Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Are You Lonely, Ms. Writer?

As a writer, I am often asked if I am lonely. The perception is that by spending all that time alone writing, I must miss the company of people. Quite the contrary, in fact. I have enough characters wanting their voice to be heard that I sometimes escape into the company of real life friends to chat about ordinary things.

In my novel, Forcing the Hand of God, the main character, Rodger Brown, became a distinctive voice in my life, a person so real to me that I felt I knew him as a family member.
Indeed, sometimes it’s hard for me to transition from the world of my story into my other life as wife, mother, and friend. While writing Forcing the Hand of God in 1982 for my master’s thesis, I would dream about the protagonist, Rodger Brown. I could see him clearly in a small village in China walking along the alley ways, alienated by the language barrier and misunderstandings of the customs and people. 

Twenty years later, with access to the internet, I could research hours at a time on any topic that interested me. One time, I came across a picture of a Flying Tiger in Benyang, strolling through a dirt street. It was the spitting image of the Rodger I'd dreamed about all those years ago. In the real photo, the pilot was self-contained and confident, yet his expression belied a wistfulness, perhaps a wish to belong where he was at that moment. There was something so intriguing about my character Rodger that I just knew the original short story had to grow into a novel.