Writing is a socially accepted form of schizophrenia.—E.L. Doctorow
Some people say life is the thing, but I prefer reading.—Logan Pearsall Smith
It is essential when writing fiction to enter the world of your characters.
But what if they begin to enter yours?
The first time this happened was with Guillermo Garcia, Jude’s sculpture teacher in I’ll Give You the Sun. Guillermo is a tall, imposing man with over-sized features that all clutter together in a wildly expressive face. He has a booming voice with a strong accent (he’s Colombian), a big heart and bigger personality. He carves abstract giants out of granite, and really, at least in my mind, he’s kind of a giant himself. He was one of the first characters in the story to arrive and he did so fully formed and ready to go.
One day, about two years into the writing of the novel, I was having a desperate moment. I felt uncertain about the direction the story was heading and the themes at play just didn’t feel like the right ones. So I lay down to think (much easier for me to think when I’m horizontal—no idea why). The next thing I knew, there was Guillermo towering before me: hands in the air like he was conducting a symphony, hair in his eyes, sweat dripping down his neck (it was that real). “Jandy! You are an idiot!” he said in his big bang of a voice. “You are thinking about this wrong. This is a book about second chances! Second chances. Understand?” I bolted upright. Because I did understand. He was right. It was the exact revelation I needed in that moment except for the fact that it had come out of the seemingly real mouth of an imaginary person! (Even if I fell asleep—indeed possible—it’s still bizarre to see and hear someone in a dream in such detail, someone you’ve never laid eyes on, someone who does not exist.)
Next, months later, I went by myself to see a Richard Diebenkorn exhibit. I walked in and my heart immediately exploded at the beauty. Like Jude says in Sun, there are paintings that color-flood out of two dimensions into three. These were those kind of paintings and my first thought was: “It’s such a shame Noah and Jude couldn’t come with me today.” In that split-second, I’d forgotten that they weren’t real.
I also remember a strange moment while in the middle of writing The Sky Is Everywhere. I was driving to work and reached for my phone because I was feeling an over-powering urge to call my novel. Then I realized what I’d just thought (!!!) and put the phone down.
I’ve had experiences like this as a reader and filmgoer too, with other people’s characters and stories. And maybe it’s a little nuts, but I don’t care. I love that as writers and readers, as story-lovers and fans, we, at times, immerse ourselves so completely in imaginary worlds that characters from those imaginary worlds come knocking on our very real wooden front doors. I love that the mind is that boundless and mysterious and strange, that the bridge between the real and the imagined is so well-travelled, and in both directions.
by Jandy Neson
Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close – until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they are barely speaking. Then Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy as well as a captivating new mentor, both of whom may just need her as much as she needs them. What the twins don’t realize is that each of them has only half the story and if they can just find their way back to one another, they have a chance to remake their world.
About the Author
Jandy Nelson lives in San Francisco, where she divides her time between her proper tree and running loose through the park. Jandy is a literary agent, published poet and perpetual academic with degrees from Brown, Cornell and Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s a superstitious sort and devout romantic who’s madly in love with California – how it teeters on the edge of a continent.