The title of this post comes from one of my favorite books, William Goldman’s The Color of Light. It’s a semiautobiographical, semi-soapy story of a writer’s life, but there are characters and lines in it that have remained with me to this day, and an absolutely spectacular penultimate paragraph. But the line that everything is material is, in my experience at least, an accurate one (even just from the cliche about writing what you know), and it’s interesting to see how it plays out in my own fiction.
When I wrote Broken Glass Waltzes, I used bits and pieces of my own life as parts of the story. Some friends of mine make cameos here and there, and of course, some of it is drawn from my time in and around rock and roll bands of greater or lesser levels of success. Some scenes are set in places I’ve been — some homes and venues are based on places I’ve actually visited; Southgate Music where Kenny shops was a store that no longer exists but was a favorite store of mine — things like that. Likewise, I’ll take a mannerism from this person, a tone of voice from that one along the way.
But some bits come through more clearly than others, I guess. The last two folks to talk to me about the book have both mentioned the same scene, which was based on something that actually happened to me. As I wrote the book, I transplanted that particular event into Kenny’s life, adding a postscript that never happened at all, and it’s not a key scene in terms of plot — it’s something that I thought would offer a bit of insight into Kenny. Still, I guess there was enough of a live wire there that two different readers (including one who was at the original event) have commented on it.
I guess for me, that’s a lot of what writing is — the collection and rearrangements of sensations, experiences, feelings, moments — and I shuffle them around and alter them with memory and imagination before I put them into the shadowboxes of story. All of those pieces, moments and people — they’re all themselves, but they’re also all material that I’ll adjust along the way and turn into these other things. But the live wires still show through.
You can buy Broken Glass Waltzes here.