When I write, I have images, always, in my mind: of the characters, or a character, first. Then the world, their world, accretes around them, and the story grows.
The book’s cover art comes much later in the process, when the writing is done. And while my books have had some fine cover art, as well as some pretty questionable images (naming no names and posting no JPEGs), when Rick Lieder‘s the artist, I’m thrilled, and relieved – I know that my words could have no better face to show the world than what Rick will devise.
THE BLUE MIRROR and TALK are two excellent examples: the rainy shadows of Maggy’s illustrated landscape, dominated by the shadow that is Cole; and the backstage scrawl and script of Kit Webster’s theatrical world. Behind-the-scenes note: the BLUE MIRROR photograph was taken on a very busy avenue from a moving car; don’t try this at home! And TALK’s “script” page is one of the actual pages from the manuscript in process.
And if you’d like a copy of either, or both, signed by both author and artist, they’re available now. (One of us will walk upstairs to sign it, and the other will cross the room.)
We all take a book, a story, and make it real through that interior process of emotion and visualization called reading, that happy mystery. Seeing Rick’s covers is, for me, the first chance to watch how a particular book might come to life for its eventual readers, for you.
This is a picture of Puppet Alice, relaxing at the home of her maker, artist Rena Hopkins. Many discussions and brainstorms and hilarities preceded her gestation, and now here she sits, a creature in the world, with a book for a heart and nooses for feet, and her own individual – most very individual – point of view. (It helps to have mirrors for eyes.)
And she’s a mystery of the best kind: concrete enough to touch and handle, which we very much hope the patrons of ALI<E will choose to do, but created to cross the borders of fact and fiction, art and darkness, being one with them all, but exclusively of none. If you were of a metaphysical mind, you might call her existence a kind of transubstantiation, when a thing, without ceasing to be itself, becomes wholly and more deeply something else. Or you might call her a performing object, which means the same thing. Or a piece of fiction, ditto.
Or you might think of her as one of us, because when art does its job, we become those creatures crossing back and forth between worlds – in a book, film, performance, painting, photograph, video - so seamlessly that the tangent realities are equally real at the very same time. Which is deep play, and what play is for. And a lot – a lot – of fun.
Words in books are our constant friends: they show us who we are, and what the world is, whether it’s the contemporary world we can see from our windows, or another, further in time or distance but no less real. They cheer us, amuse us; and in their highest functioning, save us from what may seek to circumscribe us, keep us smaller than our true growth allows.
But what if the words in the book, and the book itself, are not guides and helpers; are actively unfriendly; are worse than unfriendly?
THE MEDUSA DIARY – a book I’m writing now – asks that question of a smart, tough girl named Arden, and every day at the desk she goes deeper into the book, into the dark.
Some people were surprised when I began working in theater. I was one of them. Though an enthusiastic audience member for years, I’d never dreamed, dreamed to dream, that I’d find myself adapting fiction – including my own – for performance, and immersive performance at that.
But really, it’s no real surprise at all. Because it’s all same job of telling stories: watching characters move through space, bringing the details of the setting to life. And giving the words primacy, letting them play, to make of that constructed life a breathing thing. Page, stage, same task, same joy.
The real change comes in the process of collaboration, investigating the text, playing with the makers who make up nerve.
Because the energy of the story, the performative fiction, grows exponentially when wild talents are invoked. And having a novelist in the mix makes nerve a different kind of performance entity.
It’s all been a glorious and inevitable surprise. And it’s just beginning to tell its own story. Read on!
[Photos of KK, Marisa Dluge, Chris Jakob, Steve Xander Carson: Rick Lieder.]
The care and kindness SASHA provides is evident to anyone who visits, in person or virtually (such as via this video Diane Cheklich and I created). . .
. . . so I posted an offer on my Facebook page:
“If you buy a barn fan for SASHA, I will write a story for you. Deal? Inbox me if you’re serious.”
Within a few hours, acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Miller contacted me, and now SASHA will have a barn fan, Sarah will have a story written just for her, and the work I do daily has done demonstrable good. Win-win-win!