In this post, I promised secrets contained in the pages of my latest complete novel, The Night Caller. Mind you, none of these are Earth-shattering or subject to a confessional, but they do reflect just how much of ourselves writers put in their stories.
Though I changed the official name from Big Boy to Burger Boy in my story, the shellacked behemoth statue rising up out of the suburban landscape plays an important role in my main character's backstory. Of all the restaurants I went to as a child, this one left the grandest impression. Maybe it was the juxtaposition between the tropical, plant-filled, sky-lighted, decidedly non-diner interior and the fashion-challenged creepy boy out front that seemed to laugh at passersby and say, "I dare you to eat one of these and not get my gut!" Poor Burger Boy is destroyed in my story, along with Thousand Island dressing perfection.
The Talbot Building
Not satisfied to merely know it was possible for someone to graduate from Boston University's School of Medicine in 1881, I set out to find the exact street its building was located on and the names of a few graduates from that class who went on to become Boston doctors. Here is a sketch as it existed then. The classrooms would have been in the left building, the hospital on the corner. Satisfied? I wasn't either. How can I recreate a scene there with only a sketch? A little further digging produced this photograph. The Talbot building still stands today and houses the School of Public Health. Now that I can sink my imagination into.
The Sacred Scene
The Night Caller contains a scene toward the end that makes me cry, without fail, every time I revisit it. It happened when I wrote it and three of the five times I've come upon it for revisions. I was superstitious to change anything for fear the magic spell would be broken, so I passed over it completely the last two times I edited. I hope readers feel the same.
Love Scene Hypnosis
Some of you might remember my post on self-hypnosis. The setting of The Night Caller's final love scene was taken directly from those research tapes I listened to in high school and never forgot (the setting-not the luuuuve--geez, people). Evidence of the powerful and enduring effect of hypnosis on the mind.
I could write a hundred instances in this book alone: foil-wrapped chocolate bars I sold to neighbors, the Georgetown train depot I stood in when I was eight, the hard rock Evan listens to, the names Henry and Hank, the gas station on a Sunday morning. How can the person I've been not be everywhere, in all those places that pour out onto the page? I suspect even science fiction writers who weave their own worlds still manage to inject the places within into their stories. It is at once frightening and exhilarating to know we've exposed so much and offered up almost everything to reach that moment of connection to a reader.
Tomorrow: I believe in celebrations. Why wait until a book is sold when we have almost no control over the alignment of the planets? BYO favorite drink (or drink recipe) and we'll usher in the weekend with a cybertoast.