Updated: Oct 27, 2019
When I was young, my family lived in the middle of a little cocklebur-infested piece of farmland in Kansas. It might seem a harsh childhood to some, we had no running water or electricity, but I thought it was sheer heaven. I loved the clouds and the wind, and the voices of the birds in the day, and the chaotic symphony of cicadas, owls, frogs and coyotes in the evenings.
But most of all, I loved the sound of my parents’ voices when they read to me every night. I got so I couldn’t tell where love ended and literature began. It was seamless. I began to dream of writing something fabulous, like Winnie the Pooh and later, Cannery Row and To Kill a Mockingbird. Before we left the farm, I did write a long story about pioneers, in covered wagons crossing the Snake River. Being five years old, I thought it was called that because there were snakes in it. In my story, the snakes could talk and they were nice to each other, although a little gossipy. It proved the adage I now teach my fiction-writing students and clients – write what you know, then exaggerate.
Later, after college, when things got serious, I got serious and became a journalist. My motto was, “To give a voice to those who don’t have voices.” I wrote tough stories of people being exploited by political, financial and environmental wrong-doings. That motto inspired me every day for decades and it still does. Some 4,500 hundred articles and 20 non-fiction books later, (my publishers included Simon & Schuster, Random House and Rodale) I feel I did that as much as I could.
But, I kept hearing a little voice in my head and heart that said it wasn’t enough. I do not know why writing fiction is such a powerful dream and drive, but it is. I was nervous when I started this book because I was afraid I wouldn’t like the challenge fiction presents, but I did. I loved it. Every day was crazy enjoyable. I was afraid to start the manuscript and then I didn’t want it to end. Writers are crazy. Maybe that’s all you can say about that.
I don’t live in Kansas anymore – the mountains and beaches of the West Coast enticed me years ago – and much of what I’ve learned as an adult is in this book. But maybe, in the end, understanding what we felt as children is more important and some of that is in this book, too.
Gods of Our Time didn’t come quickly. I know it sounds corny, and writer-ish, but I’ve been working on it all my life. There are no talking snakes in it, but it is full of everything else I have to give. Is this a love story? Yes, and more, but I guess when we get down to it, everything stems from the seeds of love. I found it to be the best thing to write about.