With spring upon the calendar I find myself reflecting on my life and what led me to actually begin work on my lifetime dream of being a writer of fiction.  I find it interesting how many people don’t read fiction because they don’t consider it to be ‘serious’ writing.  Composing fiction, while an exercise in imagination and flights of fancy, requires a great deal of research and personal introspection.

Shadow Ballet, my first novel, is the first in a series of stories based where I grew up, and is a tribute to the department where my father served as a detective.  It is also a tribute to my second wife, a talented artist who lost her battle with cancer and an expression of my journey through the minefields of grief in search of life.  A fictional story based on the facts of a real life, real people, and real emotions.

In my various careers, where my abilities earned me the nickname ‘wordsmith’, I have written thousands of pages of non-fiction.  Carefully crafted to clearly and accurately express details, facts, circumstances, situations, and results, my words were used to win court cases, sell products and services, and as technical texts for others to follow.  Enjoyable as this might have been, it lacked the emotion, the psychology, the empathy, and satisfaction of drawing characters and characteristics from people I have known and placing them in situations to be resolved.

In the serious vein of putting words on a page in a fictional setting is not to sway, convince, or educate in a specific direction.  Fiction is about offering the reader the opportunity to experience emotions and spur the imagination into territory not previously visited, found only in the depths of the reader’s soul.


Exposing tragedy to define character through writing


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.