Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Author Amnesia, and Other Ailments

I have a couple of stories that might or might not come together at the end to make a point. It makes sense in my mind, but that's been known to fail me on occasion.

First story: I'm sitting in a small private dining room in the basement of Amsterdam Cafe which, despite its name, is located not in Amsterdam at all but in Auburn, Alabama. I'm with about 14 or 15 other writerly types, current and former members of my local writing group. We've gathered to very sadly say farewell to one of the group's founding members as he and his wife move to a small town in Arkansas. I have just realized that my $35 entree consists of four small grilled scallops and a miniscule swath of risotto artfully spread across a ridiculously large platter.

Amidst my dearth of entree, there were many Arkansas jokes, hog calls, and hillbilly references because, you know, when one lives in Alabama one takes whatever chance one can to ridicule other places rather than being made fun of oneself.

I was telling my friends Matt and Julia about Stephen King's Dark Tower series, which I recently finished for the first time. Doesn't matter if you are or aren't a SK fan, here's the interesting thing: About midway through this series, he writes himself into the books...as himself....writing the books. It's all very mind-boggling, but imagine it this way. Harry Potter is searching for Lord Voldemort and discovers a book called "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," and it's his story, written by a woman named JK Rowling, who doesn't even live in the same world he does.

Harry's seriously freaked out. Is he not real, or his world, or his story? Was he born in the imagination of this strange woman in another time and place and world? Or was the author just the conduit, channeling stories from God or a muse or Gan or whatever?

This happens in the Dark Tower series, except the characters discover the books--their stories--written by this guy named Stephen King. They use a magical door to hop on over to our world, to Maine, and chat with their creator or channeler, whichever it might be. Of course, other things happen and it becomes a Stephen King novel with big hairy man-eating spiders and splattering eyeballs, but that's beside the point.

Here's the second story. I'm working on revisions for Pirate's Alley, the fourth book in my Sentinels of New Orleans series. I'm about three-quarters of the way through and I'm chuckling over some lines I thought were clever, and there's an explosion, and my characters crawl their way to safety, turn the corner of the half-destroyed building...and come upon two other characters having a fight.

I do not remember writing the scene that follows. I have no recollection of bringing that particular character back into the story after sending him into hiding in the first chapter. I have no idea what happens next.

Who the heck wrote that scene? Stephen King?

Anyway, it brought me back to the question of the Dark Tower, of the relationship between creator and creation, between author and character, between imagination and story and which chicken comes before which egg.

Which is apropos of nothing except it felt really bizarre to read a scene that I must have written but don't remember. Has that happened to you? I'm blaming lack of sleep!

And this weekend, by the way, Hoover Public  Library (Birmingham area) is the place to be! On Friday night, beginning at 7 p.m., author Lauren Willig will speak as part of the "Love in the Library" program, followed by a panel discussion of...something, I'm not sure what...with authors Beatriz Williams, Abbi Glines, and, well, me, followed by a book-signing. On Saturday at 1 p.m., there will be a panel with authors Angela N. Blount, Betty Bolte, Jillian Chantal, Larynn Ford, Christine Glover, Julie Johnstone, Aidee Ladnier, Naima Simone and Meda White. Followed by a big blowout book signing. It's all free, so come on out! You can find out more here or on the event's Facebook page.


4 comments:

Cari Hislop said...

I've had that happen! Working through the editing and finding stuff that I have no recollection of writing. That's always weird! A few years back I found a short story on my computer that I don't remember writing. I must have wrote it because it has my word flow, but to this day I have no recollection of actually writing it (probably just my phenomenally rubbish memory at work), however, finding it inspired me to look up sleep-walking/writing and apparently there are people known to write in their sleep. The brain is SO weird!

As for characters and where they actually hail from - I'm firmly in the "they exist in another dimension of reality" camp. I suspect there's a large gathering for a lottery and they pull our names out of a large hat and the author they pull is the one they're stuck with to tell their story.

Suzanne Johnson said...

LOL. I love that theory, Cari--I wonder if the characters who get stuck with me consider it a curse? Because some of them sure aren't cooperative. :-) (And I'm all over that writing-in-my-sleep thing. I wish I could do it at will. I'd get more sleep!)

Cari Hislop said...

I strongly suspect my characters have tried to stage a coup (or two) to get another chance at the lottery, but I think they're stuck with me. Sometimes I can sense them sulking in the background other times they throw parties and don't invite me. I don't think it's occurred to them that I didn't get to choose them either.

Aidee Ladnier said...

I have totally done this as well. I've even written scenes, handed the draft to my collaborator and when I get the next draft back, complimented them on the scene--only to be told I'd been the one that wrote it. Maybe my subconscious was doing the writing for me that day. Or maybe I need more coffee. ;)