Patience and the Writing Process, “The Fractured Hues of White Light” Revisited

The strangest things happen while writing a book—a whole lot of unexpected emerges from the fertile ground of the primary source (or the backbone) of the story. It always amazes me where the original idea takes me, it all seems so simple at first, then there’s this beautiful sense of wonder that occurs as pieces fall into place, I go with the flow because it feels right—it’s truly magical how it happens. The Fractured Hues of White Light turned out to be a bigger, far more complex story than I initially imagined, and there were times I feared I took on something too big. It surprises me that I wrote it in that “I really wrote this book!” sort of way. I’m a little bit partial to this one—I think “she’s” my favorite novel because it was so challenging to write it. I have a special attachment to it, maybe I’m a little sentimental about it—some might criticize me and say, “It’s done, it’s out of the nest, let it go.” It’s not that at all, it’s the experience of the creation that interests me most, when I revisit the book (I open it up and drop in now and then to say “Hi.”) I will remember the stuff that went into it, and the events surrounding the time I wrote it. It was a time in my life—a time when my writing started to make sense and I had to learn to juggle writing with life, work, home, and everything else that happens along the way. It’s an immersive experience, very much like falling in love, it’s exciting and exhausting at the time it’s happening, and when I “drop in” to visit the pages, it’s familiar like an old friend. I love what I do, I love what I’ve done.

The Fractured Hues of White Light—is the second one in the line-up of published books that I’ve put out there, but in the “birth-order” of creation, it was the third manuscript that came out of a creative sweet-spot that happened to me between 1999 and 2003. (I have archived files on my computer dating back to 2000-2001.) It was as if my longtime dream to be a writer went supernova inside my head and all of it burst out at once, it seemed like I couldn’t write fast enough. It’s so strange how the books start. It’s magical how they come together, fragments that grow into this larger story, full of layers and characters, their histories, their personalities, quirks, passions, and fears. It’s hard to explain. I love the process so much, the creating, the polishing, then the terrifying, yet satisfying part of putting it out there to be read—learning to accept the likes and dislikes as they come. I do enjoy hearing from readers about their experiences with my books. I’ve had readers tell me very personal reactions, like when I made them cry. Then I get all embarrassed and say stuff like, “Shucks, I’m sorry I made you cry—awwww—let’s hug!”

I’ve pissed people off too—might as well while I’m at it. It’s part of the package. Books are a special thing, readers gobble them up, they lose time while they’re reading, and not every book works for them—it’s a subjective thing. A reader who loves commercial or genre fiction might not appreciate literary fiction. My books are literary—they are gritty, yet they have a silly streak in them, and dark humor—I do try to bring the reader back to a safe place after taking them into the darkest corners of shit happening—the examination of the human condition is messy and can be ugly at times. I write in the vein that goes deep into the interior of the character’s personality, what makes them tick. In Samantha Ryder’s world, specific things like the sound of the ocean, the texture and color of the old glass windows of her house in Gloucester, Massachusetts, dust motes in a shaft of sunlight, stones on the beach, the sugar bowl and creamer on the kitchen table, and the color yellow have special significance. The things that happen in the past have made her, and the future links with the past. I’ve written the book from four points of view—Samantha, Guthrie, Helena, and Sylvester—there is more than one side to the story, and this is another thing that interests me about writing—how characters influence one another, each one has their own interpretation of events and opinions about what’s happened—and where they’re going. I’ve populated all of my novels with people who have met before, so Guthrie has a small part in Drinking from the Fishbowl, which takes place before the events of The Fractured Hues of White Light. Sylvester pops up in two other books not yet published, but they will be someday, these things take time. A lot of being a writer is about patience.

When I started it, it began with two people driving through Wyoming having a conversation, from there I filled in around this one moment in time. I had no idea who these two were or why they were out there, where they were from, how old they were, their names, nothing, I knew nothing. It was just a conversation between a man and a woman, traveling companions, maybe lovers, maybe spouses, friends, or siblings—eventually, after a good deal of questioning, they became Guthrie and Samantha. Their complex relationship is complicated by the definition of love. It was tragic and yet, in the drama brewing in the cloister of a car driving through a springtime rainstorm in the Red Desert, they could laugh at themselves, and at how things are—by this part in the book, it was time for them to stop avoiding the inevitable and go home. Samantha, being autistic, rarely journeyed far from home where the familiar things keep her sense of security intact—although it was a journey of self-preservation, it was possible that it could’ve been her undoing as she withdrew inside herself, on the verge of shutting down. Then while looking out the car window at the rain, she spied a dildo (of all things) on the shoulder of the highway, out in the middle of nowhere. Seeing that thing cracked her shell open enough to let out a giggle, and then she started to laugh her ass off. It’s these little happenings that make the experience of writing so fascinating—I’m making things up as I go along, it’s part of the fun.

Just so you know—I really did see a dildo on the side of the road one rainy night many years ago, it was the funniest random thing to see, it’s something you don’t see every day—I’ve seen some weird shit in my time, but that just seemed curious, standing up like it was hitching a ride. So odd. Who knows how it got there, god knows where it’s been! It’s long gone, but the memory is still there. When you see stuff like that, it’s all fodder for later. I have a head full of this nonsense. (It was on East Genesee Street in Syracuse, on the way to DeWitt, near Nottingham High School, as if that matters at all, but it’s funny every time I go by that spot, I still laugh.)

The Fractured Hues of White Light was a tough one to write in some respects, but once I started it, it flowed out of me like I knew what I was doing. Yet there were so many surprises that I did not foresee—like the ending. I had no idea how it was going to end when I started it. Most of the time, writers have the beginning and the ending figured out, it’s the stuff in the middle that’s hard to get through. I was all over the place while writing this one, and then printing it, and piecing it all together, sometimes getting out the scissors and tape. (Yikes, right?) Occasionally, I would ask myself “Where is this going?” Then I’d shrug and kept writing because I knew it could reveal itself eventually—“I’ll know it when I see it.” When it happened—I was surprised, yet not. It was there the whole time.

Patience. It takes patience to write a book.

I’ve also come to grips with the fact I’ll never get a six figure advance from Alfred Knopf—I’m okay with that. I’m not one of those real “go get-ers,” chomping on the bit to do a book tour, and all that Oprah, bestseller list stuff. Nah, it’ll never happen, I have a lot of patience, but I don’t have the patience for that shit. Nope.

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