The Crosstown Kid was kind of a strange one for me: a gritty crime story set in Florida. For a writer of dark, weird sci-fi (who’s only ever set foot in Florida twice) even my brain was going “Uh… where the f*** did that come from?”
I have no clue, honestly. But out it came. I actually finished it a couple of years ago, on Christmas Eve. I promptly engaged in some well-deserved holiday binging and forgot all about the story for a couple years. Then, a few months ago, I remembered it, dragged it out, gave it a once-over and found, unlike most stories that get locked in the ol’ basement, this one actually held up pretty well. I sent it off to Musa and they responded with a hell yeah.
And now here we are coming up on release day. And my brain still can’t figure it out!
I don’t think writers know where their stories come from any more than your ordinary workaday human knows where their dreams come from. In fact, the answer is probably: “same place”. The brain ether. Dreamy-dreamy land. Weirspace.
When pressed, writers will fumble some explanation (read: excuse) for their stories. But it almost comes out as nine parts BS. A little like dream analysis. We don’t know, okay? Ask a psychiatrist.
I suppose, if I tried a little introspection (a dirty word in America until those foreign upstarts Freud and Jung came along!) I might recall that before writing the story I had recently helped a teenager out of a difficult circumstance in her life, and had subsequent fatherly feelings, and I suppose that might account for the theme of frustrated fatherly yearnings that runs through the story. Also, I had also befriended an ex-cop who told me a few hair-raising stories of his time on the force (including a colorful description of his tough-as-nails Hispanic female partner–which accounts for the character of Jo, I guess.)
But these are only the raw materials of a story—the stuff. When you’re talking about inspiration, I think you’re asking for the Why’s. And that’s where I say any answer other than “who knows” is a writer trying to sell you a hot one.
Writers aren’t psychiatrists. We don’t have special insight into our own inner workings. It’s a broiling, hellish cauldron of ideas and impressions up there. That’s part of the whole reason to write things down. It itches. Sometimes it burns. We have to get it out or we get grumpy and lose sleep, plain and simple. If it says: “gritty crime story set in Florida” you don’t ask why, you just shrug and get down to ripping it out.
I’ll never forget one of Stephen King’s answers to the question of where he got the inspiration for one story or another: “Because not writing it down would have been suicide.”
Every now and then someone says something so honest it’s really the final word on the matter, don’t you think? 🙂