Before I get to this week’s post, shall I announce the winners of last week’s drawings?! <DRUM ROLL> The winner of the Shakespearean Finger Puppets is…Donna Maloy!!! <Cheers!> The answer to why Michelle’s book was photographed on a Vespa in Italy comes straight from page 24, when Ophelia reflects on her time with Hamlet in Florence, the happiest time of their lives. She says, “Vespas coughed shrilly and constantly, a sound I will forever associate with intense joy.” The winner of the signed copy of FALLING FOR HAMLET is…Jeanne Ryan!!! Congrats to our winners! We will contact you for your mailing addresses!
Unlike Cynthia, Jeannie, and J. who research facts for information, I mine for facts as catalysts. The facts I gather may or may not get into a book, but I find it very helpful to know things. Small details bleed through, I think. Inform the voice. And I do think that’s a big part of voice—the undercurrents that are harder to pinpoint.
Enter Sandwich. No, not the tasty variety. I speak of a town on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, that has been recently voted as having one of the top ten weirdest town names in the country. I must admit, it amuses me to see cars with “Sandwich Police” painted on the side. “Excuse me miss. Has that mayonnaise expired? I’ll have to write you a citation for that.” A place where the local theater says, “Lettuce entertain you” and they really mean it. A place where Sandwich Psychological Services helps sliced cheese deal with the insecurities of being at the bottom of the food chain.
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with a juvenile detective in Sandwich. A really great guy—even though he yelled, “See you next week!” before slamming the cell door behind me. You see, I had asked for a tour of the facilities and the details on how a juvenile would be arrested and processed for my next book. I got the run down and sat in a small cell with thick concrete walls for quite a while. I knew the things Peter would notice. The things that would stick with him. Worry him. The stunning losses that he felt and the despair and hopelessness of it. How he ended up in jail out of pure desperation—because, in his mind, there was nothing else he could do.
While sitting on the spongy cot, I stuck the buds of my iPod into my ears and played a song. The music, coupled with the setting is magic for me. The combination creates movies in my head. Conversations. Mannerisms. Too much to write down neatly. My notes are a complete mess after these trips. But, when my fingers touch the keyboard, they become full scenes, complete with details I’d forgotten I know.
I’ve spoken with many writers that listen to music that their characters would like—helps them get into their characters’ minds. (After all, music is a creative form and creativity begets more creativity!) I don’t work that way, exactly, though. I will listen to music that I know will spark a particular emotion in me. I, then, apply it to the circumstances of the book.
I feel kind of silly writing this and I’m afraid it will come off as a bit…uh…dramatic (unless I write something else last minute!) but…the song I listened to in that jail cell has probably never been played in a jail cell before. It was the introductory theme to The Little Mermaid.
That’s because, when I hear that music lately, it reminds me of a time when my daughter loved Ariel. (She has shifted to being more of a Hermione fan these days.) How she loved that movie/music and how I loved it because it brought out so much joy in her. That little girl—my oldest—is going to be a senior in high school this year, and I am preparing to let her go. She’s ready to spread her wings and I can’t wait to watch her accomplish wonderful things!
But…I must admit, the music makes me sad, as I feel the days of hearing her music fill the house, our girls’ nights out together, and getting the after school reports slip away. Countless things will become memories rather than being part of our daily routines, and I have to admit, I’m finding that thought rather difficult.
However, I have to say, it was gold in that jail cell, because I could feel how Peter longs for things he can’t ever have again. I do have to turn the volume up for Peter, as his losses are permanent, much more painful ones. But, when it comes to the writing, all I need is a seed.
And, in terms of setting, there is something about Sandwich I’m drawn to. (Stop laughing, Erin. I never said, “universe.”) It is so odd. I set the book in Sandwich after seeing a single image from town online, which created a firestorm of images in my head. I had not planned on two brothers but, with fingers to keyboard, there they were; and I “knew” their names—Russell and Peter.
After finishing a rough draft very quickly, I was floored when I rolled into this small town for the first time, finding Peter’s Pond, St. Peter’s Cemetery, and Russell’s Corner cafe. Weird. This week, I drove by a house on the way to the marshes that, in my mind, is a character’s house—a character that collects Mickey Mouse figurines. This week, there was a five foot high Mickey Mouse sitting in a chair on the front porch. This week, I also had a very strange coincidence happen at the local glass blowing studio. I have countless examples of weird Sandwich happenings. I figure someone up there must really like me. (I mean Heaven—not Sandwich. Or are they synonymous?)
Through my research, I’ve determined that I will probably always place a book in a setting that I’ve been able to smell. A setting in which I know how it makes me feel to stand within it. I stumbled upon my setting for ONE FOR THE MURPHYS in the same way, and there is no doubt, that knowing that setting as I do, fueled that book in ways readers would never imagine.
Wait! I take that back! Hopefully, they will imagine it!