At the heart of my best work is a question I’m compelled to answer for myself.
Sometimes it’s a challenge of craft. With my short story “Going Up,” I wondered if I could write a piece in which characters interact without speaking. I used different fonts to represent the distinct thoughts of eight people sharing an elevator and to illustrate how we can find connection simply by opening ourselves up to those around us.
Other times, the question is a matter of perspective. In “The Apple Tree,” I wanted to find out if I could surprise readers by revealing the true nature of the relationship of the narrator—a father—with his daughter.
And lately, with Dell’s story and others that are percolating, I find myself striving to delve into characters’ pain with the goal of pulling something positive from their struggles.
When I think about my projects, I ask myself, “What is this story about?” I don’t mean the plot—that’s the superficial answer. Because there’s a bigger issue I’m grappling with, what the story is about is why it means something—why I have to write it and, hopefully, why others will want to read it.
I think great stories answer questions we all have in some form or fashion. That’s why they resonate. I want to answer the questions that keep me up at night, in a way that lets me sleep tomorrow. Writing is cathartic—I’ve experienced this many times as a reader, and by using it to face my own emotional demons, I’ve seen that it’s true on the other side as well.
Not everything in life has a happy ending. But if I can write books that celebrate hope, gratitude, kindness, and love—in spite of, and often in the midst of, hardship—I am encouraged to live my life the same way. Because ultimately, happiness is what it’s all about.