Does your town have an abandoned high school slowly sliding into total ruin? Probably not, unless you live in a Democrat city where the whole shebang is sinking into oblivion. But in most small towns, the high school is the single most expensive item on the budget and will only be abandoned if a) the whole town fails or b) they build a new high school and haven’t yet figured out what to do with the old one. My town’s old high school, having been replaced, has been torn down to make room for more condos.
We were listening to a scary story the other night, which featured an abandoned high school. I have to admit high school kind of creeped me out even when it was open for business. Something about this story made it easy to imagine myself wandering around the halls of an abandoned high school… and maybe the place wasn’t quite as deserted as I’d thought.
I did get to thinking, “This is the kind of place that Ysbott the Snake would really like. He could make it his hideout. Abandon all hope, ye who enter hear.”
Look at that hallway. Such waste! Those lockers could have been salvaged. Ditto a lot of the electrical components. That’s money that people had to work for, all gone up in smoke.
These abandoned high schools, though, are emblematic of the whole public “education” enterprise. It produces morally empty buildings disguised as graduates. Big and imposing on the outside, but on the inside, nothing there.
Ah, what the heck, I can always use reviews. Here’s a new one by Forrest Schultz, covering The Temple and The Throne, Books No. 8 and 9 in my Bell Mountain series. I don’t think my character, Ysbott the Snake, made a hit with him, but then Ysbott rubs a lot of people the wrong way. He’s a villain and an idiot, so he’s supposed to do that.
That was what my wife asked me yesterday: “Do you see it as you write it? And do you hear the dialogue?”
The answer to both is yes. As the story unfolds, it’s like a movie playing in my head. I’d like to get some background music playing with it, too, but I haven’t yet mastered that facet of the art.
If I don’t see it, I reckon the reader won’t see it, either. I had some help with the lake monster from The Temple, pictured above: it’s really just the Liopleurodon from Tim Haines’ Walking with Dinosaurs, and I emailed artist Kirk DouPonce with the applicable clip from the movie. But I had to add the lake, the cliffs of Kara Karram, and King Ryons’ army reacting to the unexpected intrusion. Nothing to go on there but my imagination.
Kirk uses live models to pose as story characters on my covers. Because he takes the trouble to read the books before he goes to work on them, he sometimes paints a character exactly as I imagine him or her to be. I don’t know how he does that.
I watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books because it helps me to harness my imagination. In my mind, the characters that populate the stories are as real as Kirk’s models. Sometimes I find myself casting movie and TV actors to portray them; and when that works, it works really well indeed. Wes Studi as Ysbott the Snake. John Nettles as Lord Chutt. And so on–it really works. And it gets me cranked up to imagine and describe things and people that I haven’t seen in any movie. I can even see and hear Helki the Rod–and I don’t know of any actor that can play him.
Patty’s last question, though, isn’t quite so easy to answer: “When you’re seeing and hearing all these things, how do you come back?”
But we don’t have to worry about that until I start having trouble coming back.