When someone asks where my ideas for novels come from, I’m always tempted to say “Target.” It’s often hard to pin down what sets off a writer on the glorious and torturous adventure of novel writing, because novels aren’t one thing or one idea. But, there’s usually a nugget or a spark, and I often ask authors about that spark. The one moment that spurred them forward to discover the rest of the story.
For our guest blogger today, author Gail Cleare, her moment of inspiration came in a dream, and she’s here today to share with us how her real life showed up in her dream, and how her dream resulted in the opening to her new novel, THE TASTE OF AIR.
Please welcome Gail Cleare to WFW, and share with us where you found the nugget of inspiration for you novel!
Dreaming of Inspiration
by Gail Cleare
Apparently, I do some of my best thinking while asleep—my two published novels both began as dreams. It’s not a bad way to plot. The tricky part is remembering the details long enough to type notes on your iPhone.
I’m talking about the kind of dream where you wake up with a scene hanging in front of you and for a minute, you’re somewhere in the middle. Sometimes the visual images are part of a sequence and if I don’t come back to reality too fast, I can capture the big picture. My subconscious is a powerful creative tool and a magical playground.
The first time this happened, I dreamed I was walking through an old shop, discovering lovely treasures, magical objects and Tarot cards hidden in dusty display cases. This scene became the second chapter of DESTINED, when Emily explores the building and finds the ace of pentacles in the cash register. The dream told me that my main character would follow prophetic signs like the classic heroes on quests, and her spiritual coming-of-age story could be built around the Tarot’s rich imagery. I wrote a new chapter every morning, sitting in bed with coffee and my laptop. When my mind was still in the semi-dream state, words seemed to flow effortlessly. In five weeks, I had completed the first draft at 120,000 words.
Another dream inspired my new book, THE TASTE OF AIR, women’ fiction released this fall from Red Adept Publishing. This time I was walking through a cozy living room and knew it was my mother’s house, decorated in her favorite colors and style, but I didn’t recognize any of the furnishings exactly so it was familiar and strange, at the same time. I knew it was her private, secret house. I felt like an intruder.
This dream was connected to a real-life event. When my sister and I found out that my mother’s name didn’t match the one on her birth certificate, it set me off thinking…did I ever really know her? What was she really like, when she was my age? What did she go through, that she kept a secret from us forever. What if there was a lot more to the story?
The scene from my dream is almost exactly what happens to Nell at the beginning of THE TASTE OF AIR. In the book, she finds out that her mother has a lakeside cottage in Vermont and goes there to investigate. The place feels oddly familiar to Nell when she enters, though she has never been there before. She and her sister Bridget wonder if they ever really knew their mother at all. It turns out there is a lot more to the story, going all the way back to 1965 in Saigon, when their parents first met during the Vietnam War. Nell and Bridget must learn to accept a new picture of reality as their assumptions about the past are revised, and their own lives take on new meaning.
The story is total fiction—except for the rush of familiar strangeness Nell experiences when she sees Mary’s cottage. That sensation is still very real to me.
“Looking at the oddly familiar house brought the scent of cinnamon to mind along with a memory of getting off the school bus to find Mom in her apron and warm applesauce cake waiting on the kitchen counter.
For some reason, the place was making her feel odd. Funny coincidence that it looks so much like our old house. The memory blurred and shifted in her mind like a dream from long ago.
She looked at the key in her hand as if it was a bug that might bite her. Then she walked up the steps, put the key in the lock, and turned it. The red door swung open….”
Gail Cleare has written for magazines, newspapers, Fortune 50 companies and AOL. Her award-winning ad agency represented the creators of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She was the turtle Leonardo’s date for the world premier of the second movie, and got to wear a black evening gown and sparkly shoes.
As a fine art and nature photographer, Gail’s work is held in private collections across the US, and she can often be found stalking creatures with a 300 mm lens.
Her first novel, Destined, a novel of the Tarot, won honorable mentions at the New England Book Festival and the Green Book Festival. Her second novel, women’s fiction titled The Taste of Air, was released by Red Adept Publishing in September, 2016. The unedited manuscript won a gold medal from HarperCollins’ website Authonomy, and was shortlisted for a Somerset Award.
Gail Cleare lives on an historic farm in New England with her family and dogs, cats, chickens, black bears, blue herons, rushing streams and wide, windy skies.