People ask what prompted me to write a 430-page novel where I kill off the protagonist, the antagonist, the villain, many secondary characters, and a big ol’ list of walk-ons. Over and over again. Well, to answer the question, I have had the kind of experiences that prompted me to write that novel – a nasty, in your face, go to hell novel where someone gets killed off every 30 pages of the manuscript. You are laughing. I can hear you. Right now you are laughing because you are imagining me doing this. Yes, someone gets killed off every 30 pages in the manuscript.
A pivotal experience kicking up this urge to smack a character started kindly enough. I was explaining to a friend about my first husband. Saying the usual stuff.
“We married young.”
“The marriage went as far as it could go.”
“He is basically a good man and we had a lot of fun for a while.”
Truth be told, I was a tad relieved when my first husband moved to Chicago after we divorced. I felt a sense of freedom and let’s get on with life. The divorce happened in the middle of my master’s program at a state university. So I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and took out a loan to get through the last year. It wasn’t too horrible sleeping on a friend’s pullout sofa. What is it about that bar in the middle of the mattress? And why did I always creep towards the bottom of the bed to get my feet tangled up in the metal frame? I learned to like cereal – I will never love it. I reframed the first union as “a starter marriage,” one that should be respected, where I learned many skills essential to my second marriage. Overall I felt really good about the first marriage until the day when I learned how he explained the end of the marriage.
He said I had died. Yes, I had died.
At a coffee shop, I ran into one of his business colleagues. She looked stunned. She stammered. I kept talking until I ran out of words. She was quiet. We looked at each other. She didn’t blink so I didn’t either.
“What’s up?” I asked with a wide-eyed smile.
“Uh. You’re still alive.” Her eyes were as round as the saucers under our café au laits.
“Yeah. I think so.” I blinked to show that I was not the Undead (Twilighters will get this reference).
“He told us you died.” Tears filled her eyes.
“What?” Massive blinking on my part.
“D*** told us you died then he moved to Chicago.” She hiccupped spilling tears.
“You’re kidding?” I blinked with my mouth open stopping just before I drooled.
“No.” Both of us sat down. I shrugged, stopped blinking and drank some cold coffee. I shook my head from side to side.
I thought I may need to rethink my understanding of my first marriage. I called Social Security to check if he had accessed any death benefits. I called the advertising agency in Chicago, explained who I was and the first words out of his colleague’s mouth were, “I thought you had died.”
“No. Not yet,” I said into the phone.
I tracked him down to his house in California using the Internet. During a series of phone calls to ad agencies, I explained my live status. One person hung up the phone. Another person dropped the phone. It was hilarious. If I was dead, did I need health insurance? Would I need to pay taxes?
So that is where I get my comfort with a plot full of characters who return from the dead, again and again and again. To tell their story. Yet again.