In April of 2011, I attended a concert. This may not be a big deal for most folks, but I have severe anxiety disorder and claustrophobia, and I have suffered from agoraphobia in the past. It still lingers sometimes. So between crowds and smoke, I did not often venture into bars or entertainment venues that tended to be cramped. I’d had enough of such things in previously mentioned bad relationship.
But with the outlawing of smoking indoors (go NC!) and my disorders being well controlled with the right combination of drugs and therapy, I was finally able to do something that I’d never done: see one of my childhood heroes shred at an uptown concert. Who? Jonny Lang, my friends. An epic blues guitarist and singer who’s been performing since he was about 14. We’re the same age, so I spent many of my formative years with a role model that showed me that kids really could do anything. Better than the role models a lot of kids had at the time.
Earlier that year, I’d also just discovered another epic blues guitarist and singer, the incomparable Tab Benoit. Once I discovered him, I went and got just about every song he’d ever recorded, and had been hooked ever since. In May of 2012, I was again able to attend a concert of one of my heroes, and I was blown away. IMO, absolutely nothing compares to being on the front row a live blues show.
What does all this have to do with writing, you might ask? Seeing Jonny Lang live for the first time after listening to him for fifteen years, reminded me of what he represented to me. I was reminded of a line in an Avett Brothers song: “Decide what to be and go be it.” So I did.
A trip to Scotland the year before had provided me with the perfect setting and origins for my heroine. And through following Tab Benoit and other grassroots Cajun artists, I made a lot of friends with ties to New Orleans and the deep south, providing me with a background for my other MC. Blues had infused into my soul and these songs were helping to shape a story in my mind. One evening my husband and I went out to dinner, and I spent the whole time spilling out the entire plot for this epic novel I wanted to write. I was going on about witches and demons and leylines. We probably sat there for an hour and a half while I got it out, even the ending—which, if you’ll remember, was something I’d never been able to do before. Bless his heart, my husband listened through the whole thing, making suggestions and playing devil’s advocate (although now, if you asked him, he probably couldn’t repeat one word of it).
I reached out to another one of my personal heroes, Larissa Ione, asking her about her writing process. She was always so kind to return my emails personally, and even comment on my blog once. She was the epitome of what I wanted to be if I ever became successful. Just real, and friendly. I began writing that May and worked steadily until July, when I came to my first roadblock. Rather than force it, I took a month off and went back to it with fresh eyes.
In September, I was able to travel with my good friend to another Tab Benoit show. We met so many interesting and fun people, from Louisiana and other places around the south. And I was able to get another hit of those blues that fueled my writing machine. I finished FIRE ON THE ISLAND at the end of October (fitting, once you read the story)… Check out the next and final installment of my journey.