Part of the magic of writing a novel is how reality gets transmuted into fiction—and fantasy. At the center of my novel Light Runner is a teenage girl, Dara Adengard. When a powerful healing armband falls into her hands, she’s thrust into a perilous search for her father, clues about her mother’s recent death—and the truth about herself. Dara soon discovers that the armband—which she learns is called the Jyotisha—has the power to heal wounds, injuries, and illnesses.
Prior to Light Runner, I wrote a couple of astrology books. Astrology—especially as it is practiced in India—has been a strong interest of mine for quite some time. I originally got the idea for the armband from a book called Autobiography of a Yogi, which describes an astrological “bangle” made from interwoven gold, silver, and copper, designed to combat “the adverse effects of subtle cosmic influences.” That’s a far cry from Dara’s Jyotisha, which can heal a gunshot wound, but part of the writing process is taking an idea and molding it into a different shape, seeing what it can become.
One of the most fascinating things to me as a writer is this process of transmutation—how an idea or concept morphs into something quite different. For example, fiction writers often base characters on real people—someone the writer has known or seen. But the final creation of that character—if done well—ends up being a total individual, not just a copy or rip-off. A goal in writing Light Runner was to keep it real, not get lost in abstract phenomena. One reviewer even commented that she could see parts of the story showing up on the news or a Twitter feed.
In India, there is a form of astrology called Vedic astrology, or Jyotish. Jyoti is a Sanskrit word meaning light, and Jyotish is the study of star or planetary light. I liked the word mainly for its overall meaning—light—as it applied to Dara’s armband and simply added an “a” to it.
A few things about the desk where I do most of my writing. It’s a tight space, but that’s just part of the way things are laid out in our home. Not much room when I need to work from edited hard copies. But it’s in a quiet room, next to the peaceful backyard, in the rear of the house. The bulletin board is empty because I just finished Book 2 and removed all the 3 x 5 note cards. It’s a blank slate, awaiting Book 3.
Above the bulletin board is a photograph of Fenway Park, home of
the Boston Red Sox, titled “86 Years & Worth the Wait.” It was taken during game 3 of the 2004 World Series. I grew up in Boston and am a lifelong fan. To the left of the desk is a picture of Ted Williams, famous Red Sox slugger. His bat swing was famously smooth. He had intense focus, and it reminds me as a writer to stay with the ball, in the moment.
I have a (barely visible) microphone I’ve borrowed from a friend. My intention is to record portions of my book. One problem is that Light Runner is mainly from the point of view of a teenage girl and I’m a guy, so maybe that wouldn’t sound quite right. It’s not first person POV, but still… On the other hand, I’ve got a Jamaican Rasta character in Book 2 and I’ve been practicing a Jamaican accent when I read for my critique group. I’d love to try it out, plus some of the other voices (Russian, etc.).
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of ‘magic in the moment,’ how if we are living totally in the present, we can open the door to key experiences.
I was in Hawaii one time with my family. I’d never jet-skied before, but thought it would be a good father-daughter activity (my daughter was a teenager at the time). I had a vision of doing some sort of free-range jet skiing, skimming over the water wherever we wanted to go. But instead, we were confined to a limited section of water and ended up just going in circles around a large raft. It got kind of boring. Jostled and pounded by the swells and wake from other jet skis, I also found jet skiing to be uncomfortable.
We’d jet skied for a while, and I kept wondering when out rental was going to be over. I think that sense of boredom helped me to focus on the moment because I was just looking at the water in front of me, navigating the jet ski, modulating the speed, when something shiny caught my eye. I looked more closely, and it took my breath away—a school of flying fish was swimming just ahead of my jet ski. Silver scales flashed, caught the sunlight, blended with the glittering water, leapt through the air, and splashed back beneath the surface.
I think writing is sometimes like that. The page can be confining, and you feel like you are just going in circles. Then, into the field of vision . . . something silver flashes over the surface of the text for just a moment, disappears, then another and another, until all of a sudden the page becomes alive with sparkling light.