by Susan Mary Malone
Driving up the big hill and then descending down into the small burg of Sociable, Texas—a town that time forgot—I fell into this world of magical realism like Alice down the rabbit hole.
I toured the big, dilapidated coliseum, where the kids improvised their own game called Stairball, up and down the precarious bleachers. And I met many of the townsfolk as well, chief among them, Diana, known as the White Witch of Sociable, and arguably the main character (rather than the narrator!).
So enamored was I of the place, the people, I couldn’t let them go. So, I started following where they led me . . .
When I Took a Step Back, the Plot Appeared
It’s funny—I fell so in love with the characters, with their internal journeys, that the plot didn’t actually come into play until well after the first draft.
So, there was lots of revising to do!
But as I write from Discovery, I’m used to that (grin). And the plot was actually there all along—I’d just not paid much attention to it at first.
I, like Paula Anne, the protagonist, became too enraptured by the myths and stories told on Diana’s porch. When I took a breath and a step back, the plot came, shining and clear.
Glowing Rejections are Still Discouraging
This novel took a long, circuitous route to publication. I revised it many times, always adding texture and layers and depth. While I never gave up on it, I did at times become discouraged.
I have a NY agent, and she shopped it to the big houses. The top editors at them loved it. But not only is it literary, it’s a country setting, and quite a quirky book, and they literally had no niche to sell it from.
I have the most glowing rejections from them, and yes, that was discouraging. But I just couldn’t give up on it, although there were some dark nights, indeed.
Eventually a small publisher fell in love with it and put it out. In the end, that makes everything worth it.
From the Ashes Comes Wisdom and Courage
I’m not sure there was one specific emotional triumph while writing Dance, but rather, an entire series of them. The deeper into it I got, the more a vast richness bubbled up, often taking me entirely by surprise.
But if I had to narrow it down, it was the ending of it. I was just amazed at the how the story resolved. And truly moved by the human possibilities inherent within us all.
And I learned, for once and forever, what the characters in the novel did: That the fire’s ashes produce wisdom and courage, just as the stories say.
The Novel Taught Me to Heed the Voice of Intuition
What I learned through writing this book changed my life entirely. Dance is a myth within a myth, and the main theme follows the gist of “Vasalisa the Wise,” (also known as “The Doll in her Pocket”) an old, old folktale.
The heart of that delves deeply into intuition, and what it means to hear and follow that, which is what Paula Anne ultimately learns to do. That voice of intuition is always there (just like the doll in Vasalisa’s pocket), if you can quiet the mind enough to hear, and then heed its voice.
And through the long journey of writing this novel, that’s what I learned to do as well.
And it has made all the difference.
Writing is My Form Of Prayer
Novel writing IS my spiritual practice.
As a dear friend of mine (and retired minister) says, writing is my form of prayer. It is, it is. I never feel closer to the Divine than when writing fiction.
I am transported, in the zone, in love with the muse, and submissive to her desires. With my little ego monkey mind out of the way, my heart and soul come alive.
Building Fiction from Real Life
I’m working now on a novel set in a Texas winery and vineyard, and am just in heaven being there with the characters.
My fictional vineyard is set in a place I know well, and where I have lived on and worked the land. So, I know farming, I know that area and all the challenges it brings. I took courses on growing wine grapes, and did tons of research, including a host of interviews with vintners.
But that only takes a writer so far! Lucky for me, one of the most renowned wineries in Texas is in that same county, and I’ve had the great fortune to make friends with the grower/winemaker.
Ah, what I have learned! It’s changing my novel as I’m writing it!
(Read more about Susan in her previous post on Writing and Wellness.)
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Award-winning author and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, I Just Came Here to Dance and By the Book, as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, and many published short stories.
Running from reality, Paula falls under the mythological yarns being spun on Diana Maclean’s porch. Surely Paula’s own choices aren’t to blame for the summer of insanity she spends under the spells of Diana…who is, after all, known as the White Witch of Sociable, Texas.
I Just Came here to Dance, a modern allegory, waltzes atop the line between the creative and the crazy, the sacred and the maligned. Through myths it weaves together the multi-layers of personal Self with that of the collective whole. And finally, Paula Anne and the townsfolk learn the simplest of truths: that the fire’s ashes produce wisdom and courage, just as the stories say.
Available at Amazon.