Where Do Your Ideas Come From?
Authors are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas from?” It’s a fair question. I have been fascinated with the metaphysical and the unseen universe as far back as I can remember. My favorite authors as a kid were Poe and Asimov, and then, when I got a little older, I started to delve into Jung. I did a lot of research for another book of mine, Ouray’s Peak, which is about the Ute Indians, and their world. Their lives are so connected with the Earth, with nature; they have the ability to hear and see and feel the things that lie beneath, the things for the most part that modern man has lost the proficiency for. I’ve read a good deal of Tom Brown and his Tracker series; he was a great influence. When I moved to California, I worked with Cahuilla Elder, Dr. Katherine Siva Saubel. She told me many things, among them, she told me about whistling for the wind. She lived in a dry desert climate, and when the heat became too much, she knew how to purse her lips together and blow gently to summon a cooling breeze. All of these things came together for me in the creation of the central character in the Stone Quest Series, Luke Stone. Creating Luke was akin to creating an alter ego; like bestowing upon myself those magical powers I could only read about and wish for.
The first book in the series is Desert Chimera. When we first meet Luke, he is only 28 years old, forsaken in the desert in the middle of torrential rains, and assaulted by apocalyptic visions. His mentor of seven years, the Cherokee shaman whom he calls Grandfather has suddenly died, and Luke has been on a desperate cross-country quest that has led him here. We find him praying in agony, but his prayers are answered not by the one he seeks, but by the One he thought he’d escaped seven long years ago, his nemesis, the black magician Armand Jacobi. Now, Luke must face the true horrors of his past. The ensuing battle will either be Luke’s final destruction or his ultimate redemption. During this struggle, Luke will also meet fellow travelers, whose lives will be placed in his hands, one of whom, Consuelo Arroyo, will open his heart.
Desert Chimera actually began as the play Desert Wolf. The play was produced at the Inter Act Theatre Company in North Hollywood. Besides the character of Luke, I had become enamored with the relationship between Luke and his mentor/nemesis Armand Jacobi. Desert Chimera explores this relationship, the relationship, really between good and evil, and between love and hate that dwells at the very center of Luke Stone and Armand Jacobi. The most interesting relationships, the ones we can’t forget or get over, the ones that haunt us for a lifetime, are the ones that are the most complex and not so simply reduced to right or wrong.
In the second book of the series, Gallows Ascending, Luke has left the desert; he has left Armand Jacobi, and has begun a new life at the edge of the sea in New Camen, New Hampshire. His first wife, Consuelo, whom he met in the desert, has died, and Luke meets Dr. Beth Rutledge with whom he falls in love. Accused of the murder of her daughter, stripped of her license to practice medicine, her marriage to prominent politician Adrian Mountzaire in tatters, Beth is haunted nightly by the chilling visions of a woman’s death by hanging, Then, a young boy goes missing, and Adrian Mountzaire turns up dead, lying in the sand right next to his wife. Now, Luke, the tracker, must not only find the missing boy but also the real killer of Mountzaire in order to save his newly beloved wife from the fate that haunts her dreams.
But his own dreams—nightmare hauntings—of Jacobi are never far behind him. Deep into the night, as Beth sleeps restlessly beside him, Luke finds himself allowing his mind to wander, allowing himself to unleash his psychic gifts and to furtively search that parallel universe to see if he can catch a glimpse of the man he served as disciple and almost destroyer.
The third book in the series, Neuri Shape-Shifter, finds Luke and Beth’s marriage reeling as their daughter Bridget Grace at thirteen struggles for autonomy, her psychic abilities as she approaches menses, if anything, to Luke’s chagrin, even greater than his. Adding to the tumult is the case of three missing girls vanished from the Lower East Side of Manhattan where Luke lived as the disciple of Armand Jacobi. Luke’s investigation into the missing girls takes him to the raging Vampire Club scene where ominous signs point irrefutably to Jacobi’s involvement. Then, on the day of Luke’s birthday, BG vanishes, leaving behind only a cryptic note. Gregorian chants hum, Catholic Saints animate, and fairy lanterns glow as Luke Stone is once again drawn into combat against the black magician, chasing his nemesis from New Camen, NH to Alphabet City, NY, to the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan in a battle to save his daughter’s life.
From the power of an idea, to the love of a character, to the force of a relationship, to the appeal of place, it is from these seeds that spring the stories writers tell. But here’s the secret every writer knows: We are but the vessel. Because when we are in tune, when we are in sync, we only transcribe what bubbles up from the stream of unconsciousness; what our characters incessantly whisper to us as we scribble furiously to catch their words before they fade away.
In the end, I’ll never know definitively what power led me ultimately to Luke Stone and through him to Armand Jacobi., and through both of them through the ever-widening creation of the Stone Quest Series. I know it is a place in which I love to dwell. I found myself one late summer’s day, just as golden day was turning to purple twilight, apropos of absolutely nothing, explaining to a friend why I write: “I can create my own world,” I told him. “I can make anything I want happen there. The characters’ lives turn out exactly as I wish them, too.”
Except of course, that was a fallacy: The characters’ lives, if I am in tune—If I am doing it all exactly “write”—turn out exactly the way they dictate they should.