Vincent and Izabella – Painted – September 2007 – photo by A.D. Gaspard
You’ll all be happy to know that I have successfully busted through my own writer’s block by doing a number of the things I had suggested in my previous busting through writer’s block post. And now I’m working on the still untitled sequel to The Muses. But I thought that I would write a blog about my journey with The Muses. It’s been epic so far, and the novel isn’t even published yet.
In 2006 and 2007, I wrote a play called Painted. The official synopsis of the play from my website says: In Los Angeles, California, the famous actor, Matthew Morris, lives with his sister, Amber Morris. Amber has been in the same room for ten years painting portraits of the muses she has created, Izabella and Vincent. Matthew brings over his friends Brandon Thompson, the beer-guzzling drummer of a famous pop-punk band, and a coke-sniffing stripper named Mercedes. When Brandon invites his lead singer, Ian Mason, over to Matthew’s, Ian sneaks into Amber’s room, and her world is completely shaken.
This play originally started by me following my obsession with a character who sort of came to me almost already intact. Vincent. He came out of a lot of things. He was inspired by a painter I met, T.S. Eliot, a moment in a production of Jekyll and Hyde that I saw, the remnants of another character I had unsuccessfully tried to write a novel about… In many ways, he had always been with me. And once I actually gave him this story, I became obsessed. Ironically, though, Painted is not really about Vincent. It’s more about Amber and her journey with Ian.
I had an incredible journey with Painted. It was basically my first “real” play. (I’m not counting those plays I used to write in elementary school, even though they did enjoy many productions in my living room and my driveway. Dear God, somewhere these are on video tape.) I had a staged reading at Kennesaw State University in June 2007, and then I produced and directed the play at The Art Place via the Kennesaw State University Underground Theatre and Film Movement with the help of some great college friends in September 2007. And when the lights came up on opening night, it was one of the happiest moments of my life.
Vincent Sticks Around
So time went on, and I wrote about other things. I mainly worked on other plays, poems, and songs. I went to grad school where I worked on a lot of different plays. I had a serious attempt at being a musician where I wrote many songs with many other musicians. But throughout all of that, I never forgot about Vincent. And I wanted to write more about him. I had many ideas for a Painted-inspired novel series. I even tried to start a fiction adaptation of Painted several times.
My idea of Vincent evolved and changed. He changed with the actors who I saw read for/perform him. He changed as I read other stories, and I drew on other characters. But I was always thinking about him. I’ve read interviews where Anne Rice talks about Lestat, and I felt the same way. Lestat came out of Interview with the Vampire where he wasn’t the main character, but then Rice devoted the next four novels in The Vampire Chronicles to him. That’s sort of what happened with me and Vincent.
The Young Adult Influence
So. I had been keeping Vincent in my head. Meanwhile, I started reading a ton of Young Adult books and really falling in love with that genre. And I kept getting all of these ideas for writing a young adult series because I loved getting so addicted to these different series and I imagined how much fun it would be to write one. But the only thing I could think about that I was so obsessed with that it would get me through a whole series was Vincent. And not just Vincent but the idea of the Muses. And inspiration. And art. Then I had an epiphany. What if I wrote a young adult novel about Vincent?! Brilliant, right?
I didn’t actually start working on The Muses, though, until September of 2012. And that came out of a really dark time for me. I was unemployed. I had just lost my sweet apartment and I had to move back in with my parents even though I was 27. I felt like I had failed in many ways. I had failed at music, I had failed at living on my own, I had failed at being an adult. What better time to totally lose myself in writing a young adult novel?
I know I’ve shared this before but here’s the synopsis: 16-year-old musician, Sylvia Baker, has always been able to see Muses—mysterious beings who give artists inspiration—though they seem to be invisible to everyone else. After a near suicide attempt, Sylvia manages to climb out of the darkness of her mind by exploring her own musical abilities with the help of Travis, inspirational guitarist and classmate, and Vincent, the alluring British Muse who becomes Sylvia’s obsession. As she travels further into the world of these immortal beings that influence art, she finds herself in the middle of an epic battle between the modern Earthly Muses and the Original Greek Muses—some of which want her life.
Set in suburban Atlanta in present day, Sylvia’s story is a journey of self-discovery told through the lens of a teenage girl finding herself through music and love. This Twilight meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower novel includes thought-provoking themes such as the purpose of art, the negative effects of alcohol and drugs, and crippling depression all while remaining true to the teenage experience with tales of love triangles, high school chorus concerts, and anxiety over driving.
I used to go to Cool Beans and just sit there and write for hours and hours. It all came very fast. I finished my first draft in January. I sent the novel to my beta readers (you know, my mom and my friend, Amanda.) (Actually, I was sending chapters to Amanda before I had even finished the first draft, which kind of kept me going.) I started querying literary agents in March. I began the long process of revising, trying to get a literary agent, revising again, reading tons of rejection letters, revising again, sending it out to more beta readers (thanks in particular to Sparkle and April who restored my faith in the story in a lot of ways), etc. etc. In August, I finally got a literary agent who is absolutely amazing and totally gets my novel 100%. And now we are both waiting for the reaction from editors/publishers.
Meanwhile, I have started working on the sequel. (I think it’s going to be a trilogy. Maybe even a four-book series. Who knows?) Because I am not very good at “just waiting.” I prefer writing the next thing while waiting.
But all this is to say that writing is a journey. I have found that every project that has ever meant anything to me (whether it’s a play or a novel or a book of poems) has had an entire journey. Sometimes you can get so focused on the final product that you forget to enjoy the journey. But when I look back on rehearsing Painted outside the English building at KSU (we couldn’t get rehearsal space anywhere else) or staying up all night to finish revisions on the second act or sitting outside of Cool Beans writing until they closed, those are the moments that I treasure the most.