Wednesday, October 03, 2012

A Book's Beginnings: thoughts on THE LAKE OF LIVING WATER.

    I remember the exact moment that THE LAKE OF LIVING WATER, my sixth novel, was born. I was running in the woods on a November afternoon in Vermont. The air was cool-- almost cold-- and smelled of evergreen and tannin. The long shadows of pines were intersticed with reaches of wan, hollow, almost–winter New England sunlight.

    As I ran, two visions appeared in my mind’s eye-- simultaneously, as I remember it. I saw the image of a man sitting alone in a room inside a cold, dark, stone tower. He was looking out a window and across the broad expanse of Lake Champlain, at the patterned skeins of late autumn sunlight that moved and shimmered on the water.

  The other image that came was that of a book… a small book, to my surprise, full of white space around blocks of text, of stories written in many voices.

   I knew that the book would tell me who the man in the tower was. And I knew that I would have to write the book.


     Those who have read my other books, my poems, who have seen my paintings and listened to the music I compose, will know about my fascination with the nature, history, geology, and PRESENCE of Lake Champlain—in particular the shoreline and waters  of Burlington Bay. This future book, I knew in the moment of its apparition, would have this locus itself as a main character.

      I had, that fall, just finished reading John Cowper Powys’ A GLASTONBURY ROMANCE, and that novel was still looming large --it is, after all, more than 1,000 pages long-- in my thoughts. I was captured by its sense of place, of mystery, of intersecting lives. I suppose, then, that I was being called to write my own version of a book like that. (I am still, however, a bit puzzled that it would appear to me as such a small volume…)


I came home from my run that November afternoon and began writing. I went on to write about 80 pages and an outline over the rest of the month and through December. (This is, so far, the only time I have ever committed to an extended stretch of writing in the afternoons—I am most definitely a morning writer!)

   I didn’t come back to the manuscript until the following spring and summer, when I finished a first draft-- also accruing, along the way, a notebook full of the results of historical research.  Over the next two years I kept writing, editing, and revising, finishing an 8th--and final-- draft in the summer of 2012.


     THE LAKE OF LIVING WATER shows some traces of the mystery/detective genre, but I have no doubt that it is ultimately a strange and not easily categorized novel.  I accept this, knowing that in writing this book I have done everything I can to get to the heart of my own perceptions of --and connections to-- the mystery and power of the lake and shoreline that inspired it.

  You can order  THE LAKE OF LIVING WATER  here:

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