I began writing when I was ten or eleven, I think. I wrote short stories with the joyous abandonment of childhood, never thinking too much about what I was doing, just having fun with the magic power of words. In my class the teacher asked students to write a story each week for extra credit, and I happily complied, writing really silly stories that often featured my classmates involved in outrageous plots. I loved hearing everyone laugh when I read my story aloud to them (they also laughed when I tripped and fell in class on my way back to my seat, but it wasn’t the same thing, alas).
I don’t remember anything at all about those stories, except that one was set in the future and there were flying cars (I still want a flying car, where are they? Where?), and another involved a giant rolling ball from Outer Space covered with large lips that were constantly kissing. Terrifying! And surreal. Children’s minds are naturally surreal, I think.
I continued to write for my own and my friends’ amusement all through high school. We were huge fans of (dating myself here) the TV series Star Trek, and I integrated myself and my friends into the crew of the Enterprise with great success. I was Yeoman Coles and my friend was Yeoman Sands, and we were always getting in trouble – Mr. Spock was forever scolding us for some mistake or other. I tell you, in my mind, it was like we were really there.I guess it all began to change when I started college, and then entered the work force in my twenties. Slowly, all the fun and joy seeped out of writing, as I became more and more aware of all that I did not know. They always tell you, write about what you know, but I didn’t know anything, or so it seemed. It all became so serious – everyone wanting to write the Great American Novel, whatever that is. Intimidated, convinced I was a terrible writer after all, I stopped.
Eventually I discovered the challenge and pleasure of writing poetry, and soon after graduating from college I joined a local poetry group, the Range of Light. It was founded by Bill Hotchkiss, my teacher at college and a really good writer and poet in his own right. Poetry was all I wrote for a long time, and I did love it, and the group. I also started writing nonfiction for a local magazine – I loved doing interview articles, meeting interesting people, writing about them. I was working all this time; the years passed, I kept promoting upward until I found myself working for the Superior Court, and I was called upon to write a lot. But it was all technical writing – I could write the Nobel prize-winningest Procedure Manual you could ever hope for, but there was no joy in that. Meanwhile, the right side of my brain went comatose.
As a lonely and often ill only child, I had cultivated quite a vivid imagination. My imagination was good company, and I often put myself to sleep at night playing out involved adventures in my mind. Even as an adult, my inner life was filled with complex story lines and people and adventures, like a background program always running in my brain. Often the story became more interesting to me than what was
going on around me in the “real” world.
‘Disfigured’ began that way, as a story I was telling myself for my own amusement. I had started wondering what kind of woman would be right for Erik (aka the Phantom), and gradually my flawed heroine, Sylvie Bessette took shape. I was so drawn to her story that I could not resist writing it down,
and that is how I started. And you know what? That first draft was just awful! But I didn’t care, because
I had rediscovered the fun of writing. I was enjoying the process so much, I stopped worrying about anything else. And I suppose because I was writing just for myself, with no thought of what would become of it, I didn’t feel any pressure to make it perfect. I even found that doing research was fun.
I enjoyed reading the original Phantom of the Opera book by Leroux, but it was essential for background details.
I can’t say I enjoyed reading the original Phantom of the Opera book by Leroux, but it was essential for background details.
I took an early retirement from my job, and threw myself into what seemed like endless rewrites of the book, but it was never tedious, it was good fun. I never grew bored spending time with Erik and Sylvie. But it became apparent early on that I was in need of a truly bad bad guy; someone who could make Erik (Mr. Not-so-Perfect) appear saintly in comparison. Enter the late, great Alan Rickman, in the person
of Chief-Inspector Gaston (named after Gaston Leroux, the original creator of the Phantom). From the moment of his inception, in my mind the evil Gaston was being played by Alan Rickman, bad-guy extraordinaire. I loved him.
So when you read his lines, imagine the seductive/scary voice of Alan Rickman speaking them. I have always said that his voice was like warm honey being poured over velvet. Before I was finished with ‘Disfigured’, I was already planning another book, because I just couldn’t bear to part with Erik and Sylvie. And there was joy unconfined, because I would have complete freedom to do what I wanted with them, since I was no longer being held by the constraints of the Phantom storyline. More adventures await them, and who knows? Maybe Chief-Inspector Gaston didn’t die after all. I’d love to bring him back some time.
So stay tuned!