Exposing tragedy to define character through writing

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For me, writing a novel is a journey of exploration, discovery, and enlightenment. Along the way I find myself exposing my personal tragedies, my frailties, and in doing so, discover and define my strengths of character. Sharing these experiences with my readers means I am not making a solitary trek, but one accompanied by friends and family previously undiscovered, a passage of celebration, finding bright lights within the darkest moments.

My inspiration for writing Shadow Ballet springs from my life experience. My characters are composites of friends, family, and acquaintances. Jean Parker, for instance, is based on Gale Silva, to whom Shadow Ballet is dedicated. An incredible artist, she encouraged me to follow my dream of being a writer, to finally incubate the embryonic tale I had carried with me for so long. After losing her to cancer, I found the best way to keep my sanity was by telling this story. Without experiencing the pain and pleasure of days and years this story could not be told. My discovery of the way life seems to obey Newton’s first law of motion (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction) provided me the insights I needed to tell this story that formed in my mind when I was a teenager, but that could not be completed until I had lived long enough to understand how to relate the emotions of the characters who populate the space I created for them.

I built my characters based on the men and women I encountered in my checkerboard of careers, using my own experiences in their fictional lives. By plucking characteristics from several different people I created each character, giving them the shape and attitudes I visualized. Some of my father is found in the senior detective; some of my mother, along with my grandmother, shows through one character; and my young business partner joins me in shaping Paul McAfee. There is a marvelous freedom in being able to invent people who behave as you wish, a blessing never found anywhere in real life.

I suppose at the root of my inspiration lies the need to share my personal feelings and beliefs by wrapping them in make believe and inviting my reader inside to enjoy and appreciate the pictures my words paint.

 

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