“So what’s your new book about?” my mom asked while we FaceTimed tonight.
“It’s a mystery,” I responded, that double edged sword cutting both ways at the same time, because as always it’s hard to break something down that isn’t quite done yet, that still has some plot left to ravel up.
“You know I love mysteries,” said my mom. “I’m still working my way through your last book. It’s Greg and Jason, right?”
“If you’re talking about characters, I honestly have no idea,” I replied, shaking my head. “Once they’re out there in the world they belong to everyone. They’re not my little secrets anymore, not only mine anymore.”
“I know what you mean,” she said, but I’m not sure she does. I’m not sure she can.
Being a writer is a solitary endeavor, but it’s not really solitary when I think about it. It’s about creating characters that live and breathe on the page, that I can connect with, that I can both love and despise. They become my friends, my confidants, my family, and my enemies. I live and die with their mixed emotions, always on the verge of breaking down when they do.
And that’s something I can’t adequately put into words. It’s an ironic side effect of being a writer, of publishing something that is now out there in the world living and growing on its own. In its own way it is like giving birth, and I’m proud of every one of my children living out there in words. I love them all, but I’m not done just because they’re out of the nest.
Which is why I told my mom it is a mystery, because books write themselves, because while I know my characters I am not my characters. I let them live their lives, and these new characters in this new book are doing just that. They’re making their own mistakes, solving their own problems, and doing things I wasn’t sure they could do when I started this process. I know where they’ll end up by this book’s conclusion, but how the journey gets them there, and what state of mind they’ll be in is anyone’s guess. Even mine.
The hardest part of the process for me is having the patience as a writer to let my characters get there in their own way, and not trying to force the issue. It’s easy to say I’ll do it, that I’ll be patient, but once the writing begins to flow it’s difficult to be that guide on the side, yet so satisfying when it finally comes as it does.
And yes, it was Greg and Jason, but I had to look at the book flap to remember. Which is okay, because soon it will be Jennifer and David, and everyone who inhabits the world of this book. Then on to the next.