Fiery dragons, lusty maidens, lecherous strong men, skeletons in the closet, broken taboos, absurd inceptions, unbelievable truths—all in a person’s head. Going on wild goose chases in the mind, reassembling shards of reality that won’t match. Seeing the world anew, maybe in a critical way. Secretly escaping on a fantastic island unbeknownst your fellow traveler?
Shouldn’t it remain that way?
I was about to reveal my truth in a book. My first novel was called Der Keltenschimmel (The Celtic Stallion). And I did not feel comfortable about the public reading, although aside from a fast-paced adventure story and commonly known myths my novel wasn’t really a “Book of Revelations.” The grey, cloudy sky outside did nothing to improve my mood and faith.
I had strung together some local German myths around a Celtic chapel. My main character Katrina drives forward her fate through her passionate writing of “impossible” stories. In school, Katrina, however, miserably fails in the annual “Writing Marathon.” She gets lucky with her grades and earns recognition, after she plagiarizes her deceased grandmother’s diary. Her story wins a prize in the local paper. But, oh boy, is she in trouble with the village now.
Things continue to get worse. Katrina keeps on writing about dragons, witches, mayhem, the ghost stallion, and many other semi-fictional characters. As her love interest drifts from her, as she mingles with the “foreigners,” as she confronts herself with a strict father, she is catapulted through uncontrollable events to a moment of truth. Twice the supernatural knocks on her cabin door, and once her speechless, brooding grandfather.
Was the subject matter too close to home? It seemed so, especially right now when I was facing the public presentation (or humiliation) in my hometown. But what else can one write in an authoritative voice than the familiar or well researched? My mom had read an earlier draft and seemed appalled. Many changes later, my writer friend Georg still let on to certain doubts of my craftsmanship. While he had edited the manuscript twice, I had learned a lot from him.
Georg finally convinced me to go through with the launch. He had written four murder mysteries himself (a veterinarian by trade) and gathered solid public performance experience. So he instructed me to launch the book in the lion’s den, my hometown parish hall. Right, my school friends at least would come.
That afternoon at teatime, a clumsy little blackbird in flight training crashed into my mom’s living room window. The bird was stunned and did not recover. Was it a sign of things to come?
Georg and I settled in at the gathering room. One by one the 30 seats or so got filled. Yes, my people had come. I was among friends. And Georg and I read together the cleanest passages that we could have picked for a church environment. This actually turned out into a cheerful, nostalgic party.
“I had no idea that listening to a reading could be this enjoyable,” my mother praised. I exhaled and wiped my brow. Apparently, I had passed the test.