Henry David Thoreau
In The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873) by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley, one of the characters laments that The Fates had turned their backs on him, even after all his planning (land speculation) and toil... his air-castles were crumbling to ruins about him. The passage struck a chord and I decided to use Thoreau's quote above, and another I found in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) about castles in the air to title my next novel in the Durant family saga.
The title Castles in the Air seemed apt for me because my writing and research journey is something of a pursuit of a dream. If anyone had asked me three years ago what my passions and hobbies were, I'd have said hiking, swimming, and travel. I wouldn't have said writing historical fiction.
So what happened these past three years that made me step outside my comfort zone and take up this tremendous challenge and research?
My imagination got the better of me, and took over.
It went into overdrive one summer while I was vacationing at a cabin in the Adirondack woods, which came with a folk legend of what happened there. I imagined all kinds of drama, secret love affairs, and pleasant times spent over a century ago.
I wanted to tell that story – my own Cabin in the Air. And while trying to separate fact and legend, I discovered a much bigger story, one that fascinated me. The more I learned, the bigger and more complex it became, until it dawned on me what I was building was more of a castle than a cabin.
As I pursue my own castle in the air I think I may have reinvented myself and become more human in the process. I think it's worth the effort. A study done in the 1990s by Kyung Hee Kim found children in the United States lose their creativity as they age. It found that children in kindergarten were more likely to test higher in divergent thinking (a measure of creativity) than those in upper grades. Dubbed the 'creativity crisis', this study points out that loss of creativity has nothing to do with one's IQ. Yet the loss of creativity as one ages may have more to do with the fact that school age children need to conform in order to do well in school. The problem with conformity is we lose our ability to think outside the box, to re-imagine our world, to come up with solutions.
All of this leads back to the title: Castles in the Air. Twain used the term sardonically to describe a character in the novel that got involved in one bad economic scheme after another. Thoreau uses it to say, “bully for you for trying, just make sure you have the steps in place to achieve your dreams”. I like it because it reflects how I feel about starting a writing career in the middle of my life. And to me it expresses what the characters in my novel were trying to achieve as well: works of art that would be admired and not forgotten.
I hope to do them justice.