Books by Melissa Bowersock

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inspiration, Part I (Dreams)

Inspiration can come from anywhere. I mean literally—anywhere. There have been times when I’ve been driving down the street and I see a young woman in a beater car with three small kids inside and she’s got her window open, one hand languishing outside with a cigarette in it. A sad, cautionary tale seems to fasten itself like flesh to the bare bones image that flashes across my view and then disappears. Or I see a young man hitchhiking, his face stoic behind a three-day beard as he displays without hope a hand-drawn cardboard sign that says, “Portland, Or.” Filling in the blanks—where they’ve been, where they’re going—seems to come naturally and a story just waits to be plucked from the street and set down on paper. Or not.

On one of the writer’s forums in which I participate, there’s been a new thread asking about books that have been inspired by dreams. When I first saw the forum heading, I immediately perked up as one of my books, Goddess Rising, was such an inspiration. I actually thought that was a fairly rare occurrence (I’ve published 9 novels but this is the only one that I dreamed), but surprisingly, there’s been quite a number of people with similar stories. There’s even been a book written about writers and dreaming, and several books written about mystical artists. Obviously it’s not as rare as I thought it was.

The dream I had that inspired Goddess Rising was a fairly simple one, just the premise of the story. I dreamed about a young girl named Grace who lived in a colony of mostly women in a future time when the world had been decimated by a geologic holocaust. Grace, about 15 years old, was perfectly capable of being a fully contributing member of the colony, but because she was the last and youngest child of the group, the elder women tended to think of her as rather simple and unable to perform more than the most basic tasks. What they didn’t realize was that she would become Greer, the female savior that prophecy promised would lead them back to greatness.

As with all dreams, this one was clothed in feeling, and the sense of it went far beyond the mere description I have put down here. I knew when I got up the next morning that this was a story that needed to be told, and I jotted notes down as fast as I could before it evaporated. Unlike most dreams that fade over time, however, this one did not. Over the next several days, whole chunks of story would drop into my brain, major plot points or sections of dialog, and I was again scribbling notes as fast as I could to get it all down. Within days, I had the major thread, the major characters, unexpected plot twists and developments that seemed to arrive fully formed without any effort from my rational brain at all. I’ve never had a story “given” to me like this one was. Although I was familiar with channeling, I had never experienced it but I thought if I did, it would be something like this. There is a part of me still that feels that this is not my book at all, but was a gift from some other dimension.

I had this dream in 1987 and with it came a sense that I should get the story written and get it out into the world by the year 2000. Don’t ask me why; that part wasn’t revealed to me. I did what I could with it, but during the same time I was going through some major life events which kept claiming my attention and my energy. I found I was putting so much energy into re-inventing my life that I had none left for the story. It languished for quite a while; I think it took me about three years to finish it, but when I did, it felt like a major milestone.

I’m sure other writers get attached to their characters; for me the people in Goddess Rising were like the best and dearest friends with whom I loved spending time. You know that feeling you have sometimes when you’re reading a really good book and you can’t wait until you get to the end but at the same time you’re reluctant to finish it too quickly because it’s just too good? That’s how I felt writing this book. After years of working on it in fits and starts, I wanted very badly to finish it, but at the same time I felt a huge sadness in leaving these friends. As I closed in on the last page, the sense of leaving these people was almost painful. In the foreword I mention the fact that I cried when I finished it, and that’s true. I almost couldn’t stand the thought that I would never interact with these people in quite the same way again. It was saying goodbye forever to people who had become extremely important to me.

The good news was/is that I can go back and visit them any time I wish. True, reading the book is not the same as writing it, but it is a close second. When I miss Greer too much, miss Khassis and Hannah, I go back and read the book again. It still amazes me.

I missed the publication date it wanted, but not by much; it was published in 2001. At this writing, it has already worked through its first incarnation of publication, the publisher allowed the rights to revert back to me and I have self-published it through Create Space. It still holds a very special place in my heart and is different than any other book I have written. I guess it will stand alone until the next time a very special story demands to be set down on paper. And I have no idea if, or when, that might ever happen.

But I can dream, can’t I?


  1. Yes, Melissa - perhaps we are inspired to create characters we would love to love in real life. I am convinced that were I to go and knock on a certain door in Venice, it would be opened by Bryn Awbrey, and he would make me a lovely cup of tea in a large yellow cup, and offer consolation when I need it most.

  2. When you go to have a cup of tea with Bryn, can I come, too?? He is definitely one of the loveliest characters I've met. It is amazing how real they become (how real we make them?). And that includes the less-than-perfect ones, as well. Graydon Cole, the adversary in my novel Remember Me, can be a real jerk at times, yet I really like him. Go figure.
    Hmm, I sense another blog idea coming on. Thanks for the push!