Please welcome author and book-blog-community-builder Susan Helene Gottfried to The 3 R’s! Susan and I originally connected years ago on BookCrossing, but lost touch until I re-discovered her through her blog, West of Mars: The Meet and Greet. I had the opportunity to read and review her first collection of fiction about the band ShapeShifter, The Demo Tapes: Year One, last week (all of which was originally published on her blog). Today, she shares some some thoughts about where her inspiration, and her characters, come from. Read on, visit her blog, and get your hands on the book!
Disclaimer: I don’t think I’m in any position to validate anyone’s “innate coolness,” since I have none of my own, but I appreciate that Susan thinks so! I think she is far cooler than I have any hope of being.
I am thrilled that Florinda asked me to guest blog today. She’s always got cool stuff going on, so this is a validation of my innate coolness. Although, if I’m wrong about that, please don’t shatter my delusion!
I come from a long line of avid readers. I have memories of going to visit my grandparents and coming home from the library with my grandmother in her big brown car. I have no memory of the library itself, mind you. Just being in her car, on those wide bench seats, no car seats needed in those days. It let a little girl sit next to her beloved grandmother and read out loud the whole way home. The physical proximity was good for the emotional bonds.
Literacy and reading were important to my grandparents. There were always books around and now, as an adult, I have a copy of a very old book about Abraham Lincoln on my shelves. My mother gave it to me after my grandfather died. Like my memory of my grandmother’s car, I have only patches of recollection of this book. I’d loved it. I’m not sure why.
It wasn’t until I was studying creative writing in college that I first experienced one of my grandfather’s more interesting skills: he could read a book and pick out which details were autobiographical. I remember him returning a book to me and informing me of all these things my professor, the book’s author, had done in his life. Sure enough, as I got to know the professor better, my grandfather had been right.
He shared those insights with me many times over through the years. Most of the time, we spoke about authors I had no prior knowledge of. Authors I lacked cool connections to. That meant I never got to find out if Papa was right or not.
Now, as I look back at my characters and the fiction I’ve written about them during the years since I began my blog, the Meet and Greet, I wonder what my grandfather would glean. After all, my character of Trevor Wolff is an abused child. Badly abused.
Yet I wasn’t abused. Not physically, at least, although no one can ever be certain how to classify the torment heaped on a youngest sister. It’s doubtful that anyone would consider that to be anything but normal.
I’m not musical, like my character Mitchell Voss. Music oozes out of Mitchell, but me? I’m tone deaf. Very tone deaf. My son was blowing into a pitch pipe last week while turning his cello and believe me, even if I hadn’t been informed of my disability by a professional, we’d all have known about it.
How about an artist, like Mitchell’s wife, Kerri? Again, I strike out. When I took art classes at a local center for the arts, my finished work often waited to be claimed on the shelves where the children’s creations were stowed. I decided that was proof I’ve got a child’s sense of wonder about the world. And that my artistic talents lie with the written word.
Maybe part of what I reveal in my fiction is that other than the whole abuse issue, I spent a lot of time wishing I could be these things. Musical. Visually artistic. Not to mention cool, like Mitchell and Kerri. Impertinent (and able to get away with it) like Trevor is. He’s not afraid of confrontation, to get in your face and speak the truth. And he’s always looking for the shiny side of any situation. Anything to make him look better — at least in his own mind.
Maybe my grandfather would have picked up on my yearnings to be like my characters. My desire to make a comfortable living off my art, to channel my passions into something that touches millions of people. Just as Trevor, Mitchell, and Kerri do.
One thing I’m certain of, though: by publishing The Demo Tapes, I’m allowing those dreams and wishes to come true. And in the eyes of my grandfather, writing a book — something he always encouraged me to do — is every bit as revealing as the books we choose to read.
Come meet Trevor, Kerri, and Mitchell either at The Meet and Greet or in The Demo Tapes: Year 1. You can buy a copy at Amazon, through my storefront at Lulu.com, or directly from me.