shaped Percy and to find out my “fictional” character’s traits were actually fact?
That was the first moment. Remember when I said you should remember the origins of Echoes? Well, I completed the first draft of it December 2009. Yesterday my wife sent me this link, Discovered: Lord Byrons Copy of Frankenstein. If you have time, watch the video. I literally had chills. In Echoes, Mary and John are walking in an English fair/flea-market. They stop at a book vendor where Mary buys John a copy of Frankenstein. Turns out it’s a signed copy. I wrote that scene in 2009.
One of my co-workers said I was intuitive (I think I may have mentioned this before) and I’ll admit I didn’t know what she meant. I’m still not sure. What I do know is that whatever is at work, I hope it keeps it up.
I look forward to be “Freaked out” again, and again, and again….
Is that freaky or what? 😉
P.S. Any family members reading this, that signed copy of Frankenstein would make a great Christmas present for yours truely. 😉