The Hardest Part: Darin Kennedy on The Mussorgsky Riddle

Charlotte “doctor by day, novelist by night” Darin Kennedy‘s debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, is squarely right up my alley. “The Great Gate of Kiev” (part of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition) is one of my favorite pieces of Russian symphony, and Kennedy turns the mythopoeity up to “11” combining music, paranormal mystery, and classical mythology in a heady, panpsychic mix. All set in Charlotte — and the infinite mindscapes therein. Here, Kennedy writes about the hard part of discovering the first person present tense voice of psychic Mira Tejedor, as she struggles to unravel the riddle of 13-year-old Anthony Faircloth’s catatonia. In person, in addition to appearances at MystiCon, ConCarolinas, and ConGregate on the regional convention circuit, Kennedy will take part in the Bookmarks Movable Feast – Winston-Salem, NC on Sunday, January 25 from 3 pm to 5 pm.

By Darin Kennedy:

Tom Petty said “The waiting is the hardest part,” and I have to agree with him. The writing process does seem to be fraught with lots of hurry up and wait.

Hurry up and finish your manuscript. Now, wait for your beta readers to finish with it.

Hurry up and send out your queries. Now, wait days, weeks, months, even years to hear something back from the agent / editor.

Hurry up and get your edits in. Now, wait almost a year to hold that book in your hands.

Writing takes patience. It also takes persistence, but if you’re not patient, it’s not going to work.

So, for me, Tom has it right.

But there’s more. You see, Tom, King of the Heartbreakers, only got half the story right, because the opposite of the above statement is also true.

Waiting can be the easiest part.

Waiting until inspiration hits to sit down and write.

Waiting till the time is right. Till the household chores are done. Till the bills are paid. Till the stars align perfectly in the sky under a new moon and Jupiter is in the constellation of blah, blah, blah.

Sometimes, you just have to do it.

Write that story. Query that agent. Follow up with that editor.

So, both waiting and not waiting can be the hardest part.

Sort of the Schrödinger’s cat of writing.

I suppose, then, the truly hardest part is recognizing when it’s time to wait and be patient and when it’s time to act. In both writing and life, I think this is truth.

There were many times while writing The Mussorgsky Riddle that I got stuck in deciding whether to wait or press forward or – what actually happened – start over.

I had written between 5-10,000 words in third person close past tense as that was the POV and tense I’d used on my first novel. As I was somewhere in the third or fourth chapter and things were starting to heat up, I just got the feeling that something wasn’t quite working. The whole story is about perception and dreams and subjective experience, and I was distancing myself and the reader both by using third person. I made a bold move, and rewrote the entire story to that point into first person, present tense and proceeded onward. I could have waited to make the change and pushed forward, but it’s good that I didn’t. When I went first present, that’s when I found Mira’s voice, and so far the reader seem to like that voice.

On the flip side, I did wait until near the end before finally deciding on the identity of the villain of the piece. The Mussorgsky Riddle is a paranormal mystery/thriller and thus, has a big revelation (or five) near the end. As I wrote this story, at least five different characters could have been and, at some point in the writing, were the villain. I was well over halfway done when I decided who was guilty of what and who were my red herrings. I believe this honest discovery style of writing helped keep the mystery alive in my head and that translates into hopefully a better read in the end product.

There are other challenges, of course. Merely finding time to write seems to be difficult most weeks, and getting the words to come when I finally do have time to sit at the keyboard is not always guaranteed. Then there are the distractions we all face of family, friends, housework, social media… Fortunately, the love for the writing, the process, and, most of all, the characters is what brings the reader and writers back.

I would say the hardest part in writing The Mussorgsky Riddle in particular was ensuring I stayed in voice and character for the entire book. Writing first person from the POV of the opposite gender was a bit harrowing, but totally worth it in the end. Connecting all the pieces, ensuring that all the elements of Pictures at an Exhibition and Scheherazade were used to their full extent: these were all challenges as well. However, challenging writing makes good stories. I hope you all enjoy mine!

Darin Kennedy, born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a graduate of Wake Forest University and Bowman Gray School of Medicine. After completing family medicine residency in the mountains of Virginia, he served eight years as a United States Army physician and wrote his first (as yet unpublished) novel in 2003 in the sands of northern Iraq.

His debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, was born from a fusion of two of his lifelong loves: classical music and world mythology. His short stories can be found in various publications and he is currently hard at work on his next novel.

Doctor by day and novelist by night, he writes and practices medicine in Charlotte, North Carolina. When not engaged in either of the above activities, he has been known to strum the guitar, enjoy a bite of sushi, and rumor has it he even sleeps on occasion. Find him online as well as links to his books and social media at

This entry was posted in The Hardest Part and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.