the oddest kind of inspiration

Maybe odd isn’t the right word. Inconvenient? Yes, that works.

When I can’t sleep and all efforts at self hypnosis fail, I often find myself bombarded with bits and pieces of the thing I’m working on. Ideas about characters, input from the characters themselves, structural questions, visual ones. I put together maps in my head and then play with them. All of this happens when I’d rather be sleeping. It’s like being forced to watch a movie, or worse, to take part in one.

Every once in a while something good comes out of such sessions. This morning at about four, for example, I got an image of index cards filled with notes written in an elegant hand, with a fountain pen. Each card had a brief description of one person, and all the people being described worked in the shops located in Lambert Square in my fictional Greenbriar, South Carolina. Lambert Square is a renovated textile mill/factory that has been transformed into shops and public spaces, you see. That’s where the bulk of Pajama Jones takes place.

The person who has written these index cards is a rather odd guy who has sold his Lambert Square business (antique and collectible pens and high end paper) to John Adams Dodge. All the negotiations and legal work was carried out by courier service, and Mr. Cowper will have left on a long trip before Dodge ever gets to Greenbriar. So in the last packet of papers Dodge finds a these index cards, provided by Mr. Cowper as a study guide and introduction to Lambert Square.

This provides me with some structure, and it makes Mr. Cowper happy. As Dodge hasn’t even seen the cards yet, I’m not sure how he’ll react, but I think he’ll be amused.

4 Replies to “the oddest kind of inspiration”

  1. fascinating. How very vivid and complicated.

    I guess I am incredibly amazed that your brain and imagination work like that.

    I’m glad you share these kinds of insights with us.

  2. Sara–Where is Greenbriar, Georgia or South Carolina? In your post about the character, you said Ga., now it’s SC. There is a difference! I’m curious about why you’ve chosen the South as the locale of your modern-day novels, and about how much time you’ve spent there.

  3. Mavis — oh sure, I know there’s a big difference. Up until a couple weeks ago, though, I was undecided on where Greenbriar really was. I *thought* it was in Georgia but was informed otherwise by the characters, for a specific reason that I can’t go into right now.

    I have spent some — not a lot — of time in the south. I set Tied to the Tracks in a fictional town in Georgia because I wanted to watch two very different kinds of people interact, and because I like the South.

    Putnam wanted me to set the next novel in the south, for their own odd reasons. But I find I’m quite happy with Greenbriar, and look forward to spending some time there.

  4. I’m glad to here that there other people out there who do this – the 3am creative spurt, I mean. Oh, the poems that might have been written had I actually made myself reach for the notepad rather than attempting to go back to sleep, certain that I’d remember it verbatim in the morning…

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