The Birth of a Novel

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On Sunday morning, August 30th, 1992, I was in a pew in Westminster Presbyterian Church/Buffalo, NY for 10:00 am worship.  Something in the sermon–I cannot recall what specifically–raised a daring thought to mind.  I grabbed the only paper available, the order of service bulletin, and scribbled notes so I wouldn’t forget.  Here’s that page:

The Kairos' Birth

The Kairos' Birth

Transcribed:

Tell story w/ the 1-page conclusion first. “Lute watched the break in the clouds ahead on the Yukon River, his skin crawling w/ closer to his Maker as the shaft of sunlight crashed thru gloom all around the river.  He stood up carefully in the bow, cal kidding his friend with “Don’t rock the boat” and grinned at the irony.  He spread his arms wide to feel the cool against his body.  Setting aside–temporarily, he thought–the weight of his mission, the past month’s trials and the coming day’s planet-shaking work, he felt peaceful listened to the plaintive call of the _______.  Then, in an instant, he knew how it was to end.  Lute pulled heard X’s  [character yet to be named] paddles come out of the water, and the unmistakable sound of a Wesson 345 [awaiting research] behind him.  “I’m sorry.”

So it began.  Working off and on, “in spits and furts” over 19 years, it took until Sunday night, July 12, 2002, for the final one-word paragraph to get written.  Those final lines took exactly 15 minutes.  I noted the time at 8:15; it was finished.  The last of the original draft was complete.  I had finally written out the words I had been putting off for weeks.  In my writing diary, what I wrote after “8:15” was “the end.  I got very drunk and cried all night.”

One shouldn’t have to do what I did to a character I brought to life and loved, flaws and all.  But “the moment of inevitability” (as our screenwriting professor called it) could not be side-stepped.

 Is it time you pulled out those writer’s notes of yours and began in earnest?
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7 Responses to The Birth of a Novel

  1. I also have saved (somewhere) the sheet on which I scribbled notes for a book that was eventually published. (When they do the docudrama of my life, I’m sure it’ll play a prominent role.)

    Congratulations again on the book!

  2. Scott Martin says:

    Paul –
    What a brilliantly written work. Wonderful dimensional character development. and a winding, twisting plot. You display great knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the culture that produced them, and have a masterful knowledge of Old and New Testaments. Should I be surprised? Not after meeting and dialoguing with you, however briefly. The issue of homosexuality and it’s integration into mainstream Christian faith and beyond are treated to sensitive and thorough consideration. I confess that I re-lived my own personal struggle as I followed the protagonist on his harrowing journey. It ultimately is a journey of commitment by an individual who was willing to give all to complete the revelation of Truth and Love to Humankind.
    This novel will be a touchstone to many – of all orientations. Hopefully it will help to liberate those imprisoned by their faith, social mores, prejudice and intolerance. Most of all I pray that this might reach inwardly to free those, who have internalized all these things and become filled with self-hatred and despair.

    • admin says:

      How gracious of you, Scott. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

      (That’s Anne Lamott’s every-night bedtime prayer, she says. A fitting end to the day, since every morning she wakes up and prays, “Help me, help me, help me!”)

  3. Sheri Sooy says:

    I just read Hannah and Jim’s responses and am so impressed with the questions and compliments. I say to you, “CONGRATULATIONS” on your journey and ultimate success!

    Love,

    Sheri

  4. Sheri Sooy says:

    Paul,

    Thank you for sharing the above material. It makes The Kairos story all the more special. So far, seven of my friends have read YOUR book and tomorrow, I, will begin the read. We fly out of SFO at 7:25AM and land in Newark five and one half hours later(2565 miles). Then, after a three hour layover, we fly another hour and one half(284 miles) to Portland, Maine. Hopefully, this old broad with ADD, will be able to finish her dear friends first novel. If not, I have the return trip to finish it. I’m looking forward to it and will leave my comments when home on Tuesday.

    In between all these hours and miles are three days with daughter Jill and husband Matt and the GRADUATE Emily and visiting sister, Ashley. Also in attendance will be our son, Jon and his wife Lulu and Grandma and Grandpa, me and the Dickster. Graduation, celebratory party and lots of fun.

    My love to you and Bruce. I’m off to have a GBLT (really).

    Sheri

  5. Morrie Hauge says:

    “The Kairos” is a real page-turner. I have rarely been as involved, and moved, by a novel – thank you Paul, for not just an exciting read, but also for an invitation to enter into territory that is controversial and profoundly affecting all of us!

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