Lucky Charms ... Magically Superstitious
Every writer has a unique way of working. I tend to be very visual and visceral. I try to engage every sense as I work, and if I have an object in front of me that evokes the specific work in progress, it becomes more than a research tool; I start viewing it as a talisman.
As I was writing THE MEMOIRS OF HELEN OF TROY (Crown, Nov. 2005/Three Rivers Press, July, 2006), I had the notion that Helen would be penning her story on papyrus (she spent the nine years following the Trojan War in Egypt, reunited with Menelaus) with a white swan's feather. Her father, of course, was Zeus, who had visited her mother Leda, in the guise of a swan, and Helen was the result of their cross-species coupling. In the novel, I had Zeus leave a white swan's feather on the plinth where he and Leda had made love. Leda had saved the feather, and after her death, Helen claimed it -- the only thing Helen had of her father.
Swans routinely glide through the cove that runs behind my parents' summer home in Sag Harbor. One lazy afternoon I noticed that one of them had shed a quill. I raced to the dock, hopped into my kayak and paddled over to retrieve it. I kept it on my desk as I worked on the edits for the novel, and it's there still.
When I worked on TOO GREAT A LADY: The Notorious, Glorious Life of Emma, Lady Hamilton (NAL, Feb. 2007), I felt the power and aura of Emma and Lord Nelson emanating from Emmas's autographs, which I set into a small frame on my desk, and the bust of Nelson made from the melted copper taken from the Foudroyant, Nelson's favorite flagship. Why was the Foudroyant his favorite? Because it's the one where he made love to Emma.
And during the early research stages for ROYAL AFFAIRS: A Lusty Romp Through the Extramarital Adventures that Rocked the British Monarchy (NAL, June, 2008), I found a genuine four-leaf clover pressed into the pages of one of the used books I purchased through Amazon. I'm convinced the clover was intended to come my way -- a good-luck charm that somehow assured me that the project (the most difficult of my writing career, to date) would turn out all right.
So, how about you? Are there any talismans you have accumulated in your research, or which you purchased to keep your memory sparking as you work on a specific novel? What are your lucky writing charms?