Thirteen Days to the Suicide Woods: Day 2 — Endings and Beginnings

I listen to music when I write. I try to match the tempo and rhythm  of an album to what’s taking place on the page. Every once in a while, a single song hits just right and it becomes the soundtrack for an entire story. That’s not too annoying for my spouse when the song is an epic half hour track like Swallow the Sun’s, Plague of Butterflies (which was much of the driving force behind my first novel, Mountain Home). When it’s a three minute song that I have on repeat for two hours while I work on a scene, it can get kind of annoying for anyone living outside of my head. (It’s a good thing that I mostly work while she’s out of the house in the lab.)

Every once in a very long while, a song doesn’t just provide the soundtrack for a scene; it inspires an entire story. And in the case of the final story in 13 Views of the Suicide Woods, the title as well. But first, a little backstory.

Back in 2007, Jwyanza Hobson and Afzaal Deen from the band Crisis, Dan Kaufman from Mindrot, and Nicky Bernardi from Eyes of Fire formed a post-metal/shoegaze group called The Angels Whispered Danger. They premiered the demos of two improvised songs on their MySpace page (remember MySpace?) before the band went their separate ways. They never released any more music as The Angels Whispered Danger, and those two songs were never officially released (though for a short while you could download them from MySpace—which I did). They went into regular rotation on my mp3 player.

 

 

Flash forward to the summer of 2011. My first and only child had been born a few months earlier and I was swimming in a sleep deprived cocktail of elation, fear, and hopefulness about his future and ours. One day, while he was napping (the time I had to write), I sat down to work on a story and queued up The Angels Whispered Danger demos. The second song, Khatam, hit me in just the right place at that moment. I remembered reading in an interview with Afzaal Deen that “Khatam” is an Urdu word that means “the end.” And while I was wrestling with the raw emotions of new fatherhood, a story about the intersection of beginnings and endings occurred to me. I put the song on repeat and wrote the first draft in a single naptime. It ended up being the second story I ever sold.

A few years later, I wrote the first story in the collection, Still Day: An Ending, as a companion piece of sorts. It was originally the prologue to a crime novel, but I realized (with the help of a good friend), that it worked better as a stand alone piece. It’s a vignette about the intersection of beginnings and endings, like Khatam, but where that story eventually becomes a frantic piece framed by fire, Still Day ended up being quieter and set in the water. Though I didn’t write Still Day to a song by The Angels Whispered Danger (it was written to Right Where It Belongs by Nine Inch Nails), the two stories are linked in my mind and go together as bookends for the seventeen other stories in between them.

The Woods Have Been Waiting

NEXT STOP: The Texas Chainsaw Breakfast Club 

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~ by poǝןɔɐɯ uǝʞɔɐɹq on 02/03/2017.

One Response to “Thirteen Days to the Suicide Woods: Day 2 — Endings and Beginnings”

  1. Khatam continues to be my favorite of your short stories. When I introduce people to your writing, it is the piece I give them first. For me, the person who has known you longer than anyone else, this story frames who you are as a man, as a human and as a warrior for both people and ideas. I’ve probably read it 50 times and it never loses its power.

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