It all started the summer after my high school graduation in 1989. Life was normal, relaxing; it was the final summer break before the college years. I was working at The Game Keeper in the Thousand Oaks mall as an assistant manager – big time! I was also DJing on weekends at an underage nightclub in Ventura called Mogs. But I was mostly hanging out with friends, going swimming, and ordering a ton of “pizza” from Dominos. Tim Burton’s Batman was my favorite film that summer, and my good friend Chris and I quoted it extensively on a graduation cruise to Mexico. My favorite band, Depeche Mode, toured on their Violator album, performing at Dodger Stadium along with Nitzer Ebb and Electronic. And I began dating my first girlfriend – well, my first adult girlfriend – LaRayne.
LaRayne loved the beach, and she loved reading. I merely tolerated the beach, and was mostly bored when I tagged along, so I started reading too.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I hadn’t enjoyed reading before. As a boy, the library was one of my favorite places, and books had been my good friends. I loved retreating into other universes for a short sliver of time, and authors like Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, and L. Frank Baum held positions of prominence on my bookshelves.
But then came high school, and reading for pleasure seemed like a luxury I didn’t have time for, especially when there was so much assigned reading to do. Gradually, I began to associate reading with the agonizing torture of trudging through books like Madame Bovary, The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, and The Scarlet Letter. (My sincere apologies to fans of said tomes. As an adult, I acknowledge and appreciate their literary merits. As a teenager, well…damn.)
Anyway, one afternoon at the beach, LaRayne handed me Misery by Stephen King. I humored her and began to flip through a few pages; I had nothing else to do, so why not? I wasn’t really a fan of horror, as my imagination had always been a bit too vivid when it came to such things. Plus, I didn’t really think I was interested in reading, in general. Well apparently I was wrong. I was sucked in. I couldn’t put it down. After I was finished, I picked up another book. And then another. Soon reading was part of my routine. At first, it was King, Koontz, Cook, Crichton, Grisham, but then I expanded to older books, and lesser known authors.
My imagination was fired.
I enjoyed discussing the books with LaRayne, pouring over the parts I liked, dissecting how I would have done things differently, alternate scenarios for stories, different endings. She finally said, “Go write your own.”
Write my own? I liked that idea.
The idea of me writing wasn’t revelatory. I had written before, actually, dating back to childhood. In fact, when I was in Junior High, I wrote a short science-fiction book while on vacation with my family. I took my portable typewriter – a birthday gift – along with us in our custom panel van, and utilized the locations on our trip as backgrounds for an elaborate chase scenario I was designing as part of the story. It was a fun summer for me; I’m not so sure about my parents. The story was mostly garbage, but I guess you could say it was my first novella.
So, sure, I’d written. But it was that summer when LaRayne gave me the crazy notion that I could write a real, honest to god, full fledged, legitimate novel. And I was just young enough – and stupid enough – to believe her.
Geddy’s Moon began to develop out of that notion, and it took many paths before settling in to become the story it is today. The original title – you must know that I am a person that has always had a certain love affair with titles – was Fugue. It centered on the concept of an amnesiac man who didn’t know he was an amnesiac, and how he established a new life in rural Kansas. I was fascinated with the notion that an event in someone’s past could be so horrific that it would cause the person to simply erase their memories and begin to wander; in some cases, creating an entirely new persona.
I got a decent way into outlining and writing, and then, in the early nineties, I abandoned the book altogether.
There were many reasons why I did so. I’d received criticism in regards to another project I’d been involved with, and found that my artist’s skin was far too thin for the abuse. Also, around the same time, my mother had her first heart attack. Plus, I’d broken up with LaRayne, and found myself lacking a cheering section, something else that my fragile artistic ego required. But most of all, I simply found myself unable to write. Now, writer’s block is an interesting thing – and something I intend to talk about at length another time – but suffice it to say that, at that time, it made sense in my own mythology and I embraced it.
In the almost 20 years since abandoning Geddy’s Moon, I have actually become somewhat of a professional writer, but not in a way I ever imagined. In running a creative agency, I have been a producer and director of large-scale events and video productions, and an artistic director for marketing materials, websites, and branding strategies. As such, the chore of expressing my creative vision often meant writing it out for others. I’d outline, create treatments, write scripts, create web/brochure copy, and edit the work of others so that it conformed with the overall concept I’d envisioned.
What almost all of this work had in common was that it was deadline driven. Deadlines and milestones are the lifeblood of any production schedule; they help to wrestle creativity into manageable, digestible steps. No matter how large the project, it can be divided into smaller, achievable goals. The mantra becomes: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” The work gets done step by step, and there’s little time to be precious.
And so, when I began to explore the idea of revisiting the book earlier this year, the concept of treating the production process like any other professional project seemed like a no-brainer to me. I’d learned the method through years of client-focused content delivery. Now, the client would be me. I broke the book into an outline, broke the outline into sections, broke sections into chapters, and assigned each chapter a milestone.
It may seem soulless, but it was just the structure I needed. I found that it kept me from getting stuck on any one chapter. I simply had to get them done and move forward. In structure, I found the freedom to simply tell my story.
I began rewriting on June 30th, 2012 and finished the very rough first draft on September 9th, seventy-seven days later. Although I started with the material from 1994, I rewrote the bulk of each chapter, holding on to whatever elements, ideas, and verbiage resonated with me, and disregarding the rest. Some chapters were much harder than others, but I was usually either right on my deadlines, or slightly ahead. I only fell behind during those rare moments when a chapter or section would grow beyond my original vision, and then I’d have to readjust the milestones slightly.
Structure, for me, was freedom.
And so, after beginning this process over twenty years ago, Geddy’s Moon is now complete. I’ve been through story edits, wrapped up a small focus group of readers, and have recently completed the hellish copy-editing phase. Of course, there are still a few things to tinker with under the hood, but the book as a whole is complete.
Insert contented sigh here.
Editing and revising has been undiscovered country for me, and a much more difficult process than I’d ever imagined. And the road to selling the book is one I’m just stepping out on as well. I know there will be learning and failing. Growth. I know that there is still much to do, but I am very excited that the process of writing this book, one of the personal things I’ve ever done, is complete. No, not just excited. Ecstatic. Humbled. Fortunate.
Now, I realize that I’m nearing the stage where the book will stop being mine. I feel like a father sending his child off to school in brand new clothes and a shiny new lunchbox, just hoping that he makes a good impression, and is well liked by his peers. But I realize that I have to step away now and let him go.
It’s thrilling for me and terrifying, all in one. But I’m ready. Ready for others to read the book that’s been percolating inside my subconscious for over twenty years. Finally.
And now, amidst the chaos of publishing and marketing, I’m enthusiastic to start my next book as well. I promise that one won’t take quite as long to write.