“A novel: A long piece of prose with something wrong with it.” ~Neil Gaiman
It’s part five, and we’re in the Magic Theatre, in Nevada City.
“Okay,” I return.
“You mentioned earlier you didn’t select Wonder Woman or Supergirl for your top ten.”
“He didn’t?” CJ is sitting between us, turning from Sasquatch to look at me, expression skeptical. “Why didn’t you?”
“And why are we discussing this?”
“We’re trying to figure out Mc’s heroines.”
She looks at her spouse, then turns to me. “Well?”
CJ turns to Sasquatch. “Too perfect.”
Sasquatch: “There’s a problem, then.”
CJ and I look at him, waiting.
“Your girls seem too perfect.”
I nod, and sit back. “You’re only talking the surface things.”
“Being politically incorrect, are we?” CJ teases.
“One way of looking at it. I could always say, ‘Hey, this is my story.”
“You could. That would be impolite, of course.”
“Yup. Which is why I won’t.” I change the subject. “I’ve been looking forward to seeing this flick ever since you suggested it.”
“You’re changing the subject,” Sasquatch observes.
“I am, aren’t I?”
“That’s what it looks like from where I sit.” CJ offers me popcorn.
I munch. “Would you believe I don’t really give it much thought?”
“No.” CJ replies. “I wouldn’t. Sometimes you think too much, I think. You not thinking is unthinkable, actually.”
“You think?” We both laugh. “I don’t. Think, I mean. At least, not when I’m writing, not about much. The characters – the ‘girls’ – and the guys, of course – are who they are; they couldn’t be anyone else, so thought isn’t really necessary in that regard. They tend to tell me how it will be.”
“Which is right and proper,” CJ smiles. “Bad outcomes are associated with arguing with a woman. Ask Bob.”
Sasquatch rolls his eyes and I pause, thinking about the conversation. “Okay, this all started as something much different than what is has become.”
“Yes, I’ve heard,” CJ smiles. “A five page …”
“No, not that. Well, okay, but what it became, in retrospect, is really not much of a departure.”
Her expression is patient.
“It’s rumored I like women,” I offer. “Strong, self-assured women, particularly of the kick-you-know-what variety.”
“Yes. It has been remarked.”
“So the thing started. I started. Writing the story. One guy, one gal, one wild night. Sizzle.”
“Yup.” Bob munches absently on the popcorn, staring at the empty screen. “Sizzle.”
“I wrote a second story, same characters, with several more thrown in. Thing is, there’d been stuff percolating in my imagination for years before that.”
“Yes. No. Maybe. Kinda-sorta. I knew I was going somewhere, knew what that somewhere was and what would happen – sort of. What I didn’t have was a good idea as to how. Only touch-points, scenes I saw in my imagination, snapshots of moments of significance. I just had this story – these stories – and stuff was growing, percolating. And a lot of ideas and concepts started to flow. Not all at once. Things didn’t coalesce all at once, not even vaguely. But I had all these things out there: ideas, rough drafts, several chapters of something here, a few chapters of something there.”
“Okay …” CJ lets it hang.
“Third book changed everything. Dunno what it was, exactly. Each part of this was originally supposed to happen in a 24-hour stretch … and the stories do, mostly … but the third was different. More characters, more thoughts, ideas … and things started to suggest themselves … not earlier stuff, not exactly … I started touching on myth, things I’d picked up through time, in college, stuff that’d tickled my fancy, waking creative things up … and one night, smack in the middle of the narrative I sat down and began a chapter where a character was going to tell a story … and I had no idea what that story was going to be.
“Think about it a moment. Up to this point, the focus of the stories was informed by the tension between Sam, Sienna and Melanie. They were the through-line of the action, the story was invested in their story. And then Obsidian Raine tells his story and everything changes. Only I don’t realize – at this time – there is a change – I just keep telling the story.
“And maybe it really wasn’t a ‘change’, not when I first conceived it. It’s only later I start getting how Obsidian’s story has opened a door – the door, actually. It set the beginnings of the story’s underlying mythology. Suddenly all the earlier sketches and writings – all sort of began to orbit and gravitate to a universe where this weird construct that came to be known as The Worldship existed – started to shape themselves, work themselves into the ‘story’, building a history, a mythology.” I look at her. “Before Sam and Sienna and Melanie were ever written, I realized, I’d done a first draft of the first few chapters of the final age … and they became part of the final series because I made a conscious decision all these little sketches and drafts were events in a history I was looking for that would make this all much more than a romantic triangle.”
I pause, catch my breath. I note the woman sitting to my right is eyeing me suspiciously. “It’s a weird process,” I offer, smiling at her. Her return smile is tentative.
I think a moment.
“Maybe it’s what I imagined writing to be, basing what I thought to be its process on reading comics during the Silver Age, where you detected a seat-of-the-pants quality to the continuity of the growing universe of characters and their common history. You’d read a story and sense the writer and artist got together, trying to McGiver or McGuffin their way out of a jam they created for themselves and start incorporating references to other stories and fictional events, making them relevant and urgent to the story being told, changing elements of context. ‘We already have this great idea, so let’s add it to …’ Or someone really stinks up the joint, taking a book in a direction that is at odds with the continuity of what follows and you watch these guys develop story arcs that would correct the discrepancy, smooth out the wrinkles. Next thing you know, the world building becomes more complex, more sophisticated. Pretty soon it seems to be a self-perpetuating process.
“That’s sort of what happened with me, I think. I was filling in the blanks, fitting pieces into a jigsaw puzzle and seeing the big picture slowly revealed itself. Is still revealing itself, but now I’m at a place where I am very confident what the finished image looks like, and I am assembling the pieces with greater and greater surety.”
Next: The Adventure Continues