I’m thrilled today to welcome author Colleen M. Story to my blog. Her post explores the experience around her latest release, Rise of the Sidenah, and her Writing and Wellness website is a must-read for authors seeking balance in their life and work. She is a delight and an inspiration.
3 Ways Writing a Book Transported Me to the Twilight Zone:
Think of the Twilight Zone, and words like “other worldly,” “spooky,” or “magical” may come to mind. Most likely you’ll imagine something with no rational explanation.
And of course, there’s that popular theme song. (Do-do-do-doo…do-do-do-doo…)
I found myself humming that song several times while working on my first book, Rise of the Sidenah. Things would happen that I couldn’t explain. Were they really magical, or were they just coincidence?
See what you think.
- A real-life genius steps into my pages.
The heroine in my book, Adrienna, is an artist at heart, and longs to sculpt figures out of the magical white stone. In an early version of the story, I mentioned a distant sculptor that she discovered she was related to, someone who was considered the “father” of sculpture in her world.
His name? I just grabbed it out of the air, like I do most of my character names. They sort of come to me, and I try them out. If they work, they stick, which they most often do. If not, I try something else. Anyway, this character’s name, the “father” of sculpture, was “Phydias.”
You art aficionados may already know where this is going, but I didn’t. It wasn’t until months later I discovered, while doing research for something else, that Phidias (spelled with an “i” instead of a “y”) was a real person.
Not only that, he was a very famous Greek sculptor, painter, and architect in the fifth century B.C., regarded as one of the greatest of all sculptors in Classical Greece.
Some of his accomplishments included the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (pictured here), which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. He also carved the statues of the goddess Athena on the Athenian Acropolis. All of these works were made of white stone.
People would argue that surely I learned this along the way somewhere. I would argue back that I did not. I never took a class in Ancient Greek sculpture. My art education was sorely lacking, unfortunately, with my best experience being a class in eighth grade where I learned how to draw portraits.
Did I run across the name somewhere along the way? It’s possible, I suppose. But how often do we remember names we just happen to hear once—so much so that we use them for characters years later?
When I saw the information about the real Phidias staring back at me, I could only hear the music from the Twilight Zone.
Huh? How did that happen?
- An editor predicts the future.
I was submitting earlier versions of the story to publishers long before I got to the point that they were asking to see the full manuscript. I got a lot of rejections in those early stages. But one stood out in my mind.
It was in 2004. (I signed the publishing contract in 2013, so that gives you an idea of the time frame.) As writers know, getting any sort of comment back on a submission—even if it’s encased in a rejection—is a good sign.
On this particular rejection, the editor wrote that he believed I had a “great story idea.” It wasn’t right for them, but he told me to “keep going, you will find a publisher for this book.”
Nearly 10 years later, his words proved correct. I remember feeling so grateful for them at the time, and looking back, I think his confidence helped his prediction come true.
Would I have kept trying without that encouragement? I’d like to think so, but I can’t be sure. The trek toward the first publication can be long and trying. Because he chose to take a few minutes out of his busy day to encourage me, I’m holding the published book in my hands today.
I wonder if he knew he could predict the future?
- A group releases a song for my lead character.
Okay, not really, but it felt like that.
I tend to use music to inspire creativity, and it seems like every time I’m working on a novel, one particular song ends up representing that novel in my head. For “Rise of the Sidenah,” the way that connection came up was a little spooky.
The name of my main character, as mentioned above, is “Adrienna.” If you want to know how many popular songs have that name in the lyrics, here’s the answer: zero. At least, none that I could find.
Yet in the middle of my initial work on the novel, a new song hit the radio waves that came awfully close: “Adrienne,” by The Calling. (You can check out the song here if you like.)
How many other popular songs with that version of the name? You got it. Zero.
There are a limited few with another slightly similar name, “Adriana.” There’s “Pretty Little Adriana” by Vince Gill, “Adriana” by Headstrong, and “Adriana” by Jorge Cruz (sung in Spanish).
None of these were as close to my character’s name as “Adrienne,” though, and the Vince Gill tune, which was released in 1996—long before I even started on the book—was the only one I ever heard.
The Calling’s album, Camino Palmero, was officially released in 2001. It’s major single was “Wherever You Will Go,” but “Adrienne” was on the same record. I bought the album a year or so after release, and started hearing the tune on the radio around then, as well. I remember glomming onto it with both ears, unable to believe that someone had written a song about a girl with the same (nearly) name as my main character!
There was also something about the way lead singer Alex Band punched the name that reflected the struggle the heroine goes through in the book. I listened to the tune countless times.
What are the odds that this song would have come out just while I was creating the story?
In the Middle Ground Between Light and Shadow
These are just a few of the ways I’ve encountered some surreal moments on my journey to complete Rise of the Sidenah. I have since learned that any book I write is nearly guaranteed to bring me more similar experiences.
Which is fine with me. I’ve learned it’s kind of fun to walk in the fifth dimension.
Colleen M. Story writes imaginative fiction and is also a freelance writer specializing in health and wellness. Her first book, Rise of the Sidenah, was released by Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her next novel, Loreena’s Gift, is forthcoming from Dzanc Books in spring 2016. She is also the founder of Writing and Wellness, a motivational site for writers and other creatives. Find more at her website, or follow her on Twitter.
Thanks, Colleen. Onward!