Sparks and Synchronicity
Ever wonder where writers get their ideas? For me it’s usually from very ordinary places—except that my mind seems to file things away and then retrieve them in wonderful new combinations.
It all starts with the ability to keep asking “what if.”
For instance, my current work in progress, a psychological thriller titled BLIND FAITH, began with a newspaper story. A woman traveling along I-80, searching for the graves of her two children. Her ex-husband had kidnapped the children and confessed to killing them but didn’t pinpoint the site where he buried them. Her need for closure, her quest to bring her babies home was clear even in the grainy photo that accompanied the story.
Wow. I couldn’t stop thinking about her and her odyssey. As a pediatrician I work with families dealing with death and near-death on a frequent basis, but this woman’s story really touched a chord in me. I have had a too-close association with violent death, so I understood first hand how grief could push a person into such a passionate pursuit for the truth.
I also wondered at the ultimate betrayal her ex-husband, a man who presumably once loved her and his children, had wrought. What could drive a person to do that, to destroy their family?
I followed her story in our local small town newspaper. Then Katrina hit. Another big wow. Yes, the death and destruction was devastating in its enormity. But after my initial shock and frustration at not being able to do much to help, what I couldn’t stop thinking about was the number of young children separated from their families, torn away from everyplace and everyone they knew.
At the time, I was working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (http://www.missingkids.org/) to set up my charity program, Buy a Book, Make a Difference (for more information go to my website, http://www.cjlyons.net/). I learned that there were over 4800 kids reported missing, a good portion of whom were identified and reunited with their families thanks to the good people at the NCMEC.
But then I heard about all the sexual predators who also fled from New Orleans—most of whom were still at large. Combine this with the images of over-crowded, under-policed shelters and the ideas began to coalesce.
What if….what if a woman is called upon to witness the execution of the serial killer who has confessed to killing her husband and son? What if he dies without telling her where he has buried them?
What if she vows to find their graves and instead finds that her husband is still alive?
What if she learns that everything she believes is a lie? What if the only person she can trust is the man who betrayed her…her husband?
That’s all I had when I began writing BLIND FAITH—quite frankly it’s more than I usually have! I knew it would be a dark, edgy novel, filled with betrayals and intrigues. A novel where nothing could be taken for granted, where no one was the person they appeared to be. Where dark secrets would be unearthed and the lives of every character would be forever changed. But also an uplifting novel of courage and strength and perseverance, and most of all, revealing that we each have the power to choose. To choose to have faith, to choose to love, to choose to forgive.
I’m now 300 pages into it—only another 100 or so more pages to go—and I finally know how it ends. The rest of it is still a surprise waiting to happen. I find this journey of discovery the most exciting part of writing, those days when every scene I write unveils another piece of the puzzle.
It all begins with a spark fueled by small intersections of serendipitous happenings. That and asking, “what if?”
Have you ever experienced this kind of synchronicity? Times when things found their way into your consciousness exactly when the time was right? People who appeared in your life just in time to spark inspiration?
Maybe the most important part of being a writer is learning to recognize and appreciate these everyday sparks that others neglect?
Thanks for reading!
Cathryn J Lyons, MD
No one is immune to danger…
BLINK OF AN EYE is “a perfect blend of romance and suspense. My kind of book.” –Sandra Brown
Available this summer from Tor