There are many things that go into writing a book. Every author puts blood, sweat, and tears into their craft. Some authors put more into their books than others, and some find writing a book easier than others. But aside from the normal feelings and perseverance that go into completing a novel, one thing is universal for every work: an idea.
The idea for my book came from a couple of different places.
First, we have to go back to tenth grade. In my English class that year we read the story, “Contents of the Dead Man’s Pockets” by Jack Finney. The story is about a man named Tom Benecke, a grocery store clerk who has spent the last two months taking notes on how to improve the grocery store displays. Tom has spent several hours noticing how many people stop at certain displays, and even going as far as to take his lunches in the local library where he can take down more notes to prove his case.
However, on this autumn night, the piece of paper with all of Tom’s notes flies out the open window and onto the ledge of his apartment building, eleven stories up. After much deliberation, Tom decides that his job and a possible promotion are at stake and goes out on the ledge to retrieve his notes. The entire story follows his stream of consciousness as he gets on the ledge, gets stuck, becomes horrified at falling to his death, and finally returns safely home.
Just before the ending, Tom realizes he’s only been out on the ledge for eight minutes. These long, drawn out, incredibly detailed, possible last thoughts of a man only take eight minutes to happen, but longer to read. I even remember my English teacher pointing out that there was SO much detail in an eight-minute span. I loved that idea, and it was the first major nugget of inspiration that would become my first novel.
That idea bounced around for a few years. Then I got to college and learned about Prufrock. For those of you who are incredibly sheltered and have never heard of Prufrock, it is a poem (the full title being, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”) by T.S. Eliot. The poem is a man’s inner monologue as he considers all of the things he has missed out on in his life. The work was published in 1915 and any English major can usually recite it from memory.
As it so happens, my friend Morgan loves the poem. Her favorite part is the end of the sixth paragraph, which reads, “Do I dare disturb the universe? In a minute there is time, for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.” Even her Twitter handle boasts the initials of her favorite stanza. I made her a small plaque which she kept on her dorm wall throughout college.
Her favorite part is even the epigraph for my book.
After Morgan introduced me to the poem, I began to really consider what a minute actually is. It’s sixty seconds. That’s a long time when you’re waiting for something. That’s an eternity when you’re sleeping. Think about how fast your brain works, and how much you really do think about in a minute’s time. It’s a lot.
And so, I wanted to create a story about something monumental happening in the span of one minute — something that seems tiny to most but seems huge to someone in a harrowing situation. I wrote it down as a book idea but didn’t actually pursue it until last November.
I now had a good foundation. Elements of both Contents and Prufrock came together and began forming what would become my novel — a lot of stuff takes place in a very short time. But I still had to answer the next big question: what is going to happen in the one minute? What all goes down? What can I write about that takes time to explain but is plausible that it only took a minute to happen?
The third piece of inspiration was quite random but served to produce the minor plot of the book. I was driving home from work one day and had my phone plugged into the car to listen to my music. The song “Kerosene” by Miranda Lambert came on. In it was the line, “Now I don’t hate the one who left, you can’t hate someone that’s dead. He’s out there holding onto someone, I’m holding up a smoking gun.” Later on, part of the refrain says, “I’m givin’ up on love, ’cause love’s given up on me.” Now I knew where to start.
So, here’s where I was in my creation process: I knew the book would take place in one minute’s time. I also knew it would feature a couple, where one partner was cheating on the other. Surely, the road to the adultery would be a good place to start. I would begin the book with the disgruntled party holding the cheaters at gunpoint. Then, the rest of the book would tell how they got there. Given that the person holding the gun would be under tremendous stress, it would not be outside the realm of reason to suggest that thinking about past events would happen in one minute. I was almost ready to write.
Then came the last piece of the puzzle. The most tragic piece, to be sure. My friend Jen suffered a miscarriage. It was her first child with her husband and she was absolutely devastated. After the joy at the news of her pregnancy spread throughout our friend circle, an even larger wave of despair fell after hearing about the miscarriage. I’m sure that I could never feel anything close to what Jen must have been going through during that time, but the news hit me very hard. I’d never known someone personally that had a miscarriage. I had to write it out, to express the feelings I was going through. And to write out what I thought Jen must be going through, as well. To process things.
The miscarriage aspect of the book played a larger role than I originally intended. That aspect kept popping up and presenting itself over and over again, and each time it made sense. Everything else in the book happened on its own. The book told its own story. But Jen’s contribution made the book complete. It is for this reason that the book is dedicated to her.
Jen eventually overcame her tragedy and was able to get pregnant again, this time with a viable pregnancy that ended in an adorable little boy, Tyler. Her strength and perseverance are what really molded the character of Hannon in my mind.
There you have it. The four little pieces that worked together to create my first book. Inspiration really can come from anywhere. If I could give one more piece of advice, it would be this: don’t go looking for inspiration. It will come to you, just like anything else, when you’re not trying to find it.