A magazine editor wants to come take pictures of me in “my environment.” EEEEKKK!!! Nothing like viewing my world through someone else’s eyes, and camera. My place is a jungle. So named over twenty years ago by a tired four-year-old returning from a day in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She haughtily disputed her grandfather’s assurance, “We’re almost home,” by complaining, “No we’re not, I can’t see GG’s Jungle.”
This jungle is where I write. Laptop in my – well – lap, looking out my front windows into my own personal tangle of English ivy and Georgia hardwoods. Years ago, our children certified my front yard a Wildlife Habitat and hung a wooden chimpanzee in the trees. Deer nibble the shrubs, foxes nose around, and hawks hunt hapless chipmunks.
Like Sheldon on Big Bang Theory, where’s your “spot?” Your favorite place to settle down and slip into a fictive dream.
My little corner of the world sort of mimics Stephen King, who also writes in a corner. Since I’m comparing myself to the greats, I also scribble on strips of paper like Edgar Allen Poe, and on index cards like Vladimir Nabokov. I haven’t yet written in the nude like J. D. Salinger, but I’ve come close and I understand the strategy behind it, as did Victor Hugo who locked away his clothes to avoid the temptation of going outside.
Although I sometimes recline, I couldn’t write lying down like Mark Twain. But I have written drunk like F. Scott Fitzgerald and standing up like Ernest Hemingway. I might write in a shed like George Bernard Shaw, if it was air conditioned.
I’m not fussy like John Steinbeck, who always kept exactly twelve perfectly sharpened pencils on his desk. And I’m not superstitious like Truman Capote, who wouldn’t begin or end a piece of work on a Friday, and never allowed more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray.
I am like Raymond Chandler, in respect to output being irrelevant. James Joyce considered two perfect sentences a full day of work, whereas Jack London, William Golding, Norman Mailer, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Thomas Wolfe wouldn’t rest until they reached daily quotas into the thousands.
Adopting someone else’s practice won’t invoke genius in me. The best work ultimately comes from one’s own eccentricities. Working jigsaw puzzles and driving are two of mine. Something about focusing on the mechanics involved releases the creative side of my brain.
I fully understand why writers are often considered reclusive. When I am in seriously creative mode, I’m required to live within, socially withdraw so that every drop of my emotional energy goes into the craft. That, more than anything, explains GG’s Jungle.
An old adage warns us not to judge a book by its cover. Double scary now that my romance novel, Act on the Heart, published by Black Opal Books, has been released. Released, you might say, like a fish to swim the Amazon, online marketplace not river. The flow of books is staggering, so I wanted mine to have a striking cover. Even if it doesn’t pique readers’ interest, I didn’t want it going completely unnoticed.
Toward this end, I made what I later learned was a rookie mistake. I asked an artist whose work I admire to paint the cover. She read the book and painted “Reflections on a Southern Porch,” a beautiful and introspective scene that perfectly captured the feeling of the book. I, and all who saw the painting, loved it. But neither the artist nor I knew a thing about designing a book cover.
My editor admired the painting, but advised it wasn’t sensual enough to sell a romance novel. Grudgingly, I agreed to let the publisher’s art department handle the cover. I was put in touch with a graphic artist who made the daunting process into a pleasure. He found good models for the main characters, changed and tweaked whatever I asked, and gave me that lightning bolt moment of seeing my name on the cover of my book. He even featured the artist’s lovely painting on the back.
I have the best of both. A striking cover to draw readers to the book, from the outside looking in, and a treasured work of art depicting the story from the inside looking out. Either way, I’ve got it covered.