Night follows day with trademarked inevitability. The obvious consequence of blogging about the destruction of the World Trade Centre? I mention my space shuttle comment. Which leads to? Another trip down the thousand onyx steps to my vault. Pandora’s Box, Mark II. I reach in and dust off a piece of fiction. This has SPOOKY COINCIDENCE DEPARTMENT scrawled all over it.
I misplaced some tales, down in the cracks, before I lost an entire novel. Kim Basinger. Fidel Castro. The usual suspects. You know the drill. There, in the dust, lies a sub-plot. Its clockwork mechanism hasn’t been wound in an age.
This was a precursor to the loss of an entire novel. Though the shockwave reached me after that novel fell away. This was far more personal, in the sense that it revolved around a person whose music I’d listened to. When the World Trade Centre collapsed, it took thousands of people away. I didn’t know those people.
It’s just as true to say that I don’t know the singer who was in
that day. She wrote a song about the events. I Can’t See New York . There is something too human that comes out of listening to albums. Watching videos. Catching interviews on radio or television. New York articles in magazines. A distant performer moves telescopically closer. Even so, I stress that I don’t know her. There is an illusion of knowing a performer. It is no more than that. Reading
This is a tough one to write about. I kept a lid on it from the moment I became aware of the coincidental detail. It’s the reaction that’s odd, given the obvious nature of the story. That was never going to be hidden away. What changed? I took one step too close. The heat made me flinch.
I was going to blog about this in general terms and talk of a mysterious singer. Why conceal the name? Tori Amos. If I can write about the World Trade Centre and the loss of thousands unknown to me, then I can blog about the losses faced by one person – also unknown to me. Tori Amos inspired my writing. She still inspires, of course.
The world plotted to send her first album my way. Reality bent into new shapes, beaming hints and messages to me. Everywhere I turned, there she was. Demanding to be listened to. I caved in, and bought Little Earthquakes. There were echoes of my writing in that album. Old data. No need to review here. Slivers of darkness.
I thought her album was really good. My opinion is unimportant, except to confirm that I thought the first album good enough to prompt my buying her second album when it arrived. Under the Pink. I lay on my bed and listened to that album in the dark. Drowning in the sonic weirdness with its admixture of normalcy. Meenister’s dochter. Deal with it. I decided I’d buy her third album once that emerged from the music factory.
Boys for Pele. I recall the remnant of a wardrobe leaning against another wardrobe. The mirror was all that remained from the first wardrobe. It was ripped out and canted against the next wardrobe, creating a crazily-angled reflection of the room. (Some of that fed into my Hamlet adaptation.)
I sat on the bed and played Tori’s third album. Activity. Listening. Staring at the mirror. This reflected the sky behind me. High. Filling with snow as the music started. Reflected snow thickened as the album rolled along. Barriers tumbled. Tori produced her work for the first time. She had a blast, and so did I. Barriers sank tracelessly. With that album, she became my favourite singer. She still is, of course.
Upshot. I started creating stories heavily-inspired by her work. Characters popped out. I’d listen to a song with cryptic comments in there, and concoct my own stories to match. Mad stuff. Sometimes, the material even made sense…
I felt that she played piano the way Mr Page played guitar when he led Led Zeppelin. Eventually, Tori would express that sentiment in song. So this material she was singing, playing, made a sort of sense to me. I wasn’t THAT far out to sea. She was playing pianos as though guitars, all along.
Inevitably, I created characters based indirectly on Tori. Splitting the singer across two women who meet in a hospital. The redheaded woman, Strawberry Thief, was clearly her. Not so clearly, the blonde was also her. The blonde’s story was just as tragic as the redhead’s. Involved in a nasty piece of business down by the beach, this blonde pregnant character lost her baby there.
By this point, the influences came thick and fast from the choirgirl album. Tori sent us greetings from the choirgirl hotel. I’d split Tori across characters. Different aspects of her met in a hospital and faced the loss of children.
This was a weird thing for me to write about. The Strawberry Thief’s loss was shielded. Occluded. Indirect. The blonde, Minty, had a more public loss at the beach one evening. She was hit in the stomach by a slug from a ·38 revolver.
My personal carer, Dr Anton Phibes, stands ready at a moment’s notice if I look as though I might start talking about plot details. There are rules concerning the release of information ahead of the game. Phibes has those pills handy. Unpublished books. Works in lack of progress. These things are not spoken of in polite or impolite company. The good bad physician prescribes the sedatives, and I return to a state of abnormalcy.
It’s his day off.
I’m forced to give away plot elements in this blog. (EXPLETIVES DELETED.) Minty is a superhero, sucked into a world of supervillainy. She is married to Morland Cream. He, too, is a superhero. Minty can teleport. Morland’s blood is truly alive – it can survive outwith his body. I ran with these superpowers, inventing mad new uses for the abilities.
Minty goes to the beach to kill Rico. Rico gets off one fatal slug. Minty teleports away as the slug hits her. She loses the baby. After that, she hunts down every gangster she can find. I used the songs Spark and Hotel as the main sources of inspiration.
The twist in the story is so obvious that I can give it away here. Minty’s baby girl inherits superpowers from both parents. The power of teleportation, coupled with the abilities provided by spooky blood. In a supreme act of self-preservation, the unborn girl teleports away from her mother and survives in an artificial womb created from the weird blood.
I’ll divert into character-splitting for a moment. There are two characters in the story, based on Canadian actress Natasha Henstridge. One is called Natasha. The other has a label rather than a name. End of diversion.
This is a lost story. Tori miscarried. The song Spark contains lyrics about a woman who thinks that she can hold back a glacier. Even so, she couldn’t keep her baby alive. Why would I write that sort of stuff into my stories?
Minty is on the beach, with a tall glass of lime to hand. She’s shooting Rico as he returns fire. It’s just a story. I hope Tori goes on to have a child. My story is trivial and packed with untrivia in the same breath. For assorted reasons, this story never quite flies.
I turned to other work in any case. The year 2001 came and went. I lost an entire novel to a cold thought that September, and things changed for me. Half a year after that, I happened to catch Tori on television. Doing a five-minute thing on the topic of miscarriage. This was on the 25th of March, 2002.
My thoughts returned to the Minty character. Within seconds of the broadcast’s opening, I completely and utterly lost the plot. Tori spoke of three miscarriages. That was news to me. Her opening comment on her first miscarriage hit me hard. She said she was at the beach. I’d gone through the World Trade Centre matter. Now the SPOOKY COINCIDENCE DEPARTMENT was open for business again.
I’d known next to nothing about Tori’s miscarriage. No details. My story about a Tori-inspired character losing a baby at the beach faded into the woodwork. This was the World Trade Centre all over again. A step too close, through coincidental detail.
Except, this time, I could put a name, a voice, and songs to the person affected. She wasn’t as remote. What would I do about this one? Let it go? Store it in digital dust, and return to the idea one day? How sick is this going to be?
Tori’s first miscarriage hadn’t stopped my creating a story confronting the pain of miscarriage. The detail, though. And the news of repeated miscarriages. Those things dropped wind from my sails. I think it’s important that readers know not every story sees print. There are plenty of writers out there who will gleefully fill blogs and websites with anecdotes about the ease with which they knock off literary masterpieces. No need, on my part, to add to that crowded marktplatz.
I made an insane promise to myself. Tori would have another baby. A girl. When that happened, I’d consider bringing the character back in. Not much of a promise. Considering action. Tori did have a baby girl.
Spooky coincidence? The girl’s name is Natashya. I’ve heard her singing on her mother’s album. A girl who inherited musical superpowers from her parents. Maybe it’s time to look at those files once more. Add a third Natasha character to the tale. With a y. Don’t watch this space. It will take me quite an effort to work something out. Something worth reading, at any rate.
NEXT BLOG: DEFECTION.