Friday, February 19, 2016

Dreamers of Dreams

A book is a dream that you hold in your hands.” – Neil Gaiman

I’ve always loved Arthur O'Shaughnessy’s Ode which begins: “We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams …” The Neil Gaiman quote was one I found this morning, and it’s now also one of my favorites, because I believe it is so true.

I dreamed about my character Niall Logan last night. I’d just had an exchange on line with Nate Taylor, a former private voice student who has in common with Niall that they both aspire to careers as folk singer-songwriters. Nate has generously shared some of his experiences with me which have been a great help in my attempt to understand Niall’s musical aspirations.

I’ve dreamed about my fictional characters before, generally when I was going through a rough patch: trying to decide what to keep and what to cut, including characters in a book. The ending of Eli’s Heart was an adventure. I wrote four different endings. I think I didn’t really want to end the story.

In this instance I’m tweaking the final chapters of Jamie’s Children, and had an idea I wanted to share with Nate to see if he thought it worked. I’ve written the lyrics to five songs for this book. I had thought I would only try a couple, but they seemed to get better with each attempt (just as they did for Niall; the first is kind of lame and he comments after one verse that “the words don't seem to fit” and later refers to it as “a work in progress”).

The last one I wrote I really like. In fact the last three aren’t bad. And it’s been encouraging to have Nate tell me he likes them; in fact, he said he loved the one I just sent. And we exchanged thoughts and ideas about folk music and classical music as well, because … much like Niall … Nate’s background was classical for the first twenty years of his life. I hear some of that in his music, and my sense is the influence of classical music also echoes in Niall’s music.

I would imagine dreaming about the characters who become so real to us is something I share with most authors, especially those whose work is character-driven. They are in my consciousness now for the rest of my life – every character I have created continues to live in my mind. And one of the best compliments ever is a reader telling me that when they have finished the book, they miss the characters. It tells me I succeeded in bringing these people to life.

I expect to have Jamie’s Children in the hands of readers by around the first of March, so for all intents and purposes the book is finished … for now, anyway. We’ll see what their verdict is. I really challenged myself with this book. I hope it works!

In the meantime, you might give a listen to Nate Taylor’s music. It’s well worth hearing, so I’m including the address to his website here which has links to both audio and video files, and also to his professional Facebook page. By the way, one of Nate’s songs is titled “In Dreams.” Nate says in his bio that he’s following his dream: a wonderful way to live.

Exploring this music has opened up my musical world. The first stanza of Ode ends:
       “And we are the movers and shakers
         of the world forever, it seems!”

I’ve met more of Mr. O’Shaughnessy’s “movers and shakers” … and they are remarkable.

Nate Taylor (photo by Frank Bell)