Muse Wednesday — Maria Violante
This week’s Muse Wednesday guest author is Maria Violante. Her story about how she came to write demonstrates the strength of the human spirit and how art, in this instance writing, is an integral part of that strength. I hope Maria’s story touches you as much as it touched me.
*I’m just warning y’all, it’s about to get real up in here.*
I didn’t realize what I was signing up for when I agreed to talk about my writing influences. I was an ex-army brat and kind of a loner, and I read voraciously as a child. I could just sit here and name-drop, list the people that grabbed my heart and mind—in fact, let me do that really quickly, just to get it out of my system.
Philip Pullman, with the His Dark Materials trilogy. Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Philip K. Dick. Gone with the Wind, the Redwall novels and Watership Down. Edgar Allen Poe. Arthur Conan Doyle. Tolstoy—the short stuff, not the long. Scalzi.
Many of them inspired me to write something—novels I never finished, short stories I never polished or submitted. Somewhere, in my mom’s basement, is the first fifty pages of a mystery novel and a stack of horrible poems. Yet I wasn’t a writer; I was a reader and a dabbler.
You want to know what makes a writer? What those influences look like? Here goes.
Two Years Ago
You have a good job, as good as a humanities degree in a down economy can get you. You make money, get respect, your parents are happy and proud.
You are not happy. You have just spent the last ten years of your life traveling the world, following your heart, and making rash decisions. In contrast, your office feels so much like a cage that you start to have panic attacks—under your desk, in the elevator, in the closet. You know you weren’t cut out for this, but you cling to it, because you have to eat and put gas in your car.
You try everything. You go to therapy. You’re not religious, but you pray. You journal, you meditate, sometimes you drink a lot, with or without the Xanax, but it doesn’t help. Eventually, you start calling in sick all of the time. You know you’re going to get fired, any day now, and although you can’t afford it, you pray for it, because then you don’t have to go back.
You’re on your way home from work. Some kid that doesn’t understand driving in Michigan winters explodes his car all over US-131, leaving it a minefield. You avoid the scrap metal but hit a bumper and wind up playing pinball with four SUV’s and fence.
Your Camry is a total loss. State Farm gives you enough money to quit your job for a while.
You buy a little red Civic. You love this car, more than anybody should ever love a car.
Less than month goes by before some stupid kid hydroplanes into the back of your civic and totals it. He’s so upset about what his parents are going to do that you can’t even get mad at him. You just tell him to slow down next time.
The hour you spend waiting for the tow truck in the driving rain, in the middle of the night, unsure of why this would happen to you, so soon after the last accident—it’s the last straw. You’re exhausted, guilty, injured, and your spirit has been pounded into dust.
You break down, total systems crash.
A friend, a real, honest-to-god angel of a friend, takes you in. Every morning, you wake up in the spare bedroom, the sun streaming in. The house is empty, because your friend and her husband work hard.
There’s no cable, no internet, and only a few books. There’s no alcohol.
After a week, you have no idea what to do with yourself.
You sit down with your laptop and play what-if, and bam, a short story. Every day, you wake up, make your coffee, try not to think about how the money from your car is slowly evaporating, and add a little more. You don’t know what you’re doing, but the panic attacks, the crushing depression—they’ve stopped, and you can’t stop, because you’re afraid that if you do, you might fall apart all over again.
One day, you wake up, and you’ve written a novel.
That was two years ago. It seems like a lot longer. Since then, depending on how you count it, there have been at least six or seven books—three of which have been accepted for publication by the lovely Liquid Silver Books. In the last year, I produced over three hundred thousand words, which seems like both a ton and not remotely enough. Each book is both another step on the path to becoming a whole person and a marker for the life I’m leaving behind.
You get a horrible job. You write. You break up with your boyfriend for the thirtieth time. You write. You get back together, get on a semi-truck, break up, get off the truck. You write. You write when you’re hungry, when you’re tired, when you’re lonely, when you’re happy. You write because it saved your life, and now you can’t imagine any other way to be.
And yes—finally, you are happy.
After a major car accident caused her to seriously re-assess her priorities, Maria Violante quit her job as a desk-jockey and started to pursue one of her longest running dreams—writing. Her first novel, Honda or Die, is doomed to remain on her hard drive until she can figure out how to bury it.
Maria writes in several different genres of speculative fiction, from demon-busting urban fantasy, to sci-fi clone romance, to romantic historical westerns–with shapeshifters! Whew!
An inveterate traveler, all projects were at least partially written from the passenger seat of two semis–a 2011 Prostar and a 2013 Cascadia–with a Chihuahua in the lap.
Visit Maria’s web site.