Write What You Know, or Don’t

This is the week, or the couple of weeks, when I let the manuscript for FIREBOMB sit on a shelf and macerate, like fruit in brandy. While this happens I’m doing other things. First thing I did was to start a new blog here on WordPress, a different platform from Blogger, requiring a bit of a learning curve even though I used to keep a blog here as Irene Fleming. Next thing I did was to upgrade (I think it was an upgrade) my home page, kategallison.com. It’s prettier, or I think so, and I got rid of a whole lot of outdated stuff. Turns out I hadn’t touched the site in three years, partly because I’d forgotten how to code CSS and HTML, but mostly because I’d forgotten how to get onto the host and make changes.

Anyway, I finally managed to do it, more or less successfully. I am woman! Hear me roar! And then I fixed up the Facebook page to reflect the new look and feel, as they say in the industry. Having done all this, I’m moved to philosophize on the nature of writing, itself.

We’ve lived in this town for thirty years now, maybe thirty-two. The veneer of the town is extremely attractive. Lambertville was named one of the prettiest towns in the country awhile back, I think it was by Forbes Magazine. We are a destination for tourists from all over the world, though the locals complain that there is nothing to do here. Life in a small town, in a row house with cardboard walls. Everyone knows each other’s business. I could tell you stories—! And yet I don’t tell those stories, not the stories of toxic marriages, evil fathers, ruined young women, murderous police officers, drowning victims. The vicissitudes of small-town life horrify me. I don’t write horror.

At times, as you’ve probably noticed, twenty-first century life itself can be a horror show. Ever since the attack on the World Trade Center I’ve been in retreat from modern life in my writing. This may be why I wrote my first two historical novels under a false name, although it made no particular sense for my writing career. New York City in the early twentieth century was a place and time to flee to for refuge, where I could be another person. It was a place my grandmother inhabited. A gentle soul, she detested drama as  much as I do, although she, too, knew some stories.

Art requires that we tell the truth without airing the dirty laundry of our relatives and neighbors. I believe that.  Commercial fiction requires that we depict interesting drama. FIREBOMB deals with some extremely dramatic situations. The characters, some historical figures, some made up, are as true as I can make them, using for models the written records of the originals and bits of people I’ve known over the years. It’s a spy thriller. There is violence. There are murders. I’m still having trouble with the sex scene.

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