The Writer and The Train


Writing a novel is much like getting on a train.

You board with a bunch of other people and are hurtled at great speed along thin rails in great hope and expectation nothing goes awry. There is a vague sense of destination and plenty of staggering, bad food choices, and body-giggling en route, but you eventually get there.

Fellow Passengers | Virginia Woolf said that no author is singularly responsible for bringing a book into the world; the work depends on the efforts of many. This is certainly true for me. My last book Pkgrrl would not be possible if it were not for the support and encouragement of my wife, Dyan. I am very fortunate to have her in my life. Additionally, every writer needs a support network, a team of fellow passengers — former students, former high school sweethearts and old graduate school buddies to help keep the thing on the rails by reading early drafts and making polite suggestions. I have mine, get you’re own.

All Aboard | The book began in the summer of 2010 as a bit of a lark. I had read Henry James’ nineteenth-century naturalist novel The Princess Casamassima and thought I could update it. Anyone who has read the novel, and granted that might be a scant few, will recognize its DNA in the opening chapters of Pkgrrl, but beyond that find James’ influence diminish with every subsequent chapter.

The Route | As any writer knows setting out to write a particular book is foolhardy; the book you end up writing is the one that wants to be told. In that way, I never intended to write PKgrrl — it came as a result of blind allegiance to this thing called writing, an often lonely and dispiriting adventure. It surprised me to no end. I recall one drowsy summer afternoon in the inebriated throes of the season’s crazies (this is when a grown man with a very expensive education wonders, sometimes aloud, what the hell he is doing in the middle of the afternoon staring off into the distance at nothing in particular, when he should rightly be out in the real world making a living) that the chief character would have some kind of supernatural capacity when it hit me: She can fly! I was so excited, but that lasted all of five seconds because it quickly came to mind that a family friend, Victoria Forester, had just had a New York Times bestselling YA book out called, you might have guessed it —The Girl Who Could Fly. So, no. Too me too. No the girl couldn’t fly, she couldn’t die I thought. That’s it!

Detours | No that’s crazy, but then I thought what about all that stuff that happens in the Bible, all the miracles, and viola! I went through the Bible and I found her. My girl came into view. From there I thought, well, she’s can’t fly, she can die, but… she can be brought back to life: resurrected. I hope St. Peter doesn’t think too lowly of this author when I arrive at the gates having done this… among other things, here in this book.

Destination | But what’s important here is to travel with others, ask them as you chug along if things will all work out in the end. And of course, offer them free pizza and beer.

(adapted from Pkgrrl “Author’s Note”)