On Memorial Day last year I finished editing the manuscript of my first novel, The Bluebird of Happiness. My intention at the start of last summer was to write (or at least to begin writing) my follow-up novel, Rainbow. I did indeed make a brilliant start, but, due to struggles with depression, my progress was sporadic. I have done some occasional work on the story since then, having amassed 13,000 words so far, and, as the summer of 2014 arrives, I hope to catch a wave of renewed inspiration and vision and to ride it as far as I can go--perhaps all the way to Rainbow's end, or at least much further along the arc.
I sometimes feel rather like an actor when I write my stories, inhabiting and identifying with my characters, in some sense "becoming" them in my mind. Since my fiction is primarily written in the first person, it perhaps has a greater affinity for dramatic forms than it does the objective style of the omniscient third-person narrator. For the most part, I do not report what he or she did or said as much as I pretend to be him or her, and to speak in their voice. So, in a very real sense, I am acting when I write, although my performance is expressed through the written rather than the spoken word.
I am starting to feel that with my second novel, I will perhaps take my "acting" beyond its usual level, that level where it exists entirely within my head and so is not visible to the outside world. In other words, in order to understand and therefore communicate who Martin is, I will perhaps, to some degree, attempt to "play" him in real life. Call it "method writing".
Of course, just as with any acting, this should not be interpreted to mean that Martin is me (i.e., merely a fictionalized version of his author). Martin is his own person, and even I do not fully know who he is. Rainbow is, in fact, as I have often stated, an attempt to explore (though not definitively answer) that very question. Any impersonation I may do of Martin Lane is a part of my investigation of this singular and compelling character that, for reasons I do not yet fully comprehend, I feel driven to show forth into bodily existence through the magic art of writing.
One thing I cannot readily imitate about Martin at this point is to inhabit his physical environment, which is in my home state of Florida. But lately I have begun asking myself "What would Martin do?" if he were, say, in Missouri? The question has opened up avenues by which I might more closely connect life and art, by thinking creatively about how I might parallel some of Martin's ways in a different regional environment.
In any case, Rainbow is not a regional novel, but an American one, and thinking about all this is helping me to see all the more clearly the common experiences Martin and I may share by virtue of the fact that we both live in the U.S., which in turn helps me to perceive the qualities that make this an American novel and an American story, despite its strong regional flavor.
The theme of home, always central to the story, is becoming ever further developed and elaborated in my mind. I am beginning to understand more fully the philosophical reasons for Martin's strange lifestyle, and to see how it is a physical manifestation of his metaphysical lostness.
The dreamy Aurora Nightingale, already a character of primary importance in Bluebird, is lately growing into an ever fuller and richer personality in my imagination, perhaps not so much a further development of her self in the first book as an entirely different iteration (which is also true of the other major characters that carry over from the first novel, none more so than Martin himself). Intimately linked to the evolution of her character, Martin's ambiguous yet deep relationship with Aurora is becoming all the more compelling, intriguing, and richly suggestive to me.
Lastly, I must confess that, in the year and more that Rainbow has been developing in my mind, I have sometimes "feared" that it might come to surpass Bluebird, in terms of either its actual quality or its reception, or both. I am no longer afraid of that. Not because I doubt the quality of Rainbow, but because of the opposite, as I feel more and more that Rainbow may in fact be, on average, the better novel (just as Huckleberry Finn is widely considered superior to the still classic Tom Sawyer).
But now, instead of fearing that my sophomore novel might overshadow its predecessor, I am beginning to feel that Rainbow will only more greatly illuminate its point of origin.