Today's guest post comes from Bram Stoker Award nominated author Daniel Keohane. You can find out more about him and his books on his website. I think you'll find the book he discusses here interesting... what if God decided to repeat himself and have another flood? What if he did it today? And what if there were quite a number of people he decided were worth saving?
Big thanks to Matt for letting me share his spotlight for the day, inviting me to talk about – well, whatever I’d like, related to my recent novel Margaret’s Ark. Though it took a long time (years) to get this novel to where it is now, writing it was such a joy it was easy to pick a specific topic: asking for help from complete strangers.
Briefly, in Margaret’s Ark thousands of people around the world have the same dream, telling them to build an ark on their from yard, the town square, anywhere they can, then convince thirty others to join them before a new flood occurs. I know, I know, most of you reading this are thinking, wait! God said He wouldn’t.... but I actually addressed this issue in the book and, at least I hope I did, to avoid nasty-grams from fellow believers (I must have succeeded, since I really only had two people slam me for the concept).
There were two moments (among surprisingly few) where I found myself staring at the page and wondering – what do I do now? One came early on when my main character Margaret Carboneau stood on the grass of her hometown common (what we New Englanders like to call the town square) staring at a load of lumber with no idea what to do with it all. I had literally been typing this scene when it dawned on me I had no idea how to build a boat, either (obviously, back then I didn’t outline). I had one requirement: everything used must come from the local Home Depot or other home goods supply store.
I went online to a popular message board for writers and posted my question: anyone know how an average person might build a seaworthy boat for 30 people using only Home Depot supplies? I got a couple of brief suggestions, then a man I still have never met named John Craig emailed me directly after reading of my plight. He explained the type of wood to use, how to bend and shape it, then waterproof everything. He included hand-drawn diagrams (scanned into jpeg’s)! I could tell he was having a great time with these emails, being deep in his element (John was an amateur ship builder who visited the message board occasionally). I used almost EVERYTHING he told me, detail-wise. Some of his other suggestions (“You’ll probably have kids on board, so don’t forget to build some compartments for children’s books.”) made so much sense I worked them ito the story, too.
In later drafts, I added a significant setting in the Arctic Circle in order to better illustrate some “scientific” concepts (quotes deliberate – I’m a writer, Jim, not a scientist) used in the book on how the earth could be flooded. In Googling websites on the town of Resolute Bay, I came across a man named Dave who blogged about his year living in this northernmost town. I emailed him, explained I’m a writer working on a scene in the town. I understood he lived there for a time and could he answer some questions. (This is key – if you explain you are a writer most people will be happy to answer questions... through email, phone calls or in person.) He replied and after about three back-and-forths, I had what I needed. He was very detailed, too, having truly enjoyed his stay there. His love for the town came through in his descriptions and when my characters stepped into the town in the book, it felt very real to me and my readers.
So, as we hear often in church and Sunday school: God provides when you ask, as long as you ask for the right thing. Just remember that sometimes you need to step outside and put your question to the people around you, knowing He’ll get the right person to see the question and answer you. Sometimes the burning bush comes in the form of an email from a stranger you may never talk to again, but you will get your answer. It’s how Margaret’s Ark gained more depth than my own imagination could muster – it’s even how I got my new washing machine... but that’s another story. J
What do you think, folks? Questions or comments for Daniel? Leave 'em here and we'll get him to come by and respond!