I drove all afternoon, first east on I-10 out of New Orleans and then north on I-59 to Birmingham. It was a lovely day for a drive, really, and I was listening to Carol Goodman’s The Night Visitors, which is gripping. She is truly a master at suspense, the modern day equivalent to Mary Stewart, I think. Part of the reason I am enjoying it so much is because one of the point of view characters is a trained counselor/social worker, who primarily works with domestic violence victims–and as someone who is a trained counselor who works with a LOT of social workers, the character of Maddie (or Mattie, it’s an audiobook so I am not sure how it’s spelled) thinks a lot the way I do sometimes about the techniques we are trained to use, when I’m taught a new method counseling…which makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I could write about a counselor. (Obviously, I wouldn’t be able to use actual situations I’ve handled with actual clients, but I know I could get that world-weary does any of this really work cynicism burned out voice down perfectly.)
I got into the hotel around six last night, met up and socialized downstairs with some of the other folks here for the event–as well as the event organizers–and that was nice. I love writers and I love readers, so it’s always nice to be around people who are into books. (Oh, how I used to dream about being around other people who loved books, too…) I am up insanely early this morning because we have to be at the library for nine, but I slept decently for a hotel night (thank you, sleeping medication–you always deserve a shout out when you work) and am thinking I might actually be coherent on my panel today. I know it’s rude, but I am going to bring the latest manuscript with me today; I doubt I’ll even look at it–I always enjoy listen to writers talk about writing, and often I take notes as ideas come to me while and after listening to smart people talk about creating. I’m lucky this year, too–I have this event this month; TWFest/S&S next month; and then Malice the month after–so three consecutive months where I get to be around other writers, have fun and be inspired. It’s also good timing, since I’ll be in the weeds with edits and writing something new and hopefully also discovering great new writers to read. I’m getting kind of excited about this year, to be completely honest. I’m really happy with the writing I’ve been doing these last few years, and I ak m kind of excited about the writing I am going to be doing. It’s kind of feel excited about writing again, you know? The pandemic years (and yes, well aware they are not past, no matter how much we pretend that they are) and even the few years prior to that, I don’t remember ever being really excited about the writing I was doing? I was so caught up in the “this is such drudgery oh hurray another deadline is looming” that I forgot how much I actually like doing it, how much I enjoy creating, and that as much as I hate to admit it, ever, I’m actually kind of good at it.
I hear myself talking sometimes, or I come back here to reread something I’ve posted for some reason or another, and I think oh you’ve become one of those old people who brings up the past to make a point about the present and I roll my eyes at myself. Part of it is because I refused to look backwards for so long–and even now, after all this time, that can still be painful and hard–that now that I am sort of doing it, reacquainting myself with my own past by submerging myself into the news and the culture of this time or that period because I want to write about it, so I have to remember now…and now that I’m older, it’s harder to remember and then I’ll read something or hear something or watch something that will contradict something I remember (like, “no, I’m pretty sure I remember that song coming out when I was in eighth grade because we sang it in choir and we couldn’t have sang it if it came out later than that”–and sometimes those things I come across are actually incorrect, so it almost feels like gaslighting…I am beginning to understand now in this later stage in life that I have been essentially gaslit my entire life), which always gives me pause. But I want to write a book set in the early to mid 1970s, and yes, the character will be the same age I was in that time, so I am reacquainting myself with the period. I am writing a novella set in New Orleans in 1994, so I have to remember what that summer was like for a gay man in that America, and also what New Orleans was like in 1994; the music played in clubs, the drugs everyone was doing, were short shorts out yet or just on the way out, where we stood with HIV./AIDS (not a good place, frankly), and how the gay nightlife scene in New Orleans has so dramatically changed from back then. We used to have two bath houses and two backroom bars (which always used to get raided right before Southern Decadence as a reminder to the club owners to tip their local police union well), and the city itself was simply crumbling in the bright sun and high heat.
That’s certainly not New Orleans today.
It’s also weird the kinship I feel for Alabama. I only lived here the first two years of my life, so I have no memory of ever actually living here, but I spent so much time down here as a child it always kind of feels like home here, even though it’s not and has never really been. I feel connected to Alabama in a way I never have to anywhere I’ve ever lived other than New Orleans (which is why New Orleans is my home now), and just being in the state–hearing the Google Maps lady interrupting Carol Goodman’s book to say welcome to Alabama always brings a smile to my face (just as the Bienvenue en Louisiane sign does)–makes me feel more creative, more connected to my creativity, and leaves me feeling inspired. The minute she finished saying it and the narrator of the book came back on I immediately started thinking about Bury Me in Shadows, and two Alabama novellas I have started but yet to finish, and about another book set in my fictional Alabama county, and my mind just kept spinning and weaving tales until I pulled into the parking lot and turned off the car.
And on that note, I am going to go forage for coffee. Because else it will not be pretty.