Hey all. Gerry Boyle here. And I’m reporting in after spending much of the day in my favorite part of the writing trade: the wandering.
I love the writing itself. I love the long hours in the study with the story. I like seeing the finished book and I like going around talking the book up. But there is something special about the research stage of a book, when ideas are forming but nothing is decided and anything is possible. This is what I call “the wandering stage” when I set out with notebooks and camera and Gazeteer and go where intuition takes me.
With a book in the hopper and the next one a vague notion, this morning I set out early, taking an SUV just in case. I’m doing research in Jack McMorrow’s backyard, and even after all these years on Jack’s turf in the willwags of Waldo County Maine, I keep the Gazeteer beside me. I drive back roads and then I drive roads that are just dashes on the map. I eased my way down one this morning that had signs directing drivers (of ATVs). I bumped along, glad it hadn’t just rained because the road was clearly the stream bed. I drove and mulled and pulled into logging roads and pondered.
The plot is emerging, like people walking out of a haze. I sit in the woods, get out and walk. I drive back to paved roads and park. Pickups drive by and everyone waves. They figure anyone out here must be someone they know. If it isn’t, they need a good hard look. I’ll bet I’ll come up in somebody’s dinner conversation tonight:
“Saw this guy in a grey Toyota? Way back in the woods.”
“What was he doing?”
“Hell if I know. Just kinda sitting there.”
“Wasn’t some pervert was he?”
Drove a road named somebody’s gulch. Jack will go there. Met a young woman along the way, in a store. She told me her dad makes furniture. Sweet smile. She’ll make the book. Saw a kid on a bike, flailing his way down a big hill. Put the brakes on so he could give me a wave. Norman Rockwell come to life. Got the dead stare from two guys in a Toyota pickup. How can so much be said by no expression at all?
I get asked sometimes where I get my ideas. Now you know. Fifty miles from the study. From a glance. A smile. A back road that ends in a washed out gully. A couple of guys who could be loggers. Or could be coming from a meth lab in the woods. A hundred bucks says there was a firearm in the truck. Fifty says it was loaded.
So is this how all writers start a book? I don’t know. I’ll ask my compatriots in MCW. Hey, guys. How do you set out to write a book?
I just know how these things form for me. I wouldn’t, couldn’t, do it any other way.