4.20.2013

The Idea That Wouldn't Come. Until it Did.

The question/comment/suggestions I've received most about one of my pieces of work involves my short story 'Dust,' a small tale about a lone survivalist who lives out a catastrophic alien apocalypse from the confines of his panic room. In dozens of reviews and emails, people have asked when or if I will ever turn the short story into a novel. They want more. They want the story to go on.

I never expected this story to touch as many people as it has. I've written a lot since that story was penned over five years ago, but nothing has really come close to generating the same response (or sales figures) as Clyde Jackson and his chilling yarn of carnivorous moon dust.

But it isn't like the readers are requesting the unthinkable. I've turned a lot of short stories into longer works. My upcoming novel, The Last Supper, began life as a novella. Also, my book Strings (also forthcoming from Hobbes End Publishing) existed first as a short story called The Good Girls (which you can buy now). Another of my shorts, The Shiva Apparatus, serves as something of a prequel to a novel I have yet to finish called The Shiva Paradox, and I've pondered on numerous occasions of expanding Under the Scotch Broom, and might actually attempt it sometime this winter.

I guess you could say turning a short work into a longer one has become something of a specialty of mine. It's like I subconsciously build my stories with some kind of special loop where, if I tug on it, it blows up like a big parachute. Also, some characters just seem to keep talking in my head long after their moments in the spotlight have passed. Like the readers, there are times when I'm just not quite ready for a story to end or where I realize I didn't fully tap the vein.

But that was never the case with Clyde Jackson. His story was never really intended to go on. 'Dust' (spoiler alert) is really the testimony of a condemned man. Also, because 'Dust' was maybe the third or fourth short story I had written, I hadn't quite learned to build that special loop into it yet. But I did as my readers asked over the years and at least tried to entertain the notion of expanding it into a novel. Try as I might, however, there just wasn't anything there.

But sometimes an idea just has to be left alone to do its thing. Sometimes it only take a few minutes or a few days or a few weeks. Sometimes it takes a few years, and then maybe a few years more. Often, the circumstances it takes to make a story bloom are about as exacting as the ones it takes to make a diamond or a perfect bottle of wine.

I don't know if this attempt I'm about to make to turn 'Dust' into a novel is going to work. But I found a way back into the story without really trying. Maybe it's because of the horrific week we've had, what with the Boston bombing and so many other tragedies that have made me want to retreat into my own little secret room and wait out the storm, but I'm ready to pull on this loop and see what happens.

Wish me luck.