Writing: The Passion of Your Novel

I recently finished a biography on Emily Dickinson.  These words she wrote to Thomas Wentworth Higginson resignated with me: “I was thinking, today-as I noticed, that the ‘Supernatural’, was only the Natural, disclosed-”

I’ve probed  the hidden my entire life.   I can’t remember a time I wasn’t studying the occult.  I remember being nine years-old and taking out books on psychic phenomena, Edgar Cayce, reincarnation, and so forth along with my trusty Nancy Drews – and wondering why the librarian was looking at me odd.

Another love of mine has always been the Victorian era.  The Victorians were fascinated both by the world around them (evident in all the inventions of that century) and in the nature of man.  Forget the the images of  distant, cold persons so prudish that table legs had to be covered.   Heightened social awareness  propelled Abolition,  the Suffrage Movement, education and work reform.  New ideas sprang everywhere: Transcendentalism, Egyptology, Spiritualism,  Theosophy, the Golden Dawn, Unitarianism.  Health movements such as homeopathy, mesmerism, vegetarianism, hydrotherapy.

It is amusing to think many now look upon those times as “genteel”- when the Victorians feared their lives had become too fast paced due to the railroad and telegram.   In the 19th century- the “Newness”- was all around.

With my great passion  for the so-called supernatural and 19th c. history-  it feels a natural progression that my writing should be fueled with these elements.

What are the passions that drive your novel?

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  1. I adore the 19th century. The image of stoiic gentleman and proper ladies sipping tea and sitting on lace doylies makes me giggle. It was such a vibrant and wacky time. Anything was possible. My next mystery (in the infancy of planning) involves a gentleman scientist (circa 1880) on a botany expedition to South America. When the parties of his expedition begin dying under mysterious circumstances, he must face the reality that there is a killer among them.

  2. Mary,

    Your next novel idea sounds so awesome. Get these written. I’m a definite reader-to-be.

    Speaking of botany, I have mention of it in this current WIP. It was quite a common interest of the people then.

  3. I admit that I am fascinated by the concept of the gentleman scientist. I can’t read enough of their accounts to satisfy my appetite. It makes me impatient with my current WIP. Deep breath. The next book up in the queue is always shiny, no?

  4. Too shiny!

    It’s like being a magpie…

  5. I love that era too. And I always associate it with Edgar Allen Poe – who fascinates me. The passion driving my latest novel is a love for fairy tales, and the idea of magic in everyday life!

  6. Hey there Rachel,

    I read your comment on Jen’s blog earlier. Your idea of a 14 year-old Pinnochio who doesn’t remember being a puppet is great.

  7. Interesting post, Gypsy.

    I don’t have any “passions” per se, at least not like you’ve discussed in the post, and Mary and Rachel have mentioned.

    The passions I have are kind of anemic. I’m kind of a magpie myself that way. A fount of useless information. So I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I’m not passionate about anything (save autism) enough for it to qualify. Unless you count people. People, and how they tick is what I find fascinating. That’s where my stories always start. The rest is just the wrapper. 😀

  8. I wrote in most recent novel a fictional story that involved elements of trauma that were very personal to me. Points of that one were difficult to write, but I think it made the writing more poignant.

  9. I love you blog!!
    I’m into the supernatural and occult stuff like that as well!!
    and I’m in the early stages of writing a novel too!

  10. Edgar Allan Poe:

    The Telltale Heart
    The Cask of Amontillado
    The Red Mask
    The Raven

    One of the best authors of all time.

  11. Hi Jen,

    Thanks! Glad you found it interesting.

    Knowing a bit of everything makes you well-rounded. Not anemic!

    Your desire to understand people surely carries over into your creation of well-rounded characters. And what is more important to the life of a story than the characters who exist in it?

  12. Colby,

    Very brave of you to face those pains. And no doubt the “realness” made it poignant indeed.

  13. Franco,

    Thank you so much! Your words really touched me.

    All the best with the novel you are working on.

  14. Hey Ralfast,

    Ah…another Poe fan. 🙂

    It’s hard to choose but I think my favorite stories from him are Ligeia and The Tell-tale Heart.

  15. I like making light out of darkness — using the darkness or ugliness in life to illustrate life lessons, I guess you could say, creating opportunities for character growth and enlightenment.

    What can I say — everything is a life lesson, really, and a chance to grow. It’s a theme most people can relate to, being alive.

    I also like writing from death’s point of view — I never stop having fun with God as an eclectic character, or imagining life in the after-life, minus the sadness connected with death, and minus any stuffy religious aspects (no offense to the religious).

    Em (in bed with the flu since Monday, but turning the corner, and still NaNoing through it! : )

  16. Em! (hugs)

    Ah…so the flu hit you now? Sending you my gramma’s chicken soup (best in the world)

    As tends to be usual- I can relate very much. Light in darkness. Life-in-death. Endlessly fascinating.

    So glad to hear you are still NaNo-ing thru the illness. Actually, I’ve found sometimes I do my best work while sick. Maybe because at those times it’s even easier to enter the zone.

    Anyhow, get better soon!

  17. Thanks, Tasha!

    I knew I was coming down with something at least a week before it hit, and then it just hit me overnight. At least I’ll be over it before Thanksgiving!

    Yup, still NaNoing through it — luck luck luck on your goal of 40 thou by Monday morning! We’re both right around the same place, and so close!

    You know, you’re so right — it is easier to get into flow, being sick like this, and with my head on a balloon string floating around. It’s making me more daring, lol.

    I was stuck yesterday, big scene coming to a close, not knowing what to put my character through next (insert sinister laugh here) and then I read the latest NaNo inspirational email, from Janet Fitch — OMG, just that alone, too freaking cool — and she said when you’re stuck, get your main character into trouble.

    So I took her advice, and did just that — it worked wonderfully! Now the end is coming together and the direction is clear again to get to that ending.

    God I love NaNoWriMo. : )

    Em (giddy from having just finished my day’s words — whew. Back under the covers I go.)

  18. Hey Em,

    Yeah!!!! Glad the great idea struck you.

    Don’t you wish famous writers would email us all year long? How cool would *that* be.

    Good luck to you and everyone else this weekend. 🙂

    Tasha

  19. Interesting you should mention railroads and new inventions in Victorian times, Tasha. The manuscript I’ve sent to an agent with revisions is set in a Victorian-England-meets-medieval-fantasy land, and part of the plot is that the steam engine has been invented, and is part of a military effort against a medieval army.

    It was a lot of fun to write. There was a great contrast between the heroine’s fashionable gowns and lace-trimmed hats, and the smoky machinery of the burgeoning Industrial Revolution.

  20. Hey Marian,

    What a great idea- blending Victorian with medieval fantasy! Hope you hear from the agent soon.

    Speaking of steam engine- I’d love to write a steampunk novel at some point.

  21. Was the biography you read about Emily “My Wars are Laid Away in Books”? If not, definitely pick that one up if you’re a fan of hers. The passions that drive my work are also hidden and probing. I love to get under the skin of somebody in the 19th century. I recently finished my first novel, a memoir-esque story about a Civil War soldier. I wanted to be there with him in battle. I want to know the real story behind the textbooks, behind the facts and dates and names. I recently wrote a post about obsession, because I think it’s important as a writer. That driving urgency to reveal, to discover, to unearth, is deep within me … and within you as well.

  22. Hi Meg,

    Heh. Just posted a comment on your blog about twenty seconds ago. Telepathy? 🙂

    The book I read was: “White Heat”. Thank you for the recommendation. I will definitely keep an eye out for it. I’m new to the world of Dickinson. Of course, I was well aware of her myth, but it wasn’t until now that I’ve begun to explore her life and poetry in earnest.

    Your novel sounds great. I love how so many of us are using the 19th century.

    Oh, tell me about obsession! I’m a Scorpio Rising. It’s in my blood…yes, yes…to probe, discover..

  23. My first novel (novella) was and still is very personal to me. Although it is fiction, it is peppered with a lot of autobiographical details and I wrote it at a time when I thought I was going to lose my Dad to cancer. If it makes it to the bookstore shelf, his name will be on the top of those I dedicate the book to. In big bold capital letters.

  24. Ralfast,

    Your answer really touched me. I hope it does make it to the bookshelves one day.

  25. That’s simple–it’s my love for history and culture of all sorts. I know that sounds rather general, but I cannot think of any period in time I was not fascinated by. So, the majority of my writing is set in the past–be in Meiji era Japan, the American Revolution or the time of Christ.

    I suppose for this novel, it’s my passion for Japanese culture during the Meiji era. But I’m easily swept away by anything historical in nature 🙂

  26. Hi Dara,

    Nice to meet you.

    And yeah! Another history nut 🙂

    One of my closest friends has a great passion for Japanese culture.

    I’ll be checking out your blog later.


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