My friend hears voices…

My friend Susan Gabriel has a problem: she hears voices.

In her most recent blog post, Where I Got The Idea For My Latest Novel, the author of Seeking Sara Summers says she was lying in bed one morning eleven years ago (!) when she heard a voice announce itself as the idea for her next novel.

She says she’d just been out visiting her family cemetery in the southern Appalachian mountains. (Note: I’m envious of that. My family cemetery is in Bensalem Pennsylvania, between a strip mall and another strip mall.) The next morning at 4 am she heard a young girl’s voice say, There are two things I’m afraid of. One is dying young. The other is Johnny Monroe.

Interesting opening, I think. Time to start sharpening pencils.

Her story reminded me of the time I was sitting at my desk in a television newsroom in San Francisco. I had been thinking about celebrities and the lives they lead, how they are both enviable and unenviable, when I heard a voice too. It was my executive producer saying, “Grabowski, are you going to take your dinner break or not?” The evening crunch, pounding out stories and editing video for the 11pm broadcast, would start soon. Last chance to grab a burger.

But before that, I’d heard another voice. That voice said: An anonymous writer gets to know a famous actress. Both are unhappy. She craves anonymity. He craves recognition. They think their respective lacks are the reasons for their unhappiness. Both are wrong. I opened the email on my computer and typed out the thought, then sent it to myself for safekeeping.

It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten an idea like that. Usually time passes, I look at it again and decide it was stupid. This time when I got back from dinner I reread the email and still liked the idea. The next day same thing. A week later, two weeks later, and so far so good.

I heard a voice just like Susan, and acted on it too. I wonder how many other writers hear them.

Susan is right that you have to tend to these voices as soon as they present themselves. She says, ” I…wanted to go back to sleep. Who wouldn’t, at 4 o’clock in the morning? For a time, I debated whether or not to get up. I ultimately decided that if I didn’t claim this moment, the ‘voice’ might find someone else to write her story.”

So true. Those voices never present themselves when it’s convenient to you. They always start talking when you’re in the shower. Or driving down the freeway. Or lying in bed. My desk is often covered in Post-It notes from ideas I get as I’m trying to fall asleep. I wouldn’t be surprised if Susan is the same way. But her efforts have clearly paid off. The tough-to-please Kirkus Review has raved about this book, by the way: A quietly powerful story, at times harrowing but ultimately a joy to read. — Starred review, for “books of remarkable merit.”

What are you waiting for, the Academy Award-winning movie directed by Terrence Malick? Well, so am I, but read the book now. If you love your digital devices it’s available on Kindle, too.


One response

  1. Thanks so much for the wonderful blog post. I am humbled by the honor. I loved the story of how you started Entertaining Wesley Shaw and look forward to reading it when it is launched into the world.

    For now, it seems I am not alone in how I get some of my ideas for novels. Here’s to hearing voices!



    June 17, 2012 at 11:31 am

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