“Do you view your writing as a spiritual practice?”
Surprised at the question, I stared at the words for a while before realizing that yes, I did think of my writing as spiritual… even a spiritual practice. And wrote this in reply:
“Although I have never thought about it in those words, yes, this is true for me. When I started writing fiction, I approached the first book (The Fragrance Shed By A Violet: Murder in the Medical Center) the same way as when I’d written non-fiction: Creating a detailed outline of the entire story. It was impossible. After weeks of failed attempts, I gave up and just began to write. I intended that the investigative journalist in the book would be a contemporary narrator through whose eyes the reader would learn about the protagonist. But she gained traction as I wrote and established herself as a major character.
I realized that some- not all- of these people whom I write into existence take off with an energy that cannot be explained. In my newest book, I did not know what would happen with one of the major characters until the chapters were written.
Ceding control of the story has been one of the most difficult things for me to learn. But what an adventure once it happens!” READ ENTIRE INTERVIEW
That question brought back the intense challenge of writing my character, Joe Cairns. A heroic Marine turned assassin for hire. Joe first appeared in A Price for Genius and very quickly, Joe became one of my favorite characters for he embodies that so very human combination of great virtue with even greater evil.
Upon hearing my repeated statements as I wrote, that I was curious, eager to see what would happen to Joe Cairns, my husband John was incredulous: “How can you say that?! You are writing the story!”
Those words I wrote for last year’s interview bear repeating: “Ceding control of the story has been one of the most difficult things for me to learn. But what an adventure once it happens!”
The repeat is warranted because this is such a strange, even weird, truth.
The fact is that I did not know what would happen to Joe Cairns until I saw the typed words on my computer screen. Sound incredible?
I agree, it most definitely does.
Similarly, when I began to write I, Claudia, I had no idea of where the book would go. Or how my story of these star crossed lovers would end. Of course I had a fairly good idea of how my couple would differ from what I’d read from all the others I had studied.
And when faced what seemed like new and scarier obstacles, as I pushed on with the story, I learned that writing historical fiction was not all that different from writing my earlier medical thrillers.
Most likely due to the subject matter of this new book, however, this notion of writing as a spiritual practice has deepened. I was, after all, writing about the years, then hours leading up to the Crucifixion of Christ. And since this unexpected switch to historical fiction looks as if it is here to stay for a while, I am guessing that this prayerful aspect of my writing will remain.
I even told several close friends and later wrote that the writing of Claudia was felt like prayer.
But the ending of Claudia? I had not a clue until… suddenly, I did. Yes, most definitely, my writing is a spiritual practice. One for which I am increasingly grateful.