This is the last discussion in my series of panel questions. It is an interesting one for authors. With all the emotional investment an author pours into character’s soul, how do you manage to release yourself from that bond?
Having a full time job with a wife and two kids forces me to write after everyone has gone to bed. As I write, I definitely get wrapped up in my character’s emotions and then when I call it a day, it can be difficult to disconnect myself from those emotions. If I’m excited I’ll typically have a beer and watch a little bit of T.V. to settle down. If I’m sad or troubled, I will go into my kids’ rooms and sit with them for a bit. Regardless of my success or lack thereof, I’m a lucky man and my kids show me that every day.
This is a wonderful question and one that I have not heard before. Upon pondering the answer, I suddenly realized that I do not have to place myself into the souls of my characters, but rather the reverse. My characters all seem to be a part of my own soul. They are always there, waiting and watching for the opportunity to express themselves. My characters’ lives play out in black and white on the pages of my novels and if I disregard their opinions and feelings, their wants and needs, they are not averse to badgering me until I put pen to paper or, in most cases, put fingers to keyboard. As a series writer, it is my belief that I never really release the bond that exists between myself and my characters, but rather simply carry them with me everywhere I go. I am constantly seeing things from a variety of POV’s as I go through the daily rigors of human existence. In this way, I can bring my characters to life with very little effort. Since I have always cons idered myself first a writer and my mundane life an annoying secondary necessity, I am not overly concerned with making clean separations between the two. This could be perceived as a great advantage for me or it could be that I am suffering from a terminal case of the Walter Mitty Syndrome. Either way, my characters and I remain inseparable.
Whenever I write, I usually have to have some sort of background music and a prop or two to set the mood. In Misguided Souls, I had a number of references to things from China including tea and blue willow dishes. When I was writing or editing that particular novel, I would put on some soft music and fix a cup of hot tea in my favorite mug and burn a floral scented candle. These would help put me into that trance-like state that authors often refer to as the Zone. It can certainly be an all-consuming state wherein only you, the keyboard and the story exists. Friends and relatives who happened to be around when I was busy writing would often tell me that they had tried to talk to me and I had completely ignored them. I always explained that I was not trying to be rude, but that I was simply temporarily out of touch. It is funny that Panel Question #7 includes the word ‘soul’ which is also in the title of my book. My characters are certainly a part of my own soul and when I need to leave them behind and return to reality, I feel sad because it seems that they feel betrayed that I would leave them, but the real world is where I live most of the time. When the tea is gone, the candle snuffed and the music finished, I have to mentally tear myself away with something in mind that needs my immediate attention, i.e.: a chore or an errand that can no longer be delayed. By plunging directly into something entirely unrelated to the book, I can bring myself out of the Zone with minimal emotional disruption; otherwise I might just go there and stay!
Sometimes, it's easy. I walk away from the computer and go about my business, whether that's picking up kids from school or teaching music lessons. At those times, it's an abrupt switch. At other times, it doesn't happen so quickly, and it can be a little disorienting to start piano lessons with half my mind still in a medieval Scottish forest. So far, I have not found a solution except focusing on what's at hand, and in time, I find I'm fully present...in the present...again.