Where are your books born, my fellow authors? Where do they “marinate”—if they do—before you actually start writing? What process do you use to hone your creative ideas before you put them down on paper?
For me, most ideas pop into my mind in an instant. Way (and I mean way back) in 1983 when my three children were very young, I was standing in line at the spelunker ride at Six Flags Over Texas and happened to see a sign adorned with an image of a unicorn; the sign said, “Your wait from this point is twenty minutes.” By the time we got on the ride, one of my first novels had been “written”: the story of a girl whose dreams of a unicorn are so vivid she comes to believe the creature is real. It took me four or five months after that to get the story on paper.
Over time, being the sort of guy who spends sixty hours a week working at my day job, I accumulated a lot of story lines I had not put down on paper. It came to me a couple years ago I should record these storylines (for fear my “between-the-ears” hard drive might get full). I was stunned when I compiled all the storylines. There were fully two dozen (since then I’ve acquired several more). Two of these ideas became Lacey Took a Holiday and The Medicine People. Another of them, East Light, has been submitted to the good people of Second Wind Publishing and I have high hopes for it.
Still another of those ideas is a book I’m working on feverishly because I’m hoping the 2W people will accept it and have it available for sale by April 15, 2010—and it has nothing to do with income tax. The novel I’m writing is called The Boston, and it’s the story of the first native born American citizen to win the Boston Marathon in a couple decades. There—I’ve spoiled the surprise: my hero, Ron Jerdin, wins the race. Because the outcome of the story is clear (you know, just like a romance or a murder mystery), the real tension of the story has to do what obstacles Ron encounters on his journey to the Boston starting line, and the relationships that cause him to develop as a person. It’s also a wonderful challenge to create enough tension in the final description of the race to draw readers in and compel them to read the finish—of the book and the race.
One of the most fun aspects of this project for me is where I “cooked” the book—that is, what I was doing when the storyline developed between my ears. I’m a runner . . . well, sort of (I didn’t say I was fast runner; just a runner). I’ve run 1000 miles a year nearly every year going back to 1996. And I’ve competed in several hundred races, including three marathons, over same period. The Boston came into being over the course of many cool mornings as I plodded for mile after mile down North Carolina roads and running trails.
I seriously doubt I’ll ever qualify to actually run the Boston Marathon (I said to a fellow a couple years ago, “All I have to do to qualify for the Boston is take an hour off my best marathon time.”). Thus my homage to running, racing and the greatest marathon is a book I hope to have on sale before the next running of the race. And I have to make the fictional Ron Jerdin win it before an actual American runner does. –Laz Barnhill