The Origin of Samson Gallows
Ask a roomful of writers, hell, a hundred. Shit, ask a thousand of them and the most frequently asked question they get asked is "Where do you get your ideas?".
The muse is a funny thing. Mine has been driving me banana bat shit crazy lately. She's been a naughty child who isn't focusing on what I'm telling her to. No...instead she's focusing on what's supposed to be the project I want to work on after the current one.
But no. For the past several weeks I've been getting snippets of dialogue and scenes and character sketches and... you get the idea.
Where do we get our ideas from? It's the most often asked question, but sometimes I think it's the wrong question.
Not "where" but "how" might be more apt.
I could type out some stereotypical tripe about how writers and other creatives just think a little differently. But I'm not.
Instead, I'm going to tell you about the origins and development of the character Samson Gallows in my upcoming novella Samson and Denial from Thunderstorm Books.
I'm going to tell you how the story and Samson came to be, but if you haven't read it yet, rest easy - I'm not going to give away any spoilers to the story itself.
Some writers struggle to come up with a good title. They'll write the story with a working title and then when it's finished, they'll pound their head to come up with something better.
I'm not one of them. I'm a strange bird in that I get titles that come to me without the damned story attached. Sounds like a problem, eh?
Yeah,well, sometimes it is. But over the years, I've discovered something very cool about the way my subconscious works. I get the title, make a little mental note of it. Then my brain starts an internal dialogue with itself.
"Cool title, asshole. Got a story to go with it?"
"Didn't think so. You should uh...get on that, don't you think?"
And then I continue to do my thing, live my life, raise the kids, deal with drama, laugh some, cry some, pay the bills and all that while my mind works on it off the books.
Eventually, the story will catch fire and the title will start making sense and everything will really start to come together.
This was the case with Samson and Denial. The title came to me on a long drive when my kids and ex-wife were all sound asleep and my mind had time to wander. I loved the title right away but had no idea - none at all - of what the story behind it was.
Time passed. Shit happened. Life happened. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Copperfield married Claudia Schiffer. Wait.. I'm getting off topic here.
The story of Samson stewed and waited until his voice clicked into place for me. Just like that, I knew Samson lived in Philadelphia. I knew the kind of man he was – living life in the gray area between right and wrong.
In a recent review of Samson and Denial at dreadfultales.com, Colum McKnight wrote:
It’s almost as if Ford was curious as to what he would do when presented with an over-the-top scenario, and plugged Samson right in there.
Well Colum, if truth be told, you hit the nail on the head.
Samson wears a lot of the blood of my past – metaphorically at least. But with any good story, as a writer, you want to make your character go through a world of shit. There's blood on Samson from past relationships when I was much younger. Blood from my divorce. Blood from running a business hit by the economy and feeling desperate as all hell to do anything to survive. Blood from loving my kids more than the world and wanting to protect them...knowing I'd walk through hell and back to keep them safe.
Samson became a strange conglomerate of parts of me, parts of him that came to life the more I thought about him, and observations of people that I saw when I lived in Philadelphia. There are traits of my best friends and my father and parts of me that I wish I had but don't.
I lived vicariously through Samson during this tale. I hope I never have to go through anything close to the hell he does in the novella. But if I do, I sure as hell hope I deal with it utilizing the same composure and hold-onto-your-balls attitude that Samson does.
When I'm working on a project, I definitely need to know my character well. I need to fall in love with them – even if they're the most evil bastard on the planet – in order to really dig in.
Samson did that pretty quickly. I knew this guy. I loved him. I felt bad for what was happening to him. But more than that... I understood Samson. At least a good portion of him. Because I was Samson.
But when he truly started to come to life inside my head (if you are a writer, you know what I mean...there's nothing like that feeling. It's complete and utter magic) he took off in ways I never expected. The muse was in full swing – relating memories of Samson as a child. Things he planned to do in the future. Little secrets he shared with his wife. A million different things that never made it into the novella, but that didn't matter...because every single one of them brought me closer to his voice, his personality, and – not to get too purple here – but the very soul of his character.
I can only hope that all of you as readers enjoy reading Samson and Denial as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope that you get to know him half as well as I do.
Samson and Denial
Publisher: Thunderstorm Books
Official Release Date: September 2, 2011. Launching at Horrorfind Weekend, Gettysburg, PA.
After Horrorfind Weekend, Samson and Denial can be ordered directly through www.thunderstormbooks.com
I'll be doing a signing with Rio Youers Friday night, September 2, from 7:30 until 10:00
Reading from 1:00 to 2:00 on Sunday with Kevin Lucia
Signing from 2:00 to 3:00 on Sunday with Kevin Lucia