I'm always curious to the origins of art.
Be it a song, a painting, or a book I wonder about that original seed of creativity that motivated the creator to pick up the brush, the guitar, or to sit down at the computer and start bleeding emotion.
That is what art is. The ethereal emission of emotion. Good art anyway.
From artist, to songwriter to novelist we are all trying to capture and contain part of the human spirit and give it to the world in a more tactile form. And when we succeed it is a beautiful thing. Of course it is always subjective. The manner in which the creator delivers it may not be appealing to others, or the very emotions we are tapping may not be common to the consumer. Or maybe, it hits too close to home?
There are lots of ways to miss making that emotional connection with the audience but like I said when it all works art is the truest thing in this world. And yes, that goes for fiction. I am of the mind that a well written piece of fiction contains many many truths.
That brings us to me and my work. I work hard on my characters to make them as true and honest as I can. I am a character writer first and foremost. Plot comes second for me. Also I am a storyteller more than a writer which is why my grammar and punctuation needs the help of a sharp-eyed editor. But an editor with the wisdom to realize some of my mistakes are intentional and vital to my writing voice.
Over the next series of posts I am going to talk a bit about the books I will be releasing as part of my new publishing venture, Barbadum Books. The Kickstarter campaign is going very well by the way. With 15 behind it, and 15 days to go I sit at $2908 funded from 57 donors in 5 countries and 3 continents. That leave me only $592 short of the goal so if you have not checked out the video or mission statement please do so by clicking here.
I will start with the genesis of Twisted Roads.
Originally titled Small Town, Big Lies I began writing the novel as an assignment in my very first writing class. At the time I had no plans to actually finish the thing I just wrote the required first three chapters. I had secret ambitions to be a writer at the the time but I still thought a country boy from Amarillo, Texas has no shot at literary success much less stardom. Then I met RWA Hall of Famer Jodi Thomas and she convinced me otherwise after reading those sample chapters. She really encouraged and pushed me to finish and submit and by then I was hooked. Still it took a decade and a half before that book was published. By then there was next to nothing left of those original three chapters except for the idea behind the book.
And what was that original idea that sparked me to begin?
That answer is twofold. One, I had a friend who fell in love in high school. They had a very tumultuous relationship mostly due to their parents who wanted to curtail the intensity of their teenage love. After a time her parents in particular succeeded to end the relationship but my friend simply could not move on emotionally. He married another young girl his senior year and still he pined for his old original love. To the point if he had a beer or three you could bet on tears and sobs about how he'd been cheated out of love.
Truth of the matter was he had the misfortune of falling in love with the wrong person. I mean completely in love, so I incorporated that into the novel. The What if situation of … What if you spent your life loving a person not only that you can't have, but that is wrong for you even if you could have them.
Conversely, I thought about the other party. And what she most wanted in this world. In this case it was a stellar reputation. In their own way both characters are tragic figures in that they have been so blinded by their ambitions that they have lost their own identity and no longer have any idea what true joy feels like.
I set this novel in the small fictional town of Grand, Texas because small town life is a bit like a fish bowl in that there is no place to hide. You can lie, you can scheme, but you can't hide who you rally are. Not forever anyway. I added in a disenfranchised daughter of the town forced to return against her will to mix things up and still the novel was missing something. I sold the novel once, did a rewrite, then the original publishing company never released it and returned the rights several years later and I had improved so I rewrote it again but still I wasn't completely happy with the male protagonist.
It wasn't until years later when I met a talented young man named AJ Swope that something clicked. AJ was a songwriter and both a vivacious dreamer and an overachieving doer. He was bound for greatness but sadly his life was cut tragically short. I won;t lie I still grieve not only the loss of his friendship but the loss of what he would have brought into this world with his talent.
But before that tragic January day when a suicidal driver collided with him I stole small bits and pieces of AJ and incorporated them into my lovesick protagonist Lucas. AJ knew this. He helped me shape the character into a songwriter and while Lucas is not, and never was meant to be, a direct representation of AJ I like to think my friend lives on in that character and in a million other ways. AJ made the book better, he made my life better and he made a whole lot of other people's lives better. AJ you are missed. Learn more about AJ and his music here.
So it took that original seed, Half a dozen rewrites and the inspiration of a great friend to bring the book fully alive. If you have rad it. I thank you. If you haven't I hope you will. It is available now to pre-order via my Kickstarter. Here is a bit of the opening …
September, Grand, Texas
Lucas Cahill had never spent a great deal of time pondering death. Being an eternal optimist, he refused to dwell on the finality of life, any life. Way he saw it, death was nothing more than a change, and unlike some, Lucas did not fear change. Actually he embraced change, hoped for change, even encouraged change when need be. Then again, he was only thirty-four. Maybe when he was older and the idea of death was more tangible he would come to fear the inevitability of its arrival.
Flat on his back, he stared up at the moth struggling in one of the many spider webs decorating the wood rafters of his garage, and wondered if the insect realized change was at hand. Others might find the scene morose, but spiders had to eat too.
The circle of life.
One thing giving way to another. You could call it death, or you could call it change. Either way it was inevitable. Laying there beneath the flickering fluorescent light in the backseat of the Cadillac, Lucas chose to remain positive. He’d spent most of the night thinking about her. About what tomorrow might bring. The moth provided a welcome distraction.
Maybe he could write a song. Use the spider web and the moth as a metaphor. His Martin guitar sat propped up in the front seat of the convertible, the neck reachable from where he lay, but Lucas remained in the same position he’d been in for the better part of an hour. Prone, with his arms folded across his chest. The front seat had more room, but hoping for musical inspiration, Lucas stretched out in the back as he had every night for a week now. So far that hope, like most of his others, had been denied.
After doing most of the restoration himself, he’d sent the car’s seats off for the upholstery work. Last week he bolted them back in place, and he’d spent hours out here with his Martin D-28 every night since. The sun would be up in an hour or so, meaning once again, Hank’s ghost had failed to appear. Of course this wasn’t the actual car Hank Williams took his last breath in. Same make, model, and color, but that particular ’52 Cadillac was on display in a museum in Montgomery, Alabama. Whereas, Lucas Cahill’s garage sat in the small town of Grand, Texas.
At six feet three, Lucas was taller than Hank Williams, so his feet stuck up on the side door when he stretched out.
Up above, the moth fluttered a few more times and finally escaped the spider web. There went his metaphor. At least for the song he had in mind.
He’d written a shithouse full of songs about her these last sixteen years. Some with metaphors, others nothing but the stark truth about loving what he couldn’t have.
He’d yet to sing any of them for her. That would change soon. Maybe today.
The hinge on the back gate creaked, and the crickets stopped chirping. Lucas didn’t need to sit up to know the identity of his visitor. Sometimes she snuck up on him, but not today.
“Saw the light from my kitchen, so I brought you some coffee.”
He sat up. Last thing he wanted was Abby handing him the cup while he was inside the Caddy. The seats were black leather, with baby blue piping. He didn’t want to chance a single blemish.
Abby Dewitt was dressed in her work clothes, a knee length black skirt and white button up shirt. As usual one button too many was undone. Later, if he swung by The Whirlwind Cafe before opening up The Oasis, she would have her ample cleavage hidden, but Abby never failed to let the girls breathe when she visited Lucas. He owned the bar smack across the street from her employer, but as both, neighbors and classmates, he and Abby had always swam in the same fishbowl.
Getting out of the Caddy, he reached for the offered mug letting his eyes linger on Abby’s pale skin, mostly because that’s what she expected.
“So is it ready to drive yet?” Abby ran her hand over the car’s bold curves. “I’m eager for that ride you’ve been promising me all these years.”
He took a sip. “Good coffee, Abby. Nobody serves it up hot and steamy like you.” He enjoyed the game they played, even if their banter was more than a game to her.
“The seats look nice. Can I sit in it?”
Lucas nodded and opened the passenger door for her. “Watch out for my guitar.”
She winked. “I’m not interested in the front seat. It’s the back I want to try out.” Abby reclined back with her knees up and her legs parted.
Lucas had an unimpeded view of her purple panties. He took another sip of coffee. Abby DeWitt had been flashing him since ninth grade, so it wasn’t anything he hadn’t seen before. Someday he would give her that ride, though not the one she wanted.
He pointed at his watch. “You’re gonna be late opening up if you don’t hurry. Big day. You might be busy.”
Abby sat up, not a bit fazed he’d once again ignored her overt attempt to gain his attention. “You think that skank will show?”
He pretended to ponder the question even though he already knew the answer. Draining the last of the coffee, he said, “Yeah, she’ll be here. And both of our places will be full of people gossiping all about it.”
“Oh, I hope so.” Abby stepped away from the Caddy. “We need some excitement around here.” She winked and brushed the dark wavy curls away from Lucas’s eyes. “And since you won’t provide me any, I’ll have to settle for the return of Angela Ross.”
Abby took the empty mug and strolled toward the garage door. Lucas waited until just before Abby stepped out into the purple predawn light before calling to her, “Hey, Abby!”
He flashed her a dimpled grin. “The purple ones are my favorite.”