Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ghosts, Muses, or Angels

"Do you have a Muse?" I am often asked by inquiring minds. By that, people want to know whether a spiritual being visits to inspire my writing. I have to admit there are times when I have no idea from whence comes a thought or is as if my fingers fly over the keyboard, placed there by some unseen force. This is not rare among many poets, artists or writers.

Therese Anne Fowler, author of "Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald", wrote an essay on this subject titled Provenance and Products. "Do you believe in ghosts?" she wrote. "While I've learned to allow for the possibility of them and have experienced things that assure me some kind of spiritual realm co-exists with ordinary life, I've never been directly influenced by anything that could qualify as otherworldly until I was struck by the idea to write Zelda Fitzgerald's story."

Therese was literally stopped mid-stride by a new thought of writing about Zelda in 2011. The idea materialized from nowhere. She is a Midwesterner, not raised with ghosts and tales of the supernatural as we Southerners are. She obviously didn't grow up around civil war battlefields or experience the voodoo tales of the coastal South. Nonetheless, Therese acted on the message expressed by the ghost -- or muse -- or angel...your preference...and began some basic research. She found that her mother and Zelda died during the overnight hours on the same date although years apart. Coincidence? It was enough to propel her on. She discovered much about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald; enough to see much of herself in both of them, and certainly enough to believe she could interpret their lives. After publication there were several other remarkable coincidences:
            - her novel sold on April 10, the same date the "The Great Gatsby" was published.
            - the U.S. edition of "Z" was published March 26, the same date as Scott's first novel, "This Side of Paradise" was released.
            - she was visiting Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York on April 3 when she was notified that "Z" was designated a New York Times Best Seller after only one week of sales.....Scott and Zelda were married on April 3rd in St. Patrick's.  

In writing my previous novels I have attracted information like a magnet. Plot and setting have matured with new, unsought, information that seemed to some to me out of the blue. I often felt like I was being helped along by a supernatural force. This feeling accelerated while writing my latest novel which I've titled Sinner/Saint. But my experiences pale in comparison to Therese Anne Fowler who visited the cemetery where Scott, Zelda, and their daughter are buried. When leaving the foggy setting she felt an unseen hand on her shoulder and a voice in her ear. She was alone. Zelda? "I like to think so," Therese wrote. So do I.