What mysteries lie behind your books?


IT’S A great mystery.

Just how do ideas and thoughts and dreams and nightmares become stories, then books?

What happens between the first word and the last?

Don’t feel like you are alone.

It’s also a mystery to those of us who write.

What comes first?

The hook?

The plot?

The character?

The end?

Who really knows?

Who really cares?

All any of us want to do is tell a story.

From talking with others, I’ve found that most novels to come together in different ways.

We jump in one day and start writing.

Several thousand words later, we write The End.

It might be months.

It might be years.

The mystery is what goes on in between.

Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury

I have long been a reader of Ray Bradbury’s works.

I think he is one of the greatest writers of our time.

And, writing in Bradbury Speaks, here’s what Ray said about the genesis of his novels.

“Little did I know, as the old saying goes, that when publishing my Dandelion Wine story in Gourmet in 1953, I was starting a novel.

“The history of my books is most strange. My stories, essays, and poems suddenly grow full and tall.

The Martian Chronicles, for example, born in 1944 as a collection of stories, along the way civilized an entire planet.

“Similarly, Green Shadows, White Whale. My life in Ireland, written as poems and plays, finally became a novel about John Huston and Moby Dick.

Dandelion Wine, then, was a series of word associations about my hometown, remembering how it was to run in a new pair of tennis shoes or to perch on the family porch on those wonderful summer nights when we filled the sky with rockets and fire balloons.

“The novel was published in 1957. Since then, I’ve been astounded to receive letters from Sweden, where summer lasts perhaps three or four days, or Kenya, where summer lasts forever. Then Tokyo. Where is the room for grass anywhere in Tokyo? How in hell could they grow dandelions to make wine?

“But every Christmas for twenty years, forty Japanese students air-mail me essays, poems, and novel fragments about Dandelion Wine as a special gift to end of the year. Their exquisite writing cracks my heart. How peculiar that my grandfather’s cellar painting would be a proper vintage for those Orient students halfway around the world.

“Along the way the book has shifted locales and costumed itself in stage plays and musicals. Three different composers have written music for the productions that have appeared in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Lost Angeles.

“In my pantry at this moment sit nine bottles of dandelion wine, arrived from every continent. The bottle I treasure most was made from flowers on my grandparent’s lawn, next door to the house where I was born in upper Illinois.

“Last summer, in Minneapolis, I was astounded by a vast ocean of dandelions brimming the entire city. No lawn existed that had fewer than a thousand flowers. I was overwhelmed because in California, as soon as we see one flower in the middle of the yard, we run out and stomp it.

“Next year, I will send my Dandelion Wine play to Minneapolis, and I will go there for the re-premier and run out on one of those lawns, surrounded by ten thousand dandelions, and fall to roll like a happy dog.”

So often, stories begin on their own.

Novels come later.

And sometimes they don’t come at all.

Behind each book we write is a mystery.


And why?

Even if we know, unlike Ray Bradbury, we seldom tell.

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