For a writer, no time is ever wasted

I got the idea for Trash Sex Magic while on jury duty for a medical malpractice suit. The two attorneys were so very badly behaved that the judge sent us apologetic looks every ten minutes as he took the attorneys out into the hallway to tear a private strip off them. No matter. I was coming up with a new story that I was sure no one would allow me to publish, a fantasy, but not about princesses and fairies. It would be set on a suburban riverbank, and the heroines would be the town sluts living in a trailer, and I would write fearlessly about children prematurely sexualized and the sensuous power of mud, oh, nobody would ever look at it. I was enchanted. I would try to imagine a version of my mother as the elder town slut–a big reach, because my mother’s house was always clean, and she was always so conventionally-minded!–but somehow this woman would have my mother’s personal power, the magic and force of will she carried around with her. I would free her from her conventional mind and let her spray her magical power like a firehose over that town and that riverbank. And I would split her her off in the role of the daughter, too, because why waste a woman of power like that on one character? And a pair of wild children, and a village idiot, and a philandering neighbor.

I came up with lots of the main characters during that jury duty. The muddy bank of the Fox River was as far away as I could get from that dry, hot, boring room, upholstered in impatience and the bald fluorescent lighting of the law.

Ideas came rushing out of my pen. I would tell the world what I thought of fantasies with “internally consistent magic” and how great wizards do not have tenure. I would raise hell. Nobody would publish it.

I wrote about forty thousand words of that story before I realized that the hero I had assigned was too fraught with childhood issues to do the job. In fact, to finish his story properly I’d have to chase him away from the heroine. Then I met my true hero at a halfway house for ex-cons in Chicago. He wasn’t as fat as my Alexander, but  he was as dark, and his dreads masked his face and his eyes in the same way, and he was as quiet, yet just as full of life. The moment I laid eyes on him, he got the role. I was sorry to put him through all the hell in that story, but that’s what heroes are for, isn’t it?

I found myself using movie actors (as usual) so I could picture the characters and hear their voices.  The younger heroine and her mother too, in an older version, were based on the look and feel of Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter, and I saw Tommy Lee Jones, from the same film, as the failed hero. James Earl Jones lent his poise and his wonderful voice to the mother’s lover. But if I hadn’t met the  model for Alexander it would never have come together.



For a writer, no time is ever wasted — 2 Comments

  1. And you will be writing this some more, yes? If I were writing it, I might borrow Molly Ivins for the mom (since I don’t know yours). Doesn’t every town have a red-headed woman who lives in a trailer park, drinks tequila, and writes the _really_ interesting letters to the editor about what that one county commissioner is actually up to? (Not that Molly Ivins drank tequila at breakfast that I know about, but she did know an awful lot about the Texas Lege that most people hadn’t heard about yet).

    I will buy this book.

  2. Oh, what fun. I always wondered where you got the idea for Trash, Sex, Magic, which I thought terrific and unusual. Of course it would come about because of a boring jury room, from which one’s imagination has to escape at high velocity.