Do you write the book, or does the book write you?

Dear Readers,

I posed this question for my blog because I had the experience of a book that wrote me. By this I mean that the story came to me out of life itself and had such an impact on every aspect of my life that it took me ten years to write just a portion of it. The other books I’ve written that were published, and those I am working on now, were clearly from interest, imagination and “what if” questions. For example, what would happen if a faith healer/snake handler met an erotic bluegrass fiddler? Or what would happen if a soldier of the Inquisition fell in love with the target of his investigation, lost his faith and turned on his masters?

My medieval paranormal, Door in the Sky, came from a Ouija Board reading in 1970. My friends and I got messages from using the board to contact spirits and we got fragments of images: a hand rocking an empty cradle and a chateau buried in snow from a lifetime we shared in Navarre in the thirteenth century. Years later, I took these images and wove them into my novel Door in the Sky, of mystics, magic and mayhem in the middle ages.

I had a strong sense of being in control in the shaping of Door in the Sky. Even when the characters took over, as they often do, I was still ultimately quite in control, and I was living the life of a mother, employee and wife. I researched and wrote Door in the Sky in a year, writing it during evenings and weekends, when our baby went to sleep.

I loved the whole process and it did consume a lot of my time, but when I completed it and found a publisher, I moved on to the second book in the series. This is when the book that wrote me popped up, and it is why I do not recommend that anyone use a Ouija Board. Though none of us suffered any ill effects from using one in 1970, my closest friend suffered a severe crash-and-burn from using a Ouija Board while she was house-sitting for me.

Here is what happened: In 1995, betrayal and death turned my life upside down. I ended up divorced with a young son to raise, far from family, grieving the death of my brother and struggling to pay off a mountain of debt that I had not incurred. I thought I would be fine. I’d survived a lot worse. But I sunk deeper and deeper into despair. My son was in therapy; I was in therapy. Nothing helped.

I found myself in a cold and alien place, sitting on my bed while a very clinical part of my mind contemplated weighting myself down and jumping in the Bay. I watched this part and got really scared. Something in my gut called out for help. When I got on my knees and asked for help, I suddenly heard a voice, though I was alone in my apartment. I’d never heard voices before.

The voice said “Finally! Finally she is asking for help.”

I gulped and asked what was going on. The voice continued to chat, telling me it was an angel and that I didn’t have to do anything it suggested but it did have some things it wanted me to do.

I thought “What the hell, why not?”

From that moment on, I was never really alone. The voice guided me and the experience of it became more and more tangible. Wings enfolded me every night in a shimmering tingle so I could sleep. I thought I was going crazy, or maybe it was my writer’s voice come alive, so I tried to write the experience as if it were fiction.  That is what took ten years. By the time I had forced the experience into a book, the novel only contained a fraction of it.

So I at least got a book out of it. My friend was not so lucky. She had house-sat and took care of my cat while I took my son to see his grandfather in 1996. This was right after the voice had appeared and I didn’t know what it was so I didn’t tell her anything about it.

She used a ouija board in my house while I was gone. I didn’t hear from her until a year later when I felt a need to call her and the first thing she said to me was that she’d “burned the ouija board.” She went on to tell me that she had been bombarded by entities, culminating in something the voices that plagued her called “the endless test.” At that point, she went to psychiatrists and psychologists, who all proclaimed her perfectly sane. Then she went to priests, who performed exorcisms. To this day, she has not entirely recovered, though she obtained some relief from energy work and the practice I perform that I had been initiated to give when I went to India.

There is a lot more to say, but I thought I would see if anyone has a comment. Do you have a book that was so engaging that it wrote you? What are your experiences with these kinds of things?



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