Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Where It All Comes From

As a writer, I'm often asked two very popular questions, neither of which can be answered easily. The first of these, being "What is your book about?" is nearly impossible to answer. The second question, "Where do you get your ideas for your books?" is a little more easily answered, if not briefly.

Writers have a way of looking at the world and wondering how it works. We look at the stories written before and compare them to where we live and wonder about the tales inherent in our own world. I do belive the Man Upstairs has a hand in my inspiration at times, since after all He created me and everything else.

The Crownless King is an example of a book that, in the creating of it, I had to search for the story. I'd had a vision of the ending in my head for years, at least the very bare bones of it. I'd written the beginning of a novel toward that ending and tossed it aside after nearly a hundred handwritten pages because it just wasn't right for the tale.

I began looking for my hero. I studied the writings of L.E. Modesitt Jr. and admired the way that he made his main characters human before he made them heroes. I'd been trying to figure this out for weeks when I went to spend a Saturday working with my Dad and Papaw, who you see picture above, on the family sawmill.

If you've read anything I've written on here before, you'll know that I found my character Sam that morning. It just seemed to make so much sense then to make Sam a miller's son and it still makes sense to me today. In doing so, I was able relate to Sam on a very personal level. I feel like just giving Sam that beginning was enough to let me give him a depth and feeling that I haven't accomplished with my characters before.

I chose to write The Crownless King predominantly in the first person perspective. I wanted to do it after spending a season reading Pat Conroy's works and discovering exactly how much more depth there is in that perspective than I once believed. Letting Sam tell his own story made him real to me and took the story in places I didn't expect it to go. Sam told his story to me and I couldn't change a bit of it.

All of this happened because of where the story was rooted. I've always been different than most of my family. I was the odd kid in the corner reading a book when everyone else was out working or building things. Oh, I'd pitch in, mostly when they pulled me out of my world of books, but I was far from my element.

After high school I found a job as a reporter and learned to work for someone other than my family. All the things they had tried to teach me about work in the previous 18 years started to make sense and I finally learned how to work. In learning to work, I was able to appreciate spending time at our little Wood-Mizer sawmill that we have at Papaw's house.

It was as this point when I began to understand that I wasn't all that different from my family. Working the mill became an opportunity to spend time with Dad and Papaw and get to know them. The work itself became secondary to working together and the hard manual labor that once seemed so tough now became enjoyable.

Most everyone who reads this blog knows how sick Dad was last year and how close to death he was. Thanks to the Good Lord above, he's made a full recovery. There was a time, however, when I contemplated not having him around anymore. A lot would have changed and I'm not sure that the sawmill would have run again with just me and Papaw.

For whatever else would have changed, I made myself a promise that the mill would be taken care of, somehow stored away until a time when I could teach my kid (that I hope to have someday) to run it. Granted, most of my work on the mill is more of the toting and stacking of lumber and the positioning of logs, but I would've found a way. Had the worst happened, it would've been the best way for my kid to meet his grandpa.

You see, I'm just as bound to that mill as Sam is to his dad's. For different reasons, maybe, but bound just the same.

It's where the stories come from.

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