Writing Lightning on the Levee

Lightning on the Levee began with a dream, a literal dream, where the dreamer awakes from sleep with a vision and a memory of scenes and events.

I wrote down the dream, as I frequently do. Instantly, I knew that this one had to become a book, rather than to lie forgotten in a growing stack of filled-up yellow pads. And so it became the opening scene for Lightning on the Levee.

It took a while to decide where I wanted the story to go, but eventually I had an outline for the book, and by then, I knew my characters. Knew, not in the form of charts and notes, but as friends, people whose lives and whose backstories I knew intimately. My characters, with their complexities and idiosyncrasies, are the easiest part of writing for me.

Molly B O’Connor, in the opening scene, wears a dress that is housed in New York’s Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I chose the dress just for her, which is why she came from 1908.

Irish crochet lace dress from 1908.
Molly B O’Connor’s Afternoon Dress, made of Irish cotton lace with pink silk ribbons. Images: Metropolitan Museum of Art

As I wrote the story, following the outline sometimes became a chore, as I frequently felt the characters wanting to take a different route than the one I had chosen for them. So I let them have their way, although I insisted that they do it according to my schedule of plot points.

Flint was modeled after someone I know. (Yes, my friend knows that he’s Flint!) Because Flint was modeled after a friend, he was more difficult to write about than Molly B. After all, I sometimes thought, “what will ____ think if I have Flint do this?” Interestingly, my friend wasn’t very far into his beta reading of Lightning on the Levee before he knew that he was Flint. Or that Flint was him, whichever.

I worked on it intermittently for a few years, but when I was laid off from my job, I decided that was the perfect opportunity to finish “Lightning”. And now that I’m finished with the book, I’m setting up my author platform (Facebook, Twitter, and this website being the main legs of the platform), and compiling a list of potential agents who will hopefully be interested in Lightning on the Levee.

And at some point in the future, after I get my allotment of rejection slips, Lightning on the Levee will be published and available for you all to read. I hope you’ll enjoy it! Be sure and sign up for my email list so you’ll know when it comes out.

Thank you for reading! Your comments below would be a real treasure for me.

About the dress:

Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Wolff, 1976

Date:  1908–10

Culture:  probably French

Medium:  cotton, silk

Irish crochet lace was very popular in the Belle Époque not only for trim but also for full garments such as this one. Its three-dimensionality gives a particularly interesting textural effect. This example employs not only three-dimensional floral motifs but actual pendant flowers that move with the wearer.

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4 Replies to “Writing Lightning on the Levee”

  1. Your writing process sounds very similar to mine! When my characters do things I never anticipated, I let them go and I am entertained by them as I record their actions on the page.

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