My grandmother, Opal Higgins Skov, was an ardent writer. Her choice of theme and style lead me to believe we are twin-spirits. Even though she died when I was seven years old, she passed her passion for writing on to me. When I was nine, I adapted Little Women into a play which was presented to family and neighbors in our backyard. By the end of the performance, I had made a vow to become an author. I had opened myself to experience a life that would inform my writing, which it has, in unexpected ways.
As a teenager, I was convinced I would find my stories as a voyeur seated on a bar stool in a seedy part of town. In fact, it is my family and those close to me who have broadened my perspective as a human being and provided grist for my musings. My sons: Greg, Chad, Jason, David, and Chuck, and my step-sons, Matt and Justin have led me down roads I never knew existed. And my husband, Charles, a criminal defense attorney, has shared stories that no one in a bar would dare speak out loud for fear of being overheard.
I write about edges, about times when circumstances that challenge the status quo reach a critical mass which compels many people to shift their perception, causing some to cling to their "old world" and others exploring an unknown landscape--often leaving both groups struggling to gain control.
A story often comes to me in a flash. The book, Seeing with the Mind's Eye by Nancy and Michael Samuels, elucidates this type of thinking: Mozart spoke of musical scores popping into his head, fully formed. Picasso told of paintings coming to him in an instant. When this happens, it is a matter of translating the idea, the concept, the story into the continuum of time and space so it can be communicated.
My process includes asking specific questions: What would Sally or Mike do should this take place? What does my character want? What does my character fear. And then, going into the meditative state where images appear on the screen of my mind. I lie down, close my eyes, ask the question--then watch and I listen. I open my eyes, sit at my desk, and record what I have experienced.
Writers who inform my story-making ventures include Plato and his notions of archetype; Dicken's; the Grimm Brothers; Rabadranath Tagore; Shakespeare; Andre Dubus III; John Steinbeck and Archibald McLeish.
As a writer, I force myself to look inside and to be brave enough to be honest. Am I congruent? What do I need to change in order to achieve the self-transformation I seek? I realize many of my faults live in my own shadow and that those faults may only reveal themselves gradually. But, only when I try to unmask the truth of who I am and who I might be, can I ask the same of my characters.