Saturday, February 26, 2011

road trip (and road kill) reflections...

I finished another round of revisions (maybe close the last one?) on Kiss the Morning Star this week, so I'd like to celebrate by sharing a little bit about the road trip that partially inspired the book, a trip D. and I took about ten years ago and which follows much of the same course as Anna and Kat follow on their "rucksack revolution".  We, too, carried some Kerouac in our backpacks, and like Anna, I carried a notebook in which I tried to capture both our actual experiences on the road and also my thoughts about life and love and truth and beauty and all that stuff that seems sometimes easier to think about while I'm speeding along a back road without an itinerary.

Some of the little details from my old notebook triggered scenes in KtMS, but most of the time, if I tried to put something that actually happened to D. and me on our trip into the book, it ended up not being believable as fiction.  One thing that we have in common with Anna and Kat, though, is the Roadkill Count--a gory list on the back cover of the notebook that documents the dead.  We tried to categorize the animals ("Coon", "Former Flyers", "Brown Furries", "Possibly a Beaver", and sadly, "Collared Critters").  You might be able to see this in the photo (that's my marked-up edit letter and manuscript underneath my notebook, by the way!), but we also wrote a few annotations ("Hit a few times!" "Big one!"), and on this trip we actually added a less morbid "Live Encounters Driving" section which tallies up to almost as many live creatures as dead ones (except one of them says, "Oops, hit this one!").

Several pages of our notebook keep track of the little details of our journey, such as where we spent each of the 77 nights we were on the road, and how much we paid for our accommodations.  We also kept track of every tank of gas we purchased, the price per gallon, and the mileage we got in my heavily loaded 1987 Mercury Grand Marquis, Berta.  The mileage wasn't great, but it is pretty amusing to remember how scandalized we were by the price of gas in certain cities--"It's OVER $1.75 a gallon, what the hell???" 

We also dedicated a couple of pages to silly signs or amusing quotes that we either said or overheard while on the road.  (One of my favorites, written in iridescent pink pen, goes like this:  Elissa:  Oh, it's okay.  I'm just checking to see if I have a live hornet in my pants.  David:  Um.  Maybe you should pull over while you do that?)

Interestingly (to me, haha!), as I flipped through my road trip notebook, I also found--in a completely unrelated part of the notebook that was from before we left--the little character sketch that inspired me to write Kiss the Morning Star in the first place.  The main character of this story was a girl named Harriet, daughter of a minister with a "golden voice."  The story began, "When she was fifteen, Harriet read three books on Buddhism for a research paper in English class.  She learned that life was suffering.  Harriet stood in the shadows between the stacks at the public library, a heavy book in her hands, and thought of her mother, who hated her."

I like being able to trace the origin of this story, and how it has changed and what it has kept--a little bit of Kerouac, a little about her minister father's voice, a little about the tragedy that shapes Anna's journey.  And I like being able to also trace the path of my own journey, so long ago, and to see how it has shaped my writing.  Most of all, I like to think about the experiences of the present, and where they might lead, about ten years from now.   :)

5 comments:

simmone said...

77 days - that's amazing! I never roadtripped properly. But when I used to have a van my favourite thing was going on those vague-planned holidays - the best stuff was never on the maps. I can't wait to read KTMS - I already know I'll love it.

Elissa J. Hoole said...

Ah, so true about the parts off the maps. We made it our goal to take only the small, sketchy lines whenever possible. I wish we could do something like this again. Funny how much work it is to be a grown-up, haha! (and yay, excitement about KtMS! eee!)

Kristan said...

What a lovely post, and aren't you glad you guys kept a notebook? It seems like it would be such a special, sacred thing. I must say, I'm even more excited now to read the book than I was before. Congrats on another edit down. :)

April said...

The Roadkill Count is both morbid and funny....
What an awesome trip! I always fail at keeping a notebook when I travel, but yours looks so awesome that I want to try again....

Elissa J. Hoole said...

Thanks, Kristan, and yes, I'm so glad we had our notebooks...and I wish I would have written more, more, more!

April, thanks for stopping by--so good to see you here! :D I truly treasure the notebooks from my traveling days. and the wanderlust is eating away at me, so I'm hoping someday sooooooon. I've got some new notebooks just waiting!!!