So many of my stories began with a house. I see a house in real life or in my mind, and the house won't let go. What happened here? Who lived here, loved here, left here?
Sometimes the house remains visible in the final draft, and sometimes it is only perceptible to me. But the house was the genesis and the anchor to the tale. A sacred or cursed space, left with only residues waiting to be set free.
It is the storytellers’ duty, as I see it, to flesh it out and make the house’s story be known.
If this sounds too lofty, and no doubt it is when the result is a humorous three-hundred-word toddler book, than so it is. It’s a quirk of mine that I take this storytelling thing seriously. The reader shouldn't, but this writer must.
And so it is with my published novel for middle grades, The Voice of Thunder. A house stands at the core of what is happening, a silent testimony to how we got here.
The house is less obvious in my picture storybook, There’s a Turkey at the Door. You’ll have to trust me, the house is there. It is about home, feeling at home, and going home. The telling made the illustrator focus on the characters and not the house, bless her. It's what was needed. But my writerly mind was guided by the house.
And so it is at the heart of the novel for middle grades I am working on now. But here I will give no details. Like the wonderful and much-lauded writer Avi, I’m of the school that the more you talk about your work-in-progress, the less you need to write it. You’ll have to believe that the house is there.
For some the setting is a valley, a meadow, a beach. For many it is the belly of a bustling city. For the introvert that I am, everything starts inside. Inside the house, that is.