Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Fire Is Out

Maya Angelou, I am told, said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I find her statement to be true. But I am running out of agony. That is, my recent book is about ready for the publisher and I have no desire to write anything else.

Once I wrote a book just for fun. It was about time travel and it was called, Time Out of Joint, a quote from one W. Shakespeare. Nothing was burning a hole in my gut until I finished that story—Maya’s agony was missing. But it came out all right.

The rest of my books, all eight or nine of them, though—they were born of agony. I knew I had to write them or be very uncomfortable the rest of my days. It was family stuff—stories about family members who died for a cause or did something unusual—those true tales pressured me into writing.

This final story is about a friend, a doctor who spent some nine years in the USSR during the space race. Through him (I call him Tad Benson), the US and the USSR shared space medicine information. President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev set up the program. But the USSR could not admit it had help from the US and the US could not admit it had helped the USSR for a variety of reasons. So, even today the story I told is universally denied.

Tad died a few years ago, an unsung hero. All his years of inventing, testing and establishing friendships in two major countries have gone down the drain. But he reached his goal and did not lose an astronaut or cosmonaut during his time of caring for them.

Tad’s story produced agony until it was written. It is called The Insider—NASA’s Man in Baikonur. Baikonur was the name of the secret Soviet rocket launch site.

Now I can rest.

When I give a talk about one of my books, there is always someone in the audience, or maybe two, who say, “I know a story about ____. But I never got around to writing it.”

My response has always been, “When it burns a hole in your gut, you’ll write that story.” That was a long time before I read Maya’s quote. But I knew, I just was certain that the burning of the gut is what drove me and very likely drives many other writers.

When people ask me, “What kinds of reviews did you get for this book?” I tell them the truth. And the truth is that I don’t care. Once the fire is out and the book is complete I can live again. I don’t read the few reviews that I get. It is too late to do anything about them because the book is finished and I am on to another project.

Well, I am through with projects. I refuse to hear about any more of them.

And finally, the fire is out.

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