Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Oh the Places You'll Go...Part 2

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.

Burger Boy
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.


Charles Gramlich said...

Unfortuantely,Burger Boy wasn't an icon where I come from.

Barbara Martin said...

An icon for my growing up days would be Colonel Sanders and his Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the drive in A&Ws where you parked and the waitresses came out to take the order and bring the food on trays to hang on the driver's side window.

the walking man said...

I keep trying and failing at, hiding myself on the page. maybe I could hypnotize myself into believing I am something other than what I am.

I like that you cry when you read a particular scene you've written. shows you're able to become an audience member as well as author and editor.

Jen FitzGerald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jen FitzGerald said...

Loved Bob's Big Boy, L.A. and I remember him well.

I can't wait to read your book.

Good Luck!


L.A. Mitchell said...

Charles...I have no idea where Big Boys restaurants were gathered. This was in Denver, but Jen here has been to one...I'm guessing up north in the plains, too.

Barbara...I remember those drive up A&Ws when I was little. And please don't remind me of Colonel Sanders. I try hard to forget that horribly greasy summer my mantra was "original or crispy?"

walkingman...I'm not sure we can take ourselves out. I try, too, but somehow, everything rings hollow.

Jen..where was the Big Boy you went to? Thanks for the luck. I'm afraid I'll need it in these hard times.

the walking man said...

Actually according to some show or another on the Food Network Bob's Big Boy in LA was the first one, everything was franchised from there.

The model for the statue was a larger young lad who hung around there and worked for food.

L.A. Mitchell said...

WM...what a fountain of information you are :) Thanks for the pop culture history lesson.

Vesper said...

What a wonderful post! A part of me is there on every page and probably in each character.