Obsessing: I suspect that it's something all writers do, but I do it a lot, and right now I'm obsessed with Nick Cave, nothing new there, but I'm writing this novel, George Glass Loves Lily Snow, and it's about a boy, George, who wakes up on his 13th birthday with another boy's memories in his head. This other
boy, Wesley Howard, died thirteen years prior on the same day in the same hospital two minutes before George Glass was born, and like all my fiction, this book is derived from my greatest fear, the loss of my beautiful boy, who is twelve this year.
After he was born, I was overcome with fear that something terrible would happen to him... I had visions of gas chambers, mothers with crying babies, fingernails scratching the walls, everyone wailing, desperate and dying.
I was responsible for this new, amazing child, and I found myself out of my body, hovering over my backyard, watching myself talk to people, analyzing how I was doing. Did I seem normal? Did I make sense? Was I speaking words how people speak words? I was holding this baby in my arms, and I couldn't enjoy him. I couldn't breathe.
I went to see a shrink and decided that after almost twenty years of refusing anti-anxiety medication because I thought it would make me less creative, I would give it a try. I needed to breathe. Zoloft. It made me physically sick, nauseated, and I had awful dry mouth, but I would do anything to shake the fear that paralyzed me.
Now, twelve years later, the novel, the fastest I've written, first draft January to April, is nearly revised, my third novel (Lost in the Beehive) has been accepted, and I've weened off the Zoloft.
I've put down the words for my fourth book, inspired by the parents I know who have lost children, inspired by my worst fear, inspired by Nick Cave's documentary, One More Time with Feeling, about the loss of his fifteen-year old son, Arthur, in 2015; Inspired by the album, The Skeleton Key, and the book, The Sick Bag Song, and I'm going to see Nick Cave in June.
The last time I saw him, I passed a copy of my first novel, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, to a roadie in the hopes that they would pass it on to him. He's in there along with David Bowie. He's the doctor at the end of the novel. It was 2010, I believe, and back then he was a different person because his son was alive. His music was different. Everything was different.
From The Sick Bag Song:
"In a studio in Malibu, Johnny Cash sat down and played a song. He was partially blind and could barely walk. I was there.
I saw a sick man pick up his instrument and be well.
With regret I have seen the opposite too. Pick, pick, pick.
I have seen well men pick up their instruments and be sick" (19).
It's our lack of longing that gets us in the end (35).
My words are my instrument. Thanking Nick Cave today for his words and his music. He sings, "I'm down here for your soul," but really, I think, We're down here for his soul.