It’s not often you can track the germ of an idea. Many times, at least for me, it’s nothing more than a phrase, or what I think is a cool title. Story ideas are a very nebulous thing appearing and disappearing at their own whim. I suppose if there’s any magic to writing, it’s this part-getting the idea in the first place.
Even with Barbed Wire Kisses, backtracking to where it originated from becomes hazy as time wears on. Even now, I’m not sure if that’s merely my memory being diluted with age or the story not wanting to see its messy birth.
My current WIP (work in progress), Lonely Are the Dead stemmed from my wanting to revisit the ghosts of my past through the lens of a man haunted by ghosts real and imagined. Where and when I specifically came up with the idea I’m not sure but it’s humming along slowly but surely.
While rummaging through shorpy.com I let my mouse do the walking and clicked from place to place-from picture to picture. From one untold story of a forgotten life to the next. Somehow from Shorpy I ended up at http://mydaguerreotypeboyfriend.tumblr.com/. It was on that site I found this striking picture http://mydaguerreotypeboyfriend.tumblr.com/post/24134330855/emile-nelligan-age-20-in-1899-first-published-at and knew there was a story. I read the brief note under the picture and felt a pang of sorrow for Emile. The author of 170 poems written between the ages of 16-19, he would suffer a psychotic break and spend the rest of his life in 2 different mental hospitals.
He spent 40 years locked up, battling whatever demons that caused the episode in the first place. I’ve been crippled by depression at various points in my life-sometimes so bad I could walk around the block and never see the sun. Yet I always bounced back, a bit stronger if nothing else. Here was someone who ultimately lost the battle and never recovered. Little is know about what caused it-though consensus seems to be schizophrenia, or doubts about his sexuality (this was the very late 1800 after all).
However, after reading up on him I knew this would be a story I would tell, and it will be the next wip after Loney Are the Dead is completed. There’s a fair amount of research to do, and as I did with the Harps Brothers in Barbed Wire Kisses, I’ll fictionalize the main character, but let there be no doubt, the inspiration for The Commitment of Eryle Harrigan is all from Emile and that picture.