The Story Behind the Book

Just Another Week in Suburbia: The Inception

I thought I’d look a little at the creative process behind my books.

Back in 2012, with several unpublished manuscripts behind me, I decided to write a novel that would be THE ONE, as in the one that sold.

Not that I could make that determination. Arts are so subjective that you’re always at the whim of taste. But I decided that up to that point, my writing had been … too safe.

In any of the arts, you’re often working through a filter, worried what people will think of your work. It’s not the anonymous reader that’s a concern. It’s the people you know – friends, and family. What will they think about the love scenes? The emotional scenes? The vulnerable scenes? The fight scenes? The violence? Well, all of it.

Often you’re showing sides of yourself they’ve never seen. That can impact how honestly you write. In my case, I wondered if it was holding me back.

It was a confronting time for me also. Months earlier, a car had hit me as I was crossing the intersection (I had the little green man), breaking my right leg, dislocating the ankle and, as I would find out, significantly damaging the nerve.

Later, I would develop a condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – a sort of miscommunication between my foot and my brain, which resulted in my foot misreporting sensation, or the position it or the toes were in. (One time, when I’d just became ambulatory again, I was taking a short walk and felt as if my big toe had folded under my foot. Although I knew it wasn’t physically possible, I had to take my runner and sock off to show my brain it hadn’t happened.)

I was going to physio twice a week at the Austin Hospital, doing hydro 3 – 5 times a week, and also doing the physio exercises assigned to me three times a day. Then there were a series of ten nerve blocks (a half-day procedure where they used a big needle to shoot anesthetic into the nerve, accessing it through my lower black) in hope they’d reset the nerve (and thus eliminate the problem), and then a comprehensive seminar on managing chronic pain.

So I was writing through a lot of duress, and while I was coming to terms that my foot, ankle, and leg would never heal fully due to the severity of the damage.

With all that happening, I’d developed a to fuck with it attitude. Everything I’d been doing hadn’t been working. This time I was holding nothing back.

I had various ideas – I always have ideas. They jostle for prominence. Some expose themselves as premature. Others merge with other ideas and make bigger ideas. And, when they get so big they’re unnavigable in my head, then I decide I have enough to start writing.

In this case, it was two ideas got me started:

  1. a thirty-something husband finding a condom in his wife’s purse.
  2. that the story would be broken into seven days.

Everybody has a different process in writing. When I used to run writing workshops, I was always mindful of never selling a methodology. What works for one writer doesn’t necessarily work for another. But what I think is paramount is planning out the universe the story will occupy – all the characters and the locations.

I knew my protagonist was meant to be a diffident everyman, so chose something that suited that: Casper (he actually was named after Casper the Friendly Ghost) Gray (a bland color).

His wife, Melissa, was the stylish one – she was the alpha in the relationship. The only problem as I started writing was that she didn’t feel like a “Melissa”, and was rechristened “Jane”. This created a problem with Casper’s best friend, “Dane” – “Jane and Dane”. Shudder. “Dane” then became “Luke”.

Once that was sorted, the first act of the story began to fall into place.

Next Week: The Sex in Just Another Week in Suburbia.