New York City author Daniel A. Rabuzzi‘s debut novel The Choir Boats was published by ChiZine Publications in 2009 as part one of a two-volume fantasy series, Longing for Yount, described by reviewers as “Gulliver’s Travels crossed with The Golden Compass and a dollop of Pride and Prejudice,” and “a muscular, Napoleonic-era fantasy that, like Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series, will appeal to both adult and young adult readers.” Just published in September, The Indigo Pheasant concludes Rabuzzi’s series, and I’m very glad to welcome him as a contributor to “The Hardest Part”.
CHARACTERS IN MY NOVELS resist my control, evade my closest supervision, and in some cases thumb their noses at my efforts altogether. They come and go as they please, craving special attentions that I struggle to provide.
I have recently written elsewhere (“A Picture-Show in the Night-Kitchen,” at Layers of Thought) that my creative process revolves around images and sounds that wander and wind through the crevices of my half-woken mind. I am an “imagist,” not a “plotter.” I sometimes think I am a documentary filmmaker, trying to capture the stories of characters who exist separate from me and any whims or fancies I might have.
Which is all very well, insofar as the actors appear so quickly and forcefully, with their lines already emerging from their lips, full blossomed and ripe…but the initial result is a clutter of scenes, long ribbons of dialogue that snag and tangle, an opening of umbrellas all at once in the drawing room.
I labor long to make sense of the anarchy. I sift through the many disparate scenes, the tinctures of feeling, the sudden passions, trying to find the unified story within. I cannot focus on just a few characters (let alone one), but am confronted with the competing demands of a large, varied cast. To be frank, I am not sure that I do best justice to the various story-lines and sometimes contradictory motivations of my characters; I worry that the plot as a whole shivers beneath the weight of so much Declaration and Description, that it falls shy of convincing.
The task gets even harder for me when I realize that I care deeply about my characters. I think the novelist’s best trick is to deceive him- or herself into believing in the existence of his or her creations. I must not only conjure the suspension of disbelief among readers, but first contrive self-hypnosis and glamour. I will pretend otherwise, but especially under the eaves of night I would confess to belief in the reality of my characters. I do not think I could write about them if I believed differently. Why else do I desperately, viscerally want Maggie to succeed in her combat with the Owl, and Sanford to judge as he does the actions of others, and Jambres (“The Cretched Man”) to rise above his punishment? Why else is the fate of Sally and James so meaningful to me?
Eventually, I give up on finding the full resolution of the plot, and abandon the novel to my publisher, hoping for a measure of reprieve. The novel has a beginning, a middle, and an end, at least in terms of page-count, but it is more like Tristam Shandy than The Return of the King. My novels are like the carriages in The Pickwick Papers…the route may have departures and destinations, but individuals get on and off as they will throughout.
Last year, Bull Spec poetry editor Dan Campbell accepted Rabuzzi’s poem “One Hundred Years in the Wood” which was published earlier this year in Bull Spec #7. The Indigo Pheasant is out now.