On Friday morning, as you open Author Expressions blog and scan down to see who is writing and what she has to say, I'll be flying to India, staggering through an airport to change planes and landing in Trivandrum after almost twenty-four hours, still vertical as I wait in line to show my passport, nod when the customs officer glances at the number of stamps, number of visas, and my age. (They always check my age--perhaps they expect me to keel over from exhaustion, which I am sorely tempted to do.)
Thanks to a wonderful group of readers and libraries, I am able to travel to India each year to visit friends, catch up on some local art, and eat a lot of Indian food (three times a day usually). And I call this research. And it is. I sit on a bus and ride around Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, gazing out the unglazed window and soaking up ideas for locations to use in my next book. Sometimes a figure catches my eye and I know that would be a great character in a story--just the way he looks back over his shoulder, shifts his turban and grasps his cotton bag--but more importantly I know he will contribute some twist to the story.
I keep a journal during every trip, mostly for notes of ideas and shorthand for story ideas. Rereading these after I return recalls the feelings and imaginings I had at the time and I fall more easily into writing the story.
A couple of months ago I had an image of a young woman running down a city street at night in her bare feet and glancing back over her shoulder. I knew who she was, some of what had happened, but not what would happen to her. I have to see that street during this visit, and I have to see it at three a.m., which is a terrible time for women to be out and about in an Indian city. But I have friends, and I figure I can manage it.
Trivandrum was hit with an unusual rainstorm this December--a typhoon/hurricane instead of the light drizzle that usually shows up in November, as the tail end of the monsoon drifts back over the state of Kerala and out to the Arabian Sea. That rain will play a part also--the wildness of the storm, so out of character for this time of year, has something to give.
Piece by piece the story is emerging. Somewhere in here is a child, a little girl, who knows something, and a young boy/man who is always eager to help. Seeing the innocent in danger always makes me nervous, so I'm not sure how this part will play out.
It will take a while--a few months, at least--before I know the whole story, but I know it's waiting for me, on one street or another, in the corners of Trivandrum. And I will ferret it out over the next three weeks while I'm in India. And then I get to write it.