Readers would probably be shocked at how much research goes into a work of fiction. When I wrote A Different Kind of Beauty and Beauty Returns, I needed to get into the head of a blind 16 year old boy so I interviewed some blind people. I hate the way that sounds and could write instead “visually challenged” or something else but it would all suggest that I’m interviewing the handicap instead of the person. And it’s the people details in which a writer is really interested.
I met Angela Wice and she helped shape Kyle immensely by sharing the sounds, smells and feelings along the path of losing losing your sight and then somehow gaining a new vision.( for example she let me test my bloodsugar level exactly the way diabetic Kyle would.( I became a regular at her coffee house where musicians often visited to showcase new work. I became a fan.
When I write stories, I know I need music in my character’s lives but can’t really afford the time or money to purchase rights to songs. I believe after seven words of a quoted song you need to get permission. So I write caricatures of songs. They’re shorter with bits of verses and minimal refrain so that a book reader gets a sense of the music but doesn’t get bored.
Kyle’s Lullabye in Beauty Returns is one that Angela helped me develop into a real song. I have sung it at the OLA launch of the story and at various author visits (one in a grade 9 prison).
Angela consented to sing it for the book trailer and my son Craig filmed it yesterday. The moment the first note left her mouth I felt so touched. A creation of mine had reached a new tangible level for me.
More poignant too because Craig and Eireann’s baby Violet was there and cooed all the way through it. I also loved how three artforms were cooperating to produce something totally different. It will be awhile till Craig can put this all together. His daytime job at Emotion Pictures keeps him busy and I know he cherishes his family life in the hours he has left. But I also know it will be a masterpiece t.
First a two hour drive on a clear sunny day with no traffic at all. A good omen. Then at noon an interview with a journalism student, Nancy Ellis. Her story on me counts for 25% of her final grade, a replacement for a midterm. No pressure. She has to tape the interview.
I do this a lot with younger kids usually. No one’s ever gotten lower than a B, no worries Nancy.
Hurray for Laura Martin, the hospitable librarian who hooks me up with a large cup of butter pecan coffee and a private room for the interview. Sample question: best advice someone’s ever given me on writing. Best is such a hard judgemental word. Recently we had Vicki Grant speak at CANSCAIP and she said something about her best ideas being very close to her worst ideas.
That resonated with me. What about the best advice I can give a young writer. Explore your likes and dislikes and find yourself. Then connect what you find to your work. That goes for all young people not just writers.
Nancy can’t stay for the talk which is in the adjoining city hall chambers. Gorgeous like a techno courtroom. The two techies provided to me swore off on my Mac–although helped
get me some sound to my trailer.
Three classes of Grade 8s from Vincent Massey sat on two levels facing me. They are terrific. I would guess there are some good writers in the crowd judging from their thoughtful participation. Plus I have some superb actors perform my scene from Last Chance for Paris. Appropriate aws for cute puppy shots.
We all had a good time. I enjoyed a visit with Laura who previous hailed from a Manhatten Library. Then she gave me a souvenir library bag and pen.
Now what would make this all perfect would be to hear that Vincent Massey will now read my books and that Nancy goes on to earn an A+ and quotes me to future writers.
Teachers grabbed some writing tip sheets and the kids hiked back with them to school.
I drove off into the rushhour traffic.